Applaudable improvement or significant loss? SUPP snatches Sarikei from DAP, retains Serian but loses five seats

All seven SUPP candidates for GE15. From left: Ting, Riot, Tay, Huang, Wong, Lo and Phang.

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Commentary

By Ling Hui

Dato Sri Huang Tiong Sii is the champion of Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) this election as he has managed to wrest back Sarikei from the Opposition.

He triumphed over former Sarikei MP Wong Liu Biu’s son Roderick Wong (DAP) with a majority of 3,697 votes in a straight fight, and cut off the father-to-son inheritance in the seat. A leading Chinese businessman who speaks fluent Iban and a two-term Repok assemblyman, Huang is no ordinary candidate.

Against new face Roderick, Huang obviously has the upper hand due to his second appearance in Sarikei. In the 2018 general election, Huang had lost the field to Wong Ling Biu in a 2,570-majority. This time, no doubt, Huang has learned from the cause of his defeat and come back stronger than ever.

Before polling, even Roderick had admitted that it was an uphill battle against Huang who has great machinery and has been spending at least 20 minutes in each longhouse since day one of the campaign period. Roderick’s mere attempt to entice young voters through social media is clearly not enough.

In Serian, of course it was a walk in the park for Dato Sri Richard Riot Jaem to defend his seat, defeating independent Dr Alim Impira with a huge majority of 16,697 votes. PSB’s Elsiy Tingang managed to win 5,630 votes and Democratic Action Party’s (DAP) Learry Jabul 5,289 votes.

Riot, 71, entering into his eighth term in Serian, is now the longest-serving MP in Sarawak. He first won the seat in 1990 as an independent candidate, and later joined SUPP. Since then, he has been appointed as deputy minister and full minister in the federal administration. In 2020, he was appointed as the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister to East Asia (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan).

Numerous attempts by various parties to dethrone Riot in his stronghold over the decades have been futile. Unless Riot himself decides to retire and give way to the younger generation, there should be no surprises from Serian in the years to come.

As for the remaining five seats that SUPP were contesting in – Stampin, Bandar Kuching, Sibu, Lanang and Miri – all of its candidates lost their battles to Pakatan Harapan (PH).

Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen got the better of councilman Lo Khere Chiang with a majority of 7,158 votes, and retained his seat in Stampin. In neighbouring Bandar Kuching, Dr Kelvin Yii triumphed over new face Eric Tay with an overwhelming majority of 28,891 votes.

In Sibu, Oscar Ling defended his seat with an easy majority of 7,760 votes against his challenger Clarence Ting who is the Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) chairman, and in Lanang, Alice Lau crushed Wong Ching Yong with a 11,544-majority. Up north, Jeffery Phang lost to Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) Chiew Choon Man, who won with a 6,160 majority.

The question is, were the candidates from SUPP not good enough?

Examining his track record, Lo has always been on the ground as a two-term Batu Kitang assemblyman and the chairman of Padawan Municipal Council (MPP). As for Ting, he is said to be a popular figure among the Foochows in Sibu.

All the other SUPP candidates had full support from their party president and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) including its top boss Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg himself. Before yesterday (Nov 19), he had gone on a hectic schedule to all the grey seats to speak for the candidates.

Perhaps, in these Chinese-majority seats, the one uncertain factor remains – the Chinese voters’ strong desire for a change of Federal government and their unfulfilled dream for PKR president Anwar Ibrahim to be the prime minister.

The GE15 results clearly shout: “We have already voted for GPS in the last State Election, for the General Election, we vote for the Opposition.” To this, Abang Johari may have to repeat the idiom again, “supaya pisang tidak berbuah dua kali” (don’t let history repeat itself), but at the end of the day, the voters’ decision cannot be questioned.

Now from SUPP’s perspective, was wresting back only Sarikei an applaudable improvement? Or was losing five out of seven contested seats to PH a tremendous loss?

Abang Johari in a press conference last night said they only expected SUPP to wrest back one or two more seats back, meaning to say the result was within GPS’ expectation. But could they have done better?

In the next general election, the young candidates will have five more years of experience under their belt. Maybe by then, they will have a better chance of changiung the minds of the Chinese. — DayakDaily