GE14: Straight fight in Stampin between SUPP and DAP

Dr Sim (front, left) and Chong shake hands after the GE14 candidate names for Stampin were announced.

KUCHING, April 28: The high profile ‘clash of the kings’ in Stampin constituency has begun with a ‘war of colours’ at Padawan, a small town on the outskirts of Kuching Kuching with a sea of yellow and blue vs red.

The constituency will see a straight fight between two influential Chinese leaders — Pakatan Harapan (PH) state chairman Chong Chieng Jen and president of the state’s oldest party Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) Datuk Sim Kui Hian, as expected.

Both candidates, surrounded by huge number of supporters, wearing yellow (or blue) and red respectively, gathered outside the nomination centre at the Padawan Municipal Council building as early as 7am, causing an unusual traffic jam at the small town located at 10th Mile of the Kuching Serian road.

Returning officer Elizabeth Loh announced at 11.15am that the Election Commission had received papers for Sim and Chong.

Chong, 47, a lawyer, was wearing a white shirt with the logos of all Pakatan Harapan component parties printed on it while Sim, 52, a cardiologist, was wearing a shirt in his party’s colour of yellow.

If number of supporters present offers any indication, Dr Sim had definitely outnumbered the state Opposition alliance chief by thousands.

At one point, Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters holding Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) flags were trying to ge through the police barrier to reach the red camp, but were foiled by the men in blue.

Chong, who is state DAP chairman and three-term Bandar Kuching MP, left his Bandar Kuching parliamentary seat for the relatively risky Stampin parliamentary seat, while Dr Sim, resigned as a senator to wrest the seat for BN. Dr Sim is also state Local Government and Housing Minister.

Both candidates are also state assemblyman. Chong is the two-term elected representative for Kota Sentosa while Sim won Batu Kawah in the 2016 state election with a majority of some 2,000 votes. Both state constituencies fall under Stampin.

Another state constituency under Stampin is Batu Kitang, created in the 2016-re-delianeation exercise which is represented by SUPP’s Lo Khere Chiang, who is also Padawan Municipal Council chairman. Lo won the seat in a four-cornered fight in the 2016 state election with a close to 1,800 majority.

Compared to the combined majority of some 3,800 (Batu Kawah and Batu Kitang), Chong, on the other hand, is at a disadvantage of having won Kota Sentosa with majority of 2,800.

The main factor which is often cited by the Opposition as being unfair and a “dirty tactic” was the carving out of another state seat, Batu Lintang, which is a Chinese-majority seat with some 28,000 Chinese voters. In the delineation exercise, it was placed under Bandar Kuching parliamentary constituency.

The voters under Stampin had thereby decreased from some 84,000 in GE13 to 66,240 now, in which 64 per cent (42,521) are Chinese, followed by 18 per cent (12,240) Dayak, 16 percent (10,706) Malays, and others.

In GE13, veteran politician Datuk Yong Khoon Seng from SUPP, who held Stampin for three terms, was defeated in an upset by DAP greenhorn Julian Tan who beat him with a majority of 18,670 votes.

After one term as MP, Tan decided to step down and is now Chong’s campaign director. — DayakDaily