Saturday, April 16, 2011



Joe Fernandez
Free Malaysia Today
April 16, 2011 

The bottomline is that it must be about change and reform in the politics of the state.
Unless a miracle happens today at the polling booths, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) has virtually sown up this state election with at least 30 seats “in the bag” even before polling begins. This figure, less than the magical but easily obtainable majority of 36 seats for BN in the State Legislaive Assembly, is based on reading the harsh realities on the ground and comparisons with the line-up of candidates in the 71 seats at stake.
The opposition is “assured” so far of 16 seats, that is, 14 to DAP – Bukit Kota against Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) being its “sole” remaining battle – and two PKR seats, namely Batu Lintang wrested from the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Kerian from the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).
The Chinese and urban community in Sarawak continues to form a solid vote bank against the alleged abuses and excesses of the Taib regime. Much of these votes are unlikely to budge despite a mixture of a few carrots and mostly sticks from SUPP, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud and Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
The looming lack of representation in the state government is the least of the concerns of the Chinese community which is no longer willing to put up with the gross distortions introduced in the economy by the Taib regime.
The Chinese in Sarawak, in unison with those in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia, are firmly in the DAP camp and spouting defiance against Umno’s ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) and PBB subscribing to the proxy politics put in place in Sarawak and Sabah by Putrajaya.
The BN’s 30 seats, identified as “safe” in preliminary assumptions, are likely to come from the following component parties: PBB (17); Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) six; SPDP (four); and Opar, Bengoh and Engkilili, three Dayak seats, from SUPP.
Besides the 14 seats which are likely to fall to DAP, SUPP has apparently written off Batu Lintang to PKR and is locked with the same party in Senadin.
The SPDP is assured, so far, of only Tanjung Batu, Meluan, Marudi and Bekenu.
Tough fight
The party is battling it out with SNAP in Pakan where its president William Mawan has offered himself for an unprecedented seventh time and in Batu Danau against the same party. SPDP is also pitted against Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian in Ba’Kelalan. PKR is expected to take Kerian from SPDP given the split in Dayak votes among the four candidates.
The PRS can rest easy in Balai Ringin, Bukit Begunan, and Ngemah where Parti Cinta Malaysia’s (PCM) Gabriel Adit is the incumbent, Pelagus where incumbent Larry Sng was expelled for claiming presidency of the Dayak-based party, Kakus and Belaga.
Batang Ai, where the BN is yet to fulfil the by-election promises of last year, will be a tough fight for PRS with five-time loser Nicholas Bawin who is standing on a PKR ticket. He may yet get lucky this time after being passed over for the by-election by Anwar at the last minute in favour of former five-term Lubuk Antu MP Jawah Gerang.
It’s also touch and go for PRS against PKR in Tamin and Baleh, the latter seat where party president James Masing is standing for the seventh time. Masing is seen by his many critics as being too much of an apologist for Taib who is accused of amassing a stupendous personal fortune during his three decades in office.
PBB, which has 35 candidates in this election, faces stiff “one-to-one” fights in 17 other seats besides Bukit Kota, that is, against SNAP in Kedup, Machan and Machan; in Muara Tuang and Beting Maro against PAS; and independents in Semop and Dalat, among others. Its biggest fight will be in the remaining 10 seats against PKR, namely Demak Laut, Tupong, Samariang, Satok, Asajaya, Simunjan, Saribas, Nangka, Katibas, and Bukit Sari.
To recap, PKR is also taking on PRS, SPDP and SUPP “one-to-one” in three seats and one seat each respectively.
The 30 seats so far for the BN does not mean that the opposition is poised to deny BN the state government or even the two-thirds majority.
The opposition must pick up at least nine of the “remaining” 25 seats at stake if it is to claim a moral victory of sorts over the state BN. The opposition forming the next state government with a simple majority would mean pulling off a miracle, that is, another 20 seats while conceding a humiliating five seats to the BN. That would take a miracle to generate the mother of all tsunamis.


The ethnic make-up in the “remaining” 25 seats at stake, polling history and the vote-splitting nature of the contests have all combined and are working against the opposition parties.
The jury is still out on why de facto PKR chief Anwar Ibrahim, who is wrestling with a lingering public image of being sexually deviant at politically inconvenient times, was willing to compromise with DAP and PAS but not the home-grown SNAP.
It’s not only the maths that is against the motley gathering of opposition parties besides the one bright spot provided by the DAP.
The suspicion among the opposition alliance, Pakatan Rakyat in particular, is that PBB’s and Umno’s Department of Dirty Tricks (DDT) have virtually overshadowed the BN’s campaign with the heavy arsenal at their disposal.

For one, all buses, taxis, ferries and boats and helicopters and hotel rooms in Sarawak have been contracted wholesale by the BN, leaving few options for the opposition. It would be a sheer wonder if the opposition can manage the huge logistical problems of ferrying its supporters in time to the polling booths. They would have to rely on an army of party supporters using their own vehicles. One hazard would be roadblocks mounted by the police, Rela and army.
The entire machinery of the state and federal government, the civil service, police, teachers, Rela and government media have been brought to bear on the side of the caretaker government and against the opposition. One story has even hoodlums, hooligans, gangsters, samsengs and loan sharks being roped in to chip in and ensure that the state BN, come what may, prevails today.

Another story sweeping the state is that strangers in the night, with moneybags linked to PBB and Taib, have been moving about in critical areas to dole out the hard cash to opposition supporters in return for their MyKads. These identity cards will hopefully be returned to their owners after the polls or they would have to report them as stolen or lost to the National Registration Department (NRD).
If past elections in Sabah and recent by-elections in Peninsular Malaysia are any guide, there’s no guarantee that these MyKads would not be used by specially bused- in phantom voters to turn the tide in favour of the state BN.
The bottomline is that as far as realpolitik goes, this state election must be less about whether the BN will be denied its coveted two-thirds majority, whether the opposition can form a state government with a simple majority, whether SNAP would re-join BN as it is being whispered by PKR in the longhouses throughout the state or even whether Taib is staying or going.
It must be about change and reform in the politics of the state. That can only happen if there are clear indications from the polls results that the proxy politics of PBB no longer works, that Umno’s ketuanan Melayu is unacceptable in Sarawak and, above all, that the ruling party in Putrajaya should stay away from the Borneo states.