12th Sarawak Election: Intense banner war underway in Simanggang

Residents of Sri Aman and visitors are greeted by a sea of party flags once they enter the town area.

By Lian Cheng

SRI AMAN, Dec 9: Does the planting of flags mean the capturing of the seat?

Well, that may not be the case but the presence of many flags in a constituency does clearly shows one’s intention of laying claim to the place.


To report on elections in rural constituencies, DayakDaily journalists have set out on a road trip to rural areas to witness firsthand campaign battles outside urban areas.

To our surprise, the planting of flags—and not a few at a time but in rows and groups and in different formations—seemed to dominate rural constituencies.

Along the Kuching-Serian Road, we witnessed the hoisting of uncountable flags and banners, and the display of huge posters of candidates from different parties. In general, the dominating parties are Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB), followed by Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak and comparatively few from Parti Bumi Kenyalang.

If you think the flags, billboards and banners at Kuching’s 3rd Mile area are “plenty”, then the banners, flags and billboards along the Kuching-Serian road would be “overwhelming”.

From Kota Sentosa onwards, the distribution and quantity of campaign material corresponds with the traffic flow. The lesser the traffic, the more banners and flags, up till Stakan, where they are of reasonable quantity. This appeared to be the case on the road to Serian town, where mainly flags, banners and posters of GPS and PSB, were seen with DAP and PBK flags or billboards quite drowned in between.

From Serian town which is under the Bukit Semuja constituency, we moved on to Balai Ringin and again we witnessed flags of both GPS and PSB flying high especially at the entrance of the Balai Ringin bazaar. It was as if the two sides are competing against each other not only in the number of flags each can hoist but also the height these party flags are raised.

The “competition” continued in Bukit Begunan. At the entrance of most villages along the Kuching-Serian Road, we noticed a mixture of both GPS and PSB flags, signifying a mix of GPS and PSB supporters at that particular village.

Large flag formation set up at the entrance to the popular Lachau pit stop.

While the huge number of flags and banners here were overwhelming to us, it did not prepare us for the flags in Sri Aman.

At the entrance to Sri Aman, we were greeted by a sea of flags comprising both GPS and PSB flags with DAP’s rockets interspersed. The further we traveled into the town area, the flag competition became more intense.

According Kapitan Tay Siaw Chuan of Simanggang town, due to Covid-19, restrictions have been placed to restrain campaign methods that involve crowds. This has led to politicians finding other ways to reach out to their voters, and one of them to erect party flags.

He concurred that the amount of flags flying reflected the degree of intensity of the fight between the candidates.

Like Tebedu and Balai Ringin, the fight in Simanggang is between GPS and PSB candidates. Representing GPS is Datuk Francis Harden Hollis who is also the incumbent and from PSB is Wilson Entabang, a former civil servant who is a local with a vast family network and connections.

“The fight between the two is as intense and fierce as the flags both sides display, and I believe more flags will be erected even tonight,” said Tay.

So far, in areas from Kuching to Sri Aman, the banner war in Simanggang is the most intense.

Due to the “flag competition”, so many bamboo poles have been harvested until within the vicinity of Simanggang, there is no more bamboo left to be chopped and orders have come in from Batu Lintang.

“Every order involves one thousand sticks of bamboo. That is how intense it is with the flag fight,” said Tay.

The question now is, does it mean that the candidate planting more flags will at the end of the day, be the winner of this ongoing battle in Simanggang constituency?

DayakDaily journalists posed the question to GPS Balai Ringin incumbent Datuk Snowdan Lawan.

Snowdan, whose strongest opponent is also a candidate from PSB namely Sri Aman MP Datuk Masir Kujat, said it was more important to plant the flags in the hearts of voters than to plant the flags on bridges, at the entrance of a frequently used junctions, or to hoist the flags highest in the air.

“We can plant as many flags as we want, but it does not mean we will win.

“It is the flag that we have planted in the hearts of the voters that counts. This is because when the voters vote, they do not make decision based on the flags they see but the flag that is already planted in their hearts,” said Snowdan. — DayakDaily