Clash of the kings in Stampin

The impending GE14 battle for Stampin between Chong (left) and Dr Sim has all the plot-makings of a blockbuster.

Commentary

by Lian Cheng

During the 2016 state election, there were rumours that state Democratic Action Party (DAP) chief Chong Chieng Jen would try to take down Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian by leaving his Kota Sentosa constituency to fight the latter in Batu Kawah.

There were vocal challenges and calls for war thrown around while the Chinese community waited with bated breath. Finally, the showdown did not happen. Chong stayed in Kota Sentosa while Dr Sim, Batu Kawah. And the Chinese said, “No drama to watch” and life went on with Chong winning Kota Sentosa, and Dr Sim, Batu Kawah.

For this 14th General Election (GE14) which some had termed as the “mother of all elections”, this long-awaited Chinese drama finally looks like it is going to air. The drama of “King vs King” was officially declared up and running immediately after state Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg read out Dr Sim’s name as the candidate for Stampin.

It is expected to be a “blockbuster” as the stakes are high for both sides of the political divide.

With the opposition wanting to take over Putrajaya, Chong as the chief opposition leader in Sarawak who holds both state and parliamentary seats, needs the Stampin seat not only to continue to lead the opposition here but also to ensure that the opposition coalition would have enough seats to take over Putrajaya.

Meanwhile, as the president of a BN component party, Dr Sim has no other option but to win the seat to secure his presidency and also to ensure better Chinese representation in the federal cabinet. Most important of all, he must win the seat for Abang Johari who needs the Chinese-majority seats back in the BN fold as this is the last frontier for state BN.

For Dr Sim to be willing to take up the high risk to contest again when he is already sitting in the state cabinet as Local Government and Housing Minister, the situation in Stampin must be very much in favour of BN.

First of all, Stampin consists of the Batu Kawah, Batu Kitang and Kota Sentosa state seats. Based on the 2016 state election results, the opposition only won Kota Sentosa while it lost both Batu Kawah and Batu Kitang to Dr Sim and Lo Khere Chiang respectively. If there are no deadly factors in the parliamentary constituency that may sway the voters in the last two years, it means that Stampin is a “sure win” area for state BN.

Word on the ground is also in favour of Dr Sim. Since he was elected as state assemblyman of Batu Kawah, he has convinced the voters that they made the right choice by delivering effective service at the grassroots level.

Even though all signs indicate that Dr Sim has a very good chance of winning, he and his SUPP machinery are not resting on their laurels. As soon as the opposition started to hold ‘ceramah’ almost every night, the SUPP gang have tried to beat DAP at their own game by organising their own, just as frequently.

The competition is now so intense that leaders from both sides look tired, even before the campaign period has officially started.

While on Tuesday night, there was no ‘ceramah’ for SUPP, DAP still organised a small one at the old Batu Kitang town. The turnout was small and the DAP leaders looked tired and weary. Nonetheless, the fight is on. Like SUPP, DAP learnt its lesson from the last state election. DAP knows SUPP is making headway back into the Chinese’s good books after the latter managed to win in eight Chinese-majority seats in 2016 state election.

There are in total 16 Chinese-majority state seats across Sarawak, namely Pending, Batu Lintang, Kota Sentosa, Batu Kawah, Padungan, Repok, Meradong, Bawang Assan, Pelawan, Bukit Assek, Dudong, Tanjong Batu, Pujut, Senadin, Piasau and Batu Kitang.

In the 2016 state election, DAP failed to defend Batu Kawah, Repok, Meradong, Dudong, and Piasau, only retaining Padungan, Kota Sentosa, Bukit Assek, Pelawan, Tanjong Batu and Pujut. Meanwhile, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) managed to retain Batu Lintang but both DAP and PKR lost their overlapping seat of Batu Kitang to SUPP.

What was more detrimental for the opposition leaders was the fact that there was a much reduced majority for all opposition candidates across Sarawak, whether they were winning or losing.

Some may argue that the opposition suffered defeat because of the Adenan effect. But perhaps the greater truth is that, the effect of the Chinese tsunami has waned, partly neutralised by the Adenan effect, but largely due to the gradual loss of its velocity.

With SUPP micro-serving its constituents through community services and nightly ‘ceramah’, combined with the bigger picture of the waning Chinese tsunami effect, Dr Sim is in a much more favourable position than Chong in Stampin.

However, Chong is not an opponent to be underestimated. Chong has been able to mesmerise the ethnic Chinese crowds not only with his personal charm, quick wit and charisma but over the years, he has become a hero figure that will stand and speak out against the bureaucratic government whose policies in the 80s and 90s were perceived as very much unfair to the Chinese community.

Whether this is true or just a perception, Chong is the one Chinese leader that the Chinese community would try to keep — “the seed” — and in this case, the seed of opposition. Chong was like former state DAP chief Wong Ho Leng before, the last fire that should not be put out.

By painting Chong as the last Chinese warrior that the Chinese community must keep, by highlighting the high cost of living that affects all and sundry, by implicating BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and other BN leaders as being corrupted, DAP still holds sway over how the Chinese will think and vote in Stampin.

Regardless of who finally comes out the victor in Stampin, what most Chinese voters want to see is beyond that. They would want to see a clean, fair and gentlemanly fight. However tough the battle, it is the hope of the dignified Chinese voters to see the game fairly and gentlemanly played because once that is done, it already means victory for the whole Chinese community.

May both the kings make the Chinese proud. — DayakDaily

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