Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Even though Sarawak’s next election is only due in 16 months, polls fever is already being felt in the state. Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat leaders have criss-crossed the length and breadth of the state and are busily organising various functions.

“Many of the star hotels in Kuching have been fully booked between June and July for federal ministers,” say hotel sources.

The unusually heavy hotel bookings have prompted political observers and politicians to believe that the state election is imminent. Some even suggest that the election may be held in July this year.

Sources close to the four component parties of the state Barisan have been told to get their machinery ready.

Confirming this, Tedewin Ngumbang, a Parti Rakyat Sarawak supreme council member, says: “Yes, it is true. We have been told to update our election machinery and get ready for election.

”Tedewin, who is also a close aide to PRS president and Minister of Land Development James Masing, says that he understands that as from March, which is the beginning of the five-year 10 MP (10 Malaysia Plan), BN will roll out massive development funds throughout the nation with special attention to Sarawak’s Corridor Renewal Energy (SCORE).

Tenders for the Bakun Road to the proposed Murum Dam, the Bintulu/Tunoh/Baleh/Kotai road and Kapit/Song/Sibu road will be out soon. The three trunk roads are expected to cost close to RM2 billion.

There are also several major projects which are to be implemented under 10MP in other parts of Sarawak, details of which are yet to be announced.

Constant visits

Other indications of early election include the constant visits by Federal ministers to various parts of Sarawak, right from Lawas to Sibu, Kapit and Lundu.Rural and Regional Development Minister Shafie Apdal has announced that his ministry has approved RM3.4 billion to build more roads, houses and public amenities under the National Key Rural Area (NKRA). These projects are expected to be carried out between now and 2012.

Another factor that can help determine an early election is the decision of the Apex Court in Perak on Feb 9 in which the ousted menteri besar Mohd. Nizar Jamaluddin has challenged the legality of Zambry Abdul Kadir’s state government.

Political observers see that whatever the court's decision, an early election is inevitable to determine which one is really the “government of the people”. Although Zambry says that BN can win up to 34 seats in the state assembly, BN and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak are said to be dead scared of losing the Perak government to Pakatan Rakyat when such an election is to be held.

Thus, the observers reason, Najib wants Sarawak to hold a simultaneous election with that of Perak’s, so that if the BN is to lose Perak, it will be counter-balanced by the victory in Sarawak.

BN political strategists think along the same line, saying a BN victory in Sarawak will have a cushioning effect and will save Najib from embarrassment assuming PR takes Perak.

For Sarawak, the Federal Government is confident of its victory. This victory is being assessed by Federal ministers who have been visiting Sarawak lately.

Apdal says: “BN is going to win the next election in the state judging by the feedback I received from the rural areas. “But, of course, we must not be complacent. We need to work harder to ensure we will win the election in a big way,” he told BN supporters.

But Najib must ask Taib to hold an election simultaneously with the election in Perak. And observers believe that there is no reason why Taib should not agree, after all Najib has promised to inject massive development funds to Sarawak under the 10MP. And waiting for June next year to have an election is of little difference; it is a matter of nine or ten months away, so the strategists argue.

Solid and united

In the meantime, all BN parties have been told to put their houses in order and stop infighting.

Of the four BN parties in the state, Masing’s PRS is perhaps more solid and united now after a three-year crisis. For SPDP and SUPP, they have some internal problems that may undermine their unity.

The problem in SPDP is more about personality, and with the right approach, it should be solved soon. Only SUPP has a major problem especially the “Dudong branch” issue that has been a thorn in its flesh for the past three years without any sign of it being solved. In fact it has gotten from bad to worse.

Some 28 branches of the party have asked for an extraordinary meeting to solve it, but their request has been turned down, setting a major clash between supporters of Wong Soon Koh, state assemblyman for Bawang Assan, and Dr Soon Choon Teck, state assemblyman for Dudong. Both of them have been in the centre of the crisis with neither one prepared to give way, resulting in the problem being dragged on and on affecting not only SUPP branches and members in Sibu, but also statewide. Both of their supporters are at each others’ throats.

The effect of this divide may put the state seats in the midst and lower Rajang basin in jeopardy. Seats like Repok, Dudong, Pelawan and Bawang Assan are sure to face an uphill battle if the previous election results are any indication. SUPP has already lost Meradong and Bukit Assek to DAP in the last election.

The other BN component party, PBB, which is the backbone of the state government, will be holding its triennial general meeting early next month. Apart from strengthening its unity, election preparations are expected to be one of the meeting agendas. As PBB president and Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is known to have employed an iron-fist rule in the party, he will not tolerate any conflict or diverse views in the party. For him, the next election can be his last leading the state BN. In all the past elections, except for the 1987 state election when the opposition won 20 out of 48 seats, Taib has delivered absolute victories in the 29 years of his leadership.

Opposition front
On the opposition front, Pakatan Rakyat has also made some early preparations, such as the drafting of its manifesto and talks on seat allocation among PKR, DAP, PAS and SNAP. Initial discussions were held late last year.

“The seat allocation should be finalised after the Chinese New Year in order to ensure a one-to-one fight against the Barisan Nasional. By then we should know which seats each party will contest,” says Baru Bian, State PKR chairman.

DAP is expected to fight SUPP in Chinese-majority seats, while PAS and SNAP will contest in some Malay and Iban seats respectively.

For PKR, it is eyeing some 29 Dayak, four or five Malay, and one or two Chinese constituencies.

PKR’s other preparations include profiling of each and everyone of the constituencies, training of its grassroots and branch leaders, carrying out voter registration and membership exercises through the length and breadth of the state.

“The profiling of the constituencies is very important so that we will know the number of male, female and young voters, the pattern of voting, campaigning issues, development projects that have been carried out in those areas, the problems of the people and, at the same time, identifying potential candidates,” said Granda Aing, vice president of PKR Sarawak.

On its training programme, he said: “Our Akademi Keadilan Rakyat (Ark) has just completed a number of workshops to train trainers who will return to their respective areas and conduct their own leadership skills training, campaigning techniques, and polling agents and counting agents (PACA) training,” Granda said.

A PKR adviser, Wan Zainal Wan Sanusi, who was with Granda said: “PKR is really serious this time to unseat the present BN government. We want to change the government, and we hope the people will support us. This time it is the best opportunity,” he said.

news courtesy of Malaysian Mirror

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