On the Pan Borneo Highway from Sibu to Bintagor, 20km before reaching the town, one can already see Barisan Nasional (BN) flags and the ‘dacing’ (weighing scale) symbol flying high. And there are lots of them. Interspersed among them are big billboards featuring Sarawak United Peoples’ Party’s (SUPP) Sarikei candidate Dato Sri Huang Tiong Sii.
Despite it being a Sunday, he was campaigning hard in Bintagor town. The usually quiet town of Bintagor seemed to have sprung to life due to his campaigning. Cars were parked illegally along the roadside near the restaurant where he attended a wedding banquet. The whole restaurant was buzzing with excitement with people coming and going.
After attending the wedding banquet, Huang moved on to another venue to meet Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) Bintagor Branch leaders and members who gave him a rowdy welcome. Due to his tight schedule, Huang went straight up front to give a speech. Surprisingly, he is fluent in Iban and one can see him being well received among the Iban community.
He asked the Iban people if incumbent Democratic Action Party (DAP) candidate Wong Ling Biu, after being elected for five years, has brought any development for them. The audience promptly replied “no”. It was quite obvious that Huang has built up a good rapport with the Ibans who were present at the lunch meet.
Among the Chinese in Bintagor, however, Huang has been received with mixed feelings. Many Chinese, influenced by the rhetoric of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition are determined to vote for his main rival. There are however, also Chinese in Bintagor, who support him.
“He (Huang) has been a fair person. He gives business to everyone. He does not just give it to one person. So he is winning the support of quite a few Chinese also in Bintagor,” a businessman told DayakDaily.
It is quite understandable that many in Bintagor do not know Huang and thus, are still doubtful. He is after all, a new face in Bintagor, even though he is Repok assemblyman.
However, in Repok constituency, which hosts the Town of Swiftlets—Sarikei—the situation is quite different. Huang is expected to experience smooth sailing in this area.
“The Sarikei people like him. He is surely going to win in Sarikei. We are very happy with his performance. He spends every sen of his allocation and development funds on the area helping everyone, the Ibans and the Chinese.
“He brought in many projects, here and there. He gave allocations to help every school. For this election, he is definitely going to win in Sarikei and comes next state election, he is going to win again,” said a coffeeshop operator.
Sarikei constituency consists of the two state constituencies of Repok and Meradong.
Meanwhile, Wong has his own story to tell. Wong said when he first heard that he would be facing Huang in this election, he thought he had little chance of winning.
“Our DAP (Democratic Action Party) people were also feeling the pressure and were anxious. However, a few days into campaigning, we are picking up. The response on the ground is good, including from the Iban community,” Wong told DayakDaily.
He said on the surface, Huang was perceived as having the upper hand, with the numerous billboards and BN flags but there were undercurrents which would be affecting voting patterns.
“When you talk to people in town, most people will not tell you the truth because they are worried that they may be intimated.
“We can’t even enter some longhouses now because the entrance is guarded by people,” he claimed.
However, he said all these tactics have now backfired and many have expressed their support for DAP, including the literate Ibans who felt that it should be a fair fight.
“Initially, Sarikei is a white area for BN. Slowly, it turned grey. Now, I think it has turned black,” said Wong.
In the 2103 general election, Wong managed to defeat SUPP’s Ding Kwong Hiing with a slim majority of 505 by garnering 14,263 votes in a straight fight.
Wong is facing a three-cornered fight in this election, where his main contender is Huang. His second opponent is Wong Ching King of Parti Bumi Kenyalang. Ching King was formerly DAP Sarikei secretary. — DayakDaily