Absolute power in the making

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Commentary

Saratok MP Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom has strongly hinted that he is not partyless at all. In fact, he recently came just short of announcing that he is a Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) member, though as a matured politician, he did not do so, for reasons best known to himself.

The topic of discussion today, however, is not about Mawan, who of course is a wily politician of such stature that a book could be written about him.

What we will look into today is the number of seats that PBB as the strongest political party in Sarawak, is holding and its implication.

How many seats in the State Legislative Assembly are under PBB now? A total of 45 out of the overall 82, more than half.


How did this situation come about? As those who have been closely following Sarawak politics know, it happened during the era of former Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.

It happened in front of Sarawakians. There were many press conferences and political statements that slowly paved the way for it. However, much of the general public still seem to be unaware of what happened and its implications for the balance of political power in Sarawak.

Before the 2016 state election, there were 71 state seats, where PBB was allocated 35 to contest, with the rest of seats to be contested under the Barisan Nasional (BN) flag divided between the other BN component parties — Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP), 18; Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), 11; and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), 7.

There is wisdom in this manner of seat allocation. Although PBB could have more seats, it stuck to only 35 and left the rest for its coalition partners, as a sign of respect and sincere partnership. The ratio of seats held by PBB compared to these component parties was then 35 to 36.

Such an arrangement was a form of check-and-balance within the state BN coalition. It meant that if PBB tried to push any agenda which is unpalatable to the leaders of the other component parties, the latter could team up and vote against it in the State Legislative Assembly. It meant choices. It meant democracy. It meant that there was no single dominating political party in Sarawak.

Then came 2016 where 11 new state assembly seats were created. This led to the equilibrium within the state BN coalition being disrupted.

With the creation of these 11 new seats, it was understood that PBB would get five seats, while the rest of the component parties would get two seats each.

If the original power-sharing principle was to be observed, it meant PBB would have 40 seats to contest, while the rest of the state BN component parties, 42 seats. There would still be check-and-balance. The spirit of power-sharing within the state BN would still be very much intact, alive and respected.

PBB as expected, immediately claimed five seats while there was no announcement as to how the other six seats would be allocated.

Then came the state election. In order to accommodate certain BN-friendly candidates, Adenan decided to field direct BN candidates where all of them were asked to resign from their respective parties, including PBB, Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras) and United People’s Party (UPP).

These 11 direct BN candidates (and now state assemblymen) were Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh (Bawang Assan, UPP), Datuk Tiong Thai King (Lanang, UPP), Mawan (Pakan, Teras), Rosey Yunus (Bekenu, Teras), Paulus Palu Gumbang (Batu Danau, Teras), Datuk Dr Jerip Susil (Mambong, UPP), Dr Johnical Rayong Ngipa (Engkilili, UPP), Datuk Ranum Mina (Opar, UPP), Datuk Gerawat Gala (Mulu, PBB), Miro Simuh (Serembu, PBB) and John Ilus (Bukit Semuja, PBB).

After the state election, while everyone placed their trust on Adenan to come out with a fair distribution of seats to solve the “partyless state assemblymen” issue, he announced at a press conference his readiness to accept the rest of the nine partyless BN assemblymen as Wong and Tiong, preferred to return to UPP.

When the dust settled, PBB accepted not only its former members Gerawat, Miro, and John but also Rosey and Paulus, who were formerly PDP leaders before leaving it for Teras due to internal party squabbles.

So from its initial 35 seats, and with the five new seats, PBB now has 45 seats out of the overall 82 seats.

As these events played out, only PRS managed to get what it was entitled to. It got two out of the eleven new seats created. SUPP managed to get one while the biggest loser in the whole episode was PDP. Not only that it did not get any new seats which should have been allocated to it, it lost two seats traditionally allocated to it — Bekenu and Batu Danau after PBB decided to take in Rosey and Paulus.

And now, if Mawan were to join PBB, well, PBB will have 46 out of the 82 seats.

What are the implications then?

Firstly, this means PBB now has the simple majority where the party itself can make decisions without the consent of other state BN component parties. The check-and-balance within the state BN coalition is now a thing of the past.

The state BN component parties are now at the mercy of PBB, not unlike the political scenario in Peninsular Malaysia where UMNO calls the shots. The PBB boys can do or say what they want but no one from component parties can tell PBB off.

It happened before and it will happen again. For example, after the 2016 state election, not one component party leader dared to voice objections against PBB for taking eight out of the 11 new seats created. And now, if PBB were to accept Mawan, can PDP president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing who is full of frustration and fury stop it from happening?

No. Just like when his protests against PBB taking Rosey and Paulus were ignored, this time, he may continue to be ignored, if PBB chooses to.

What can PDP do? What can the rest of the component parties do? Nothing.

Furthermore, if PBB continues to take seats allocated to other component parties, once it gets hold of a two-third majority, which is 54 seats, the party will enjoy absolute power.

That means the party can pass amendments to our state constitution and component parties would be powerless to stop it. With more than a two-third majority, there will only be one way in Sarawak and that will be the PBB way, from policy-making to reshaping our state constitution.

For example, if PBB suddenly were to decide to remove our immigration autonomy and hand it over the federal government, it can be done when the party acquires two-third majority.

Is this what Sarawakians are ready to see happen? Are BN component parties going to continue to keep silent?

History has shown that all successful political parties in the world started clean with a clear vision to fight for the concerns of people.

Over the years, these powerful political entities fell, because their visions became distorted, diverging far from their initial intentions.

There is truth to the saying ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

Democracy means choice. Component parties must speak up before it is too late. So must Sarawakians. — DayakDaily