Tuesday, March 23, 2010

PKR boast over Sarawak polls rankles DAP

Loud proclamations and displays of confidence to conquer Sarawak have yet to translate into real ground support for PKR, with its own allies in the DAP pointing out that the party is in fact the Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) weakest link and a hindrance to the coalition’s efforts to gain traction there.

The Malaysian Insider understands that there is growing discontent among PKR’s allies, especially the DAP, over what sources in the party led by Lim Guan Eng have described as its lacklustre initiatives to infiltrate the Barisan Nasional (BN) stronghold.

A DAP source from Sarawak said their party, which has existed in the state for more than two decades, is confident of at least doubling their state seats from six to twelve in the next state election which pundits expect to be conducted in June or July this year.

PAS — the other partner in PR — has an almost inconsequential presence in the state and is not expected to offer anything but a token effort in state polls.

But PKR, who are targetting the majority Dayak vote-bank, remains a deflated force, according to state DAP leaders who are concerned that this may affect the coalition’s performance.

“They just talk and talk but never do anything,” said a top level Sarawak-based DAP leader.

“We have been doing everything there on our own but my people on the ground are telling me that PKR is moving slowly in light of the coming state elections,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

PKR’s target of winning the state, by capturing at least 40 seats out of the 71 is being questioned and criticised as a lofty boast.

DAP leaders in the state are concerned that PKR has yet to quell the “anti-outsider” sentiment among Sarawakians.

State PKR leaders have privately admitted to The Malaysian Insider that the anti-peninsula sentiment remains a major obstacle to overcome.

But they hope the recent appointment of Baru Bian, an Orang Ulu lawyer from the Lun Bawang tribe, would help calm local fears that PKR is just another peninsula-based party ready to exploit the state’s resources.

A deep-rooted distrust of West Malaysians continues to exist in Sarawak, with no peninsula-based parties able to establish a foothold there except for the DAP.

But mindful of the animosity towards the peninsula, the DAP in Sarawak operates almost autonomously from its West Malaysian leadership.

Indeed the fact that Umno does not operate in Sarawak is evidence of anti-federal sentiment.

Instead, an unwritten pact Sarawak’s political elites and Umno, which among others include the state’s total control over its own affairs, has ensured that Sarawak remains a “vote bank” for the ruling coalition.

PKR was forced to accept this reality last year when it had to replace its peninsula-based state leader by appointing Baru as Sarawak chief.

The lawyer has been seen as a hero to many for his fight for Native Customary Rights (NCR), a major issue in Sarawak.

While its state leaders are not happy with its partner, the DAP’s national leadership remains optimistic about the coalition’s chances.

Party stalwart Lim Kit Siang, who was recently on a tour of Sarawak in preparation for the state polls, said the battle against BN in the state was a tough task but not impossible.

“We hope to be able to make major breakthroughs. It’s not going to be an easy job,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

courtesy of Malaysian Insider

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