WITH both Kakus and Tamin under Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), it is not too far-fetched for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) candidate Edwin Banta to wrest P214 Selangau, once a stronghold of the party.
In 2018 during the 14th General Election, the party lost the seat unexpectedly to Baru Bian.
Following Baru’s decision to leave Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and later, join Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and move to contest in Lawas in the upcoming 15th General Election (GE15), Selangau is now the battleground for three new faces hoping to make their mark — Edwin (Gabungan Parti Sarawak-PRS), Umpang Batang (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) and Henry Joseph Isau, an independent.
Edwin earned PRS’ trust to stand in Selangau due to his loyalty, commitment and humility. The decision to nominate him was made long ago by late PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing before his untimely passing. Masing’s decision was apparently honoured not only by the party but GPS as a whole.
Three not a crowd but a blessing in Selangau
Both Kakus assemblyman Datuk John Sikie Tayai, and Tamin assemblyman Christopher Gira Sambang expressed their most fervent support for Edwin’s candidacy on nomination day on Nov 5 with Sikie becoming his proposer and Gira, his seconder.
Both are confident that Edwin has the qualities to reclaim Selangau for PRS and make it a party stronghold once again.
Sikie’s confidence is not pulled out of thin air. Firstly, Edwin is already a well-known personality among the people of Selangau as he was on the ground with Sikie and Gira when the duo were campaigning and visiting various longhouses and local residents during 2021 Sarawak Election, as well as with other candidates in prior elections.
Edwin’s seven long years as a political secretary to the Chief Minister and later to the Premier of Sarawak helped to pave the way to his candidacy today.
Apart from that, Edwin’s position as a board member in the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) has also provided him an effective platform to help his people. According to Sikie who describes Edwin as “a friendly guy”, the latter has helped many in Selangau to apply for and secure housing loans.
“He (Edwin) applies for loans for the people of Kakus and Tamin, to help them to secure housing loans. Quite a number of them got it because we put him there at HDC. So he fights for the people of Selangau,” Sikie told DayakDaily in an exclusive interview recently.
Apart from Sikie, Gira is also strongly behind Edwin. On Nov 7, Gira launched the Tamin election machinery with Edwin by his side.
He believes that there are still remnants of former Selangau MP Datuk Joseph Entulu’s supporters who will campaign against the GPS candidate, leaving PRS no room to relax or take things for granted.
“Edwin is identified by the party and GPS, so he is the candidate we support, despite the fact that my name was also brought up for consideration.
“I will go all out to make sure Selangau seat return to PRS. I will stand side by side with Edwin to ensure a win.
“It is not going to be smooth sailing but a lot of hard work. We will not take things lightly. Instead, we will go all out, give our opponents a formidable fight and hopefully, we will fight a good fight that makes us proud,” said Gira after the launch of Tamin’s machinery.
Edwin: Vote for development and progress
The strong backing from both Sikie and Gira has definitely strengthened Edwin’s faith to recapture the seat and to envisage a fast-developing Selangau under the combined efforts of the PRS trio.
“They (Sikie and Gira) are doing State politics and Parliament is federal politics, so we must have a representative in Semenanjung, in Parliament. So I will do the talking. I will bring in national development. I will fight for our interests in the national arena.
“I have no doubt (of the commitment) of Datuk John Sikie in Kakus and YB Christopher Gira who are the ADUNs (State elected representatives) here. They are doing a very good job. But on the federal side, we need a representative. We were denied development for the last five years when we were under Baru,” said Edwin when met by the media on nomination day for the 15th General Election, at Selangau Multipurpose Hall recently.
As Selangau has been left out of mainstream development, one of Edwin’s visions is to speed up Selangau’s development so that the area will be on par with its peers, perhaps even to the extent of setting up its own district council.
Being familiar with Selangau, Edwin believes that improvement in four areas, namely physical infrastructure, internet connectivity, education and agriculture will put the constituency on the right track to further development.
In terms of physical infrastructure, he plans to have as many longhouses linked by tar-sealed feeder roads as possible. He knows a feat of this magnitude will take years to accomplish but he believes that with persistence and hard work, he will be able to help a substantial number of longhouses to be well connected by road.
Secondly, he hopes to fight for good Internet coverage.
“It was painful to see our children going around looking for a spot with Internet availability so that they could attend online classes during Covid-19.
“In this era, the Internet is essential not only for our students but also to allow our younger generation to conduct businesses and economic activities. It is something that we must have, if we want to see Selangau not lagging behind,” said Edwin.
Agriculture is also very dear to Edwin’s heart. Selangau is an agriculture district which relies mainly on palm oil oil palm plantations. Edwin however, has his sights set further than this. It is his plan to see diversification in crops to steer Selangau away from dependence on solely one crop. That is why, it is his vision to set up a collection centre for farm produce.
On the whole, Edwin has a vision of raising the socio-economic status of the people of Selangau, a place he born and grew up in.
Getting on the right track
In the 2018 General Election, against all odds, Baru, a Lun Bawang born in Northern Sarawak unexpectedly won the seat of Selangau, an Iban-majority area.
For some residents, it has been five long years of zero development, resulting in calls to return the seat to the GPS fold.
Longhouse headman Jabing Dana backs Edwin firstly because the candidate is young and strong. Secondly, it is because for the last five years, there has been little progress in Selangau.
For Jabing, it is crucial that Selangau be returned to GPS if the area hopes to see development and progress.
Another longhouse chief, Radi Melayu, agrees with the argument that GPS needs to win all 31 parliamentary seats in the State to allow a stronger voice in Parliament to better fight for Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63).
“We want Edwin Banta to be our representative this time, because before this, we have an outsider (Baru). I hope others will support this idea to vote for Edwin, because we have been left behind for the last five years, losing all federal funding.
“That is why we need to have a local to represent us. If he (Edwin) wins, he can help Gira and Sikie. It is now difficult for us, as we have a broken wing. Let us support Edwin so that he will work for us at the federal level and bring in development,” Radi told DayakDaily recently.
Meanwhile, for PRS Youth secretary general Nyireng Saleh, it was a mistake to elect Baru but the people of Selangau should let bygones be bygones.
“Before this, we saw Baru Bian became the choice of the people five years ago to be the elected representative of Selangau parliamentary seat.
“But due to various factors, and I also believe the voters of P214 Selangau especially, started to realise that matter is a mistake that brought about much deprivation to the people,” said Nyireng.
He thus called on the voters of Selangau to work together with PRS to wrest back the seat so that with Edwin in Selangau, and together with Sikie (in Kakus) and Gira (Tamin), they may form the PRS trio to bring development to the constituency.
Edwin, proud son of Selangau
Born in Rumah John Antieng, Pasai Siong, Edwin received his MBA from Ohio University USA. He started working life as a lecturer before becoming project manager in a private company.
Since then, he was deeply involved in politics. He was a political secretary to the Chief Minister and later Premier, since 2016 and currently, the deputy PRS Tamin chief, deputy treasurer for the party central and a supreme council member.
Apart from party posts, he is also a board member with Housing Development Corporation and Farmers’ Organisation Sarawak as well as the Dayak Oil Palm Association (Doppa) treasurer.
As a successful businessman, Edwin has also been the president of Sarawak Petroleum Products Agents Association since 2005.
“I was born and brought up in Selangau. This is my home. It is this place that nurtured me and made me who I am.
“No place is closer to my heart than Selangau. Wherever I go, Selangau is there, waiting and calling me to return like a mother waiting for her son to return.
“It is the place I call home. When home is concerned, we all want the best for it. That you can trust me (on),” said Edwin. — DayakDaily