Field direct candidates only as last resort, says Masing

Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing

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By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Dec 18: The ‘direct candidate’ principle should only be used if there are intense disputes or lobbying for seats, says PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing.

As such, he stressed that the earlier the decision is made on the so-called ‘disputed’ seats, the better the chance Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) will stand to win the fight in the coming state election.

“In our search for the best ‘calon’ (candidate), let’s us make our decision based on what is good for the group (coalition) and not based on what is good for an individual party in the coalition. We stand as one GPS and let us, therefore, fight as one or else we will lose everything including Sarawak’s rights and its assets,” Masing told DayakDaily here today.

He pointed out that the principle of direct candidate was based on the philosophy the ‘most winnable candidate’ will be nominated to contest regardless of the candidate’s party membership.

“However, GPS can bypass that principle or ruling if all GPS coalition partners stand as one, and the original (respective) allocation to PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu), SUPP (Sarawak United Peoples’ Party), PDP (Progressive Democratic Party) and PRS is adhered to.

“This will reduce squabbling among coalition partners prior to the 12th state election. The various coalition partners must understand that if one partner loses, it will be a loss to the coalition’s strength after the state election. All will stand to lose. Thus, the war cry ‘You touch one, you touch all’ is a good war cry for the coming state election,” he reiterated.

Masing, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, was commenting on political analyst Universiti Malaya (UM) Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi’s remarks on the possibility of fielding GPS-direct candidates in areas where there are overlapping claims among the GPS coalition parties.

Currently, there are four seats which have overlapping claims; Batu Danau, Bekenu, Pakan, which have been traditionally allocated to Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), and later rebranded as PDP; and Mambong which is traditionally contested by SUPP.

This came about after their respective elected representatives, namely Paulus Palu Gumbang (Batu Danau) Rosey Yunus (Bekenu), Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom (Pakan) and Datuk Dr Jerip Susil (Mambong) won their seats under Barisan Nasional (BN)-direct tickets, but have since joined PBB.

Awang Azman told DayakDaily yesterday (Dec 17) that using a GPS-direct candidate formula would be the last resort to resolve these overlapping seats, as the same formula has been used previously by BN.

Awang Azman who is also a research fellow at UM’s Centre for Democracy and Elections (UMcedel), pointed out that before reaching that point, GPS can also solve the problem by gauging the popularity of these elected representatives in their respective areas.

“The strength of these YBs (elected representatives) lie with their supporters. So, one way for GPS top leadership to gauge their support base is to see how popular they are in their ‘kawasan’ (constituencies).

“And if for instance, they have more PBB supporters, then it is only wise for GPS leadership to accept the reality. And likewise, if PDP has more supporters in the case of Batu Danau, Bekenu and Pakan, and SUPP has more supporters in Mambong, then this has to be considered,” he said.

Awang Azman also stressed that, besides being having a strong support base, the winnability of the respective candidates must also be considered.

“The winnability factor among these YBs (elected representatives) must also be taken into account as GPS will have to face tough challenges from PH (Pakatan Harapan), PSB (Parti Saraak Bersatu) and other local-based parties. And on top of that, consideration must also be focused on new faces as their replacement,” added Awang Azman.

He reiterated that fielding GPS-direct candidates should only be done if taking into account the two above factors still could not solve the issue of overlapping seats.

The issue of overlapping seats cropped up recently after SUPP stated that it would contest in its 20 traditional seats which includes Mambong, and likewise PDP has insisted on contesting in its eight traditional seats including its three ‘lost’ seats of Batu Danau, Bekenu and Pakan.

Currently, GPS has 68 seats out of the 82 seats in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly, which consists of PBB having 47 seats, PRS (11), SUPP (7) and PDP (3). — DayakDaily