‘But SUPP and UPP must for­get about past trou­bles and strengthen sol­i­dar­ity’

New Straits Times - - Opinion - The writer, born in Kuala Lumpur, raised in Perak, is NST Sarawak bu­reau chief. A na­ture lover, he never tires of dis­cov­er­ing new sights in the Land of the Horn­bills

SINCE last week­end, shop­ping malls and wet mar­kets statewide have been flooded with droves of peo­ple mak­ing early prepa­ra­tions for two im­por­tant oc­ca­sions in the com­ing days.

While the Mus­lim com­mu­nity is stock­ing food to usher in the holy month of Ra­madan this Satur­day, the Dayak com­mu­nity is equally ex­cited, as it will be cel­e­brat­ing Gawai Dayak festivities on June 1.

It is, how­ever, a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion for politi­cians from both sides of the politi­cal di­vide, since they will add another item to their re­spec­tive to-do lists, which is to pre­pare for the sec­ond by-elec­tion in Sarawak this year.

Come mid­dle of next month, politi­cal par­ties are ex­pected to move their ma­chiner­ies to Sarawak’s oil cap­i­tal of Miri for the Pujut state by-elec­tion, with nom­i­na­tion and polling days sched­uled for June 20 and July 4 re­spec­tively.

The by-elec­tion was called fol­low­ing the un­prece­dented move by the Sarawak state leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly to strip the mem­ber­ship of the seat’s former assem­bly­man, Dr Ting Tiong Choon of DAP on May 12.

Dr Ting was dis­qual­i­fied af­ter 70 as­sem­bly­men voted in favour of a min­is­te­rial mo­tion against him by State In­ter­na­tional Trade and E-Com­merce Min­is­ter and Bawang As­san assem­bly­man Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh dur­ing the state as­sem­bly sit­ting.

Wong had moved the min­is­te­rial mo­tion un­der Ar­ti­cle 17(1)(g) of the State Con­sti­tu­tion of Sarawak, which pro­vided that a per­son is dis­qual­i­fied from be­ing elected as a mem­ber of the state as­sem­bly, if he has vol­un­tar­ily ac­quired cit­i­zen­ship of, or ex­er­cised the rights of cit­i­zen­ship in, or has made dec­la­ra­tion of al­le­giance to any coun­try out­side the Fed­er­a­tion.

This led to the va­cancy of the Pujut state seat, which has been a DAP-strong­hold since the 10th state elec­tion in 2011.

Sarawak DAP is ex­pected to file a le­gal re­course against Wong for de­fam­ing Dr Ting of be­ing a bank­rupt while the lat­ter was in Australia.

The party will also have to al­lo­cate suf­fi­cient man­power to de­fend the Pujut con­stituency.

In the Sarawak Barisan Na­sional (BN) camp, the rul­ing coali­tion’s elec­tion ma­chin­ery will be re­ac­ti­vated again for Pujut, af­ter win­ning a land­slide vic­tory dur­ing the Tan­jong Datu state by­elec­tion on Feb 18.

Un­like Tan­jong Datu, which saw BN re­tain­ing the state seat through Puan Sri Jami­lah Anu, the Pujut by-elec­tion is a dif­fer­ent ball game and will not be a walk in the park for the rul­ing coali­tion.

It is ex­pected to be a mul­ti­cornered con­test with Pas and State Re­form Party (Star) ex­press­ing their in­ter­est to stand in Pujut. Sarawak BN is in for a tough fight.

“Re­gard­less of the num­ber of politi­cal par­ties join­ing the con­test, the by-elec­tion, this time around, will cen­tre around the fight be­tween BN and DAP since both par­ties have large fol­low­ers in Pujut,” said politi­cal an­a­lyst As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Dr Jeniri Amir of Univer­siti Malaysia Sarawak.

At the 11th Sarawak polls in May last year, Dr Ting won Pujut when he polled 8,899 votes against BN direct can­di­date, Datuk Hii King Chiong, State Pas com­mis­sioner Jofri Jaraiee and sacked DAP mem­ber, Fong Pau Teck.

Hii of United Peo­ple’s Party (UPP), the splin­ter party of Sarawak United Peo­ple’s Party (SUPP), gar­nered the sec­ond high­est votes at 7,140.

Jofri and Fong ob­tained 413 votes and 375 votes re­spec­tively.

Be­sides na­tional is­sues, Jeniri be­lieved that both BN and DAP would speak at great length on the de­vel­op­ment lead­ing to the sack­ing of Dr Ting from Sarawak as­sem­bly.

“There is a pos­si­bil­ity of Sarawak BN wrest­ing Pujut if SUPP and UPP for­get about their past trou­bles and form greater sol­i­dar­ity in the by-elec­tion,” he said.

Another prom­i­nent politi­cal an­a­lyst, Dr Awang Az­man Awang Pawi, also did not dis­count the high pos­si­bil­ity of BN win­ning the state seat since Dr Ting won Pujut with only a ma­jor­ity of 1,759 votes.

This, he said, pro­vided that Sarawak BN fielded a qual­i­fied and winnable can­di­date.

“I be­lieve BN can win back the seat by field­ing the right can­di­date who will ad­dress all the is­sues, such as Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tion and ris­ing cost of liv­ing.

“There are quar­ters in the Pujut con­stituency who have lost con­fi­dence in DAP,” he said.

Many ob­servers and politi­cians have de­scribed the Pujut by-elec­tion as “crit­i­cal” and that the out­come will re­flect the peo­ple’s sen­ti­ments, es­pe­cially among the Chi­nese com­mu­nity ahead of the next gen­eral elec­tion.

Hence, it is im­por­tant for all par­ties and politi­cal en­ti­ties friendly to Sarawak BN to dis­play unity and enter the con­test with only one in­ten­tion — for the rul­ing coali­tion to win and serve the peo­ple.

All af­fected par­ties in Sarawak BN, who are bick­er­ing for the right to con­test in Pujut should look at pre­vi­ous episodes and learn from them.

All af­fected par­ties in Sarawak BN, who are bick­er­ing for rights to con­test in Pujut should look at pre­vi­ous episodes and learn from them.


Many ob­servers and politi­cians have de­scribed the Pujut by­elec­tion as ‘crit­i­cal’ and that the out­come will re­flect the peo­ple’s sen­ti­ments, es­pe­cially among the Chi­nese com­mu­nity, ahead of the next gen­eral elec­tion.

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