Are Ali and Willie winning the battle but losing the war?

Willie Mongin (left) and Ali Biju
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Commentary

By Lian Cheng

Saratok MP Ali Biju and Puncak Borneo MP Willie Mongin seem to have bet on the right horse. The former is now the Deputy Minister for Energy and Natural Resources while the latter is Deputy Minister for Primary Industries and Commodities.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has effectively killed many birds with one stone by elevating the duo to deputy ministers.

First of all, Muhyiddin needs to have as many “clean and young” (as opposed to “old and corrupted”) party leaders in the cabinet as possible to exercise maximum control. The two Sarawakian MPs can fill the quota and serve the purpose.

Secondly, the new premier has to reward the duo for their “loyalty”. Awarding the deputy ministerial positions cements the new ties and thus strengthens Perikatan Nasional. Muhyiddin will not allow the looming coup in Parliament which appears likely take place on May 18 to be pulled off and see his administration collapse even before reaching 100 days.

Thirdly, the duo are natives of Sarawak. Ali is an Iban while Wille is from the Bidayuh community. Having them in the cabinet will appease Sarawakians who are now very conscious of their rights enshrined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963. Furthermore, their appointments will reflect the racial diversity within the government, regardless whether it is for window dressing or otherwise.

Lastly, the presence of the two in the federal government means a strong foothold for Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) in Sarawak. Like it or not, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) will have to live with the presence of Bersatu here in Sarawak where the latter party can no longer be ignored or set aside as it is a party with two Sarawakian deputy ministers.

While GPS cannot dismiss Bersatu as it used to, how far will GPS go to be a PN-“friendly” party? Come next the next general election, will GPS place its candidates in the two constituencies occupied by the duo?

Perhaps the more immediate question is — will GPS field candidates to fight Ali and Willie in the Sarawak Election which is looming? An even more urgent question is where is Ali going to sit in the May state assembly sitting? Will Ali be seated with the ruling coalition in the Sarawak State Assembly Complex or will he remain where he was before on the opposition bench, among Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PRK) leaders?

These are just some complications which are not hard to deal with. The main and most immediate implication that the duo have to face is the general foul response on the ground in response to their decision to abandon the Pakatan Harapan mothership and the warship of Parti Keadilan Rakyat under whose banner they had won their seats in the 14th General Election.

While they have advanced in their political careers, the duo is facing serious backlash. On social media, there has been merciless tongue lashing against the duo especially Willie, who before the week-long political upheaval, was seen as a new emerging Bidayuh leader — young, energetic, upright, open and fearless. Following his jump to Bersatu, many who supported him in the past have started to question his dignity and his real intention to join politics.

For both MPs, while their political stars are seen to be rising, their reputations appear to have plummeted with their ground support now shaky.

Undeniably, both Ali and Willie have three years to prove themselves and to change the minds of the voters in terms of the next parliamentary election. As deputy ministers, they will have access to resources, especially financial allocation.

The Sarawak Election, on the other hand, is just around the corner. Do they have enough time to turn the tide around? It is likely that they will face not one giant but two in the state polls, including their former party PKR. Will it be a case of winning the battle but losing the war for the duo? This remains to be seen. — DayakDaily