Is PBB sending a message to junior Sarawak BN coalition partners?

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Reading the recent statement by senior Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) leader Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah, one cannot help but seriously re-evaluate the political scenario in Sarawak. The man who was not too long ago sneered at as ‘year-old corn’ by a veteran Malayan politician, has within a short span of time matured into a full-fledged politician. But has he inadvertently crossed the line?

In his comments which were reported by a local daily, Abdul Karim appeared to throw his support behind partyless Saratok incumbent Tan Sri William Mawan in the latter’s bid to defend the seat for Barisan Nasional (BN) with nary a thought for fellow BN component party Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) who has been allocated the seat to contest through state BN consensus.

Is Abdul Karim saying that he personally supports Mawan to remain as MP for Saratok, or is the former saying that the whole PBB is supporting Mawan? At the same time, is Abdul Karim actually giving a ‘reminder’ to PDP president Dato Sri Tiong King Sing on who the real kingmaker is for Saratok? If whatever Abdul Karim says represent the sentiments of PBB, then is the whole of PBB flexing its muscles?

Records show Mawan’s victory in Saratok during the last general election was not due to the support of the Iban. The majority of Krian voters who are Ibans voted against BN in support of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) represented by Ali Biju. Saratok is still a constituency under BN purely because of the votes and good grace of Malay voters from Kabong and Kalaka.

In not so many words, Abdul Karim is seemingly not shy to warn that PBB’s endorsement should somehow be obtained first, if the Saratok candidate wants to triumph in the next parliamentary election.

While PDP as a BN component party has been told by Mawan not to ‘rock the BN’s boat’, this ‘ex-BN’ personality is seemingly allowed to shake the state BN coalition to its core, even at the risk of breaking the trust between PBB and its coalition partners.

The BN concept of ‘we sink and swim together’ seems to have been replaced with ‘Do it my way, or no way”. Respecting the choice of candidate by a component party leader seems to be no longer the order of the day but relegated to the past.

No wonder Tiong as president of PDP, a junior partner in the Sarawak BN coalition, took major offense at the statement.

The reason seemingly implied by Mawan and supported by Abdul Karim for possibly not agreeing to the candidate nominated by PDP because another candidate has the support of Kabong and Kalaka voters is superficial at best. If PBB can throw their weight against PDP’s candidate, PBB can also choose to throw its support behind the same candidate.

Instead of protecting junior partners within the Sarawak BN coalition, the taiko (big brother) is seemingly playing the in-house aggressor, threatening to take seats from these little brothers who are already small and will get even tinier if this continues. ‘Playing nice’ appears to be no longer required.

With so many ADUN seats, almost all parliamentary seats in Sarawak is at the mercy of PBB, one way or another, if we subscribe to Abdul Karim’s reasoning. Let’s take the Parliamentary seat of Serian, for example. Serian comprises three state assembly seats namely Tebedu (held by Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong, PBB), Kedup (Martin Ben, PBB), and Bukit Semuja (John Ilus, partyless).

Based on the same reasoning given by Abdul Karim, PBB could also insist that Serian MP Datuk Seri Richard Riot from Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) be replaced with a more suitable person, as PBB is also the kingmaker for the area, with Tebedu, Kedup and Bukit Semuja under PBB. For Serian, it could be interpreted as that the red carpet laid out for SUPP is just transitory and could be pulled away by PBB’s sheer weight, at any moment.

Another example that is applicable, again if we subscribe to Abdul Karim’s reasoning, is the Parliamentary constituency of Baram. Baram MP Anyi Ngau from PDP might also ‘bite the dust’ if PBB decides to pull the plug. Supported by one state constituency which PDP can call its own by the name of Marudi, Baram is very much at the mercy of Mulu and Telang Usan, both under control of PBB.

It is a habit for wise politicians to somehow imply that Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg shall have the final say in deciding who shall be the candidate. But the question is, with so many hats to wear, will Abang Johari make his decision based on his capacity as Sarawak BN chairman or as president of PBB? Only just enthroned as the party president, will Abang Jo feel pressured to make the decision to garner more support from his fellow PBB members?

This scenario echoes of the relationship between Sarawak and Malaysia. Sarawak has seen itself as the little brother being bullied by the Malayan big brother. When push came to shove, little brother Sarawak had no choice but to relook at the Malaysian Agreement 1963 (MA63) and study all the historical documents related to the issue. Sarawak went as far as sending its own legal team halfway around the world to London, UK, to gain a better understanding on how to get back its rights which have been eroded by the Malayan big brother over the years.

The fact that such a ‘suggestion’ was uttered by Abdul Karim, may indicate that little brothers within the Sarawak BN coalition are indeed getting weaker. Whatever the understanding Sarawak BN component parties might have when it was formed, there may be a need for reaffirmation. Maybe it is time for the little brothers to book an appointment with their PBB big brother to re-examine how best the little brothers’ rights could be returned if they have been eroded over time, and how these rights could be preserved for the sake of ‘balance of power’. Only by doing this, can the existence of the Sarawak BN coalition be continued in a meaningful way. — DayakDaily