Eight new faces from PBB or more?

From top left (clockwise): Mohd Ali, Naroden, Abdul Wahab, Talib, Manyin, Jamilah and Blikau.

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By Lian Cheng

Over the years, the strength of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) has been the strict discipline within the party where decisions made by the top leadership will be followed through by every echelon within the party.

For this upcoming 12th Sarawak Election, which will poll on Dec 18, 2021, like previous elections, some leaders will be off-loaded mostly due to seniority in terms of age to give way to new faces. This has been a common practice, but due to the party’s high discipline and party directive adherence, there have been few subsequent backlashes from the affected leaders.

Some of their veterans bowed out in style, like PBB senior president Dato Sri Michael Manyin, the Bidayuh paramount chief who on Nov 23 declared no intention to seek re-election at the Serian District Education Leadership Colloquium held at a local hotel in Serian.

The reason he cited was seniority in age as he said during the event that “I know age is catching up, so I decided to retire from active politics last year even before the Covid-19 pandemic and be a free man”.

Manyin, who was born in 1944, is 77 years old. Well-respected and accepted by his community and village, the Tebedu incumbent still managed to garner 7,357 votes which is 75.5 per cent of votes and defended his seat with a majority of 6,193 votes in the 2016 Sarawak Election.

Another veteran who bowed out quietly but in the same graceful manner is Katibas incumbent Dato Sri Ambrose Blikau Enturan. Unlike Manyin, Blikau’s retirement was announced on PBB Katibas’ social media page. Accompanied with his announcement is a picture of him and his wife, both sitting closely together holding hands. The picture brings so much warmth to whoever sees it.

A photo showing Blikau (right) and his wife Datin Sri Marie Therese Mathias. Source: PBB Katibas branch

Blikau, born in 1953, has served Katibas for six terms. He started in 1991 when he was first elected as its lawmaker at the young age of 26. Compared to Manyin, Blikau’s exit may not be grand, but both stepped down gracefully and in great style, befitting senior leaders of PBB.

There was also no hesitance for Kalaka incumbent Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz, who is 74 years old. His retirement was announced as early as July 2020 during PBB Kalaka’s committee meeting.

Abdul Wahab, like Blikau, was first elected in 1991 and since then has been representing Kalaka. Known for being quiet and gentle, Abdul Wahab continued to support Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and its chairman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg in an interview that followed the announcement of his retirement.

Amid speculations of who else will be retiring, unexpectedly on Sunday (Nov 28) evening, when launching the GPS election machinery at PBB headquarters, Abang Johari announced the retirement of Stakan incumbent Datuk Amar Mohamad Ali Mahmud.

Abang Johari said Manyin, who is still very much spirited, had chosen not to seek renomination, along with Abdul Wahab, Mohammad Ali, and “many more who are giving way to new faces because that is the culture we have (in Sarawak)”.

The PBB president also added that he was proud to say that Sarawakian leaders are not power-mad, and like them, he too would have to bow out when his age no longer permits him to serve.

At this stage, there are only four to retire where four new faces are expected to take over.  Let us recap what PBB vice president Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah had predicted — that there will be 20 to 30 per cent new faces — and what its secretary-general Dato Sri Alexander Nanta Linggi had announced, that there will be 10 to 20 per cent new faces.

Between what Abdul Karim and Nanta had unveiled, perhaps it is fair to predict that new faces within the party is likely to be about 20 per cent. With PBB contesting in 47 seats, 20 per cent means the retirement of nine incumbents.  So it would not be to far fetched to say that between eight to 10 senior members of PBB lawmakers may be making way to younger blood.

So far, Abang Johari had announced the retirement of three incumbents — Manyin, Abdul Wahab and Mohammad Ali.  Including Blikau, that makes four while still being short of between four and six incumbents.

In such a case, if we were to include Abang Johari’s contemplation of contesting in Gedong, that means he would be the new face in the constituency. And for Abang Johari to leave for Gedong, it would mean that his Satok seat would be vacated, and a new face needs to be fielded.

Since Abang Johari’s long-term comrade Datuk Ibrahim Baki has been his deputy and the one servicing the constituency for him, it is expected that the latter will step in to fill his shoes if the former were to move on to start anew in Gedong.

Ibrahim Baki

Should this deduction be true, Gedong lawmaker Datuk Naroden Majais will retire, adding one more to the retirement list to five but six new faces.

Meanwhile, away in the southern tip of Sarawak, Tanjung Datu incumbent Datuk Amar Jamilah Anu has been rumoured to be giving way to a new face.

After Pehin Sri Adenan Satem passed on, this dynamic lady was fielded to take over from the former chief minister. She was then already rumoured to be warming the seat for her son, Azizul Annuar, who was only 25 years old at that time. Today, Azizul is 29 years old and is rumoured to take over the seat from his mother.

That being speculated, things might end up remaining the same as if it is true that Jamilah was warming the seat for her son, she turned out to be a very impressive and outstanding politician. Not only that she is constantly on the ground, she is outspoken in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly and has taken every opportunity to voice out issues faced by her people in a firm and assertive manner.

Being such an effective lawmaker, there is no reason to take Jamilah out from the candidates list unless it is her choice; that out of a mother’s love, she gives way to Azizul. Whatever the outcome, it is hoped that Tanjung Datu will get a candidate who sincerely has the people’s interests at heart.

Another Sarawak lawmaker rumoured to be stepping down is Jepak assemblyman Datuk Talib Zulpilip, who is also Integrity and Ombudsman Minister. Talib, aged 71, has been the assemblyman of the area for five terms since 1996.  His majorities over the last five terms have been quite consistent. So if he were to retire, the only factor perhaps would be his age.

If these rumours turn out to be true, it means there would be new faces for eight constituencies — Tebedu, Kalaka, Stakan, Katibas, Gedong, Satok, Tanjung Datu, and Jepak. How accurate is this deduction? Perhaps we might have to wait until Abang Johari announces the GPS candidates list to get the final and correct answer.  — DayakDaily