Jepak by-election: Sarawak Opposition parties participating to prevent “cocky” GPS from winning uncontested

(From left) Soo, Pang and Voon.

By Lian Cheng

BINTULU, Oct 19: Despite its low chances of winning, Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party (Aspirasi) says it refuses to allow Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) win in the Jepak by-election uncontested and to be “cocky” about it.

When contacted, Aspirasi president Lina Soo said this is also to uphold democracy.

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“If no one were to challenge (GPS in Jepak), they will become hao lian (cocky). Why let them have the luxury?” Soo said.

Furthermore, she claimed, an election is not just about losing or winning, but it is an opportunity to make a statement, and to voice out the needs of the people, with many having difficulty in putting three meals on the table.

“Within a democracy, there must exist opposition. We will always fight,” said Soo, whose party has fielded Bintulu businessman Chieng Lea Phing to vie for Jepak.

Soo is not the only one. Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) president Voon Li Shan expressed the same concern that there is no longer any Opposition in Sarawak following the setting up of a unity government which absorbs all political parties in Sarawak.

This is the reason why Voon, like Soo, fully grasps the reality that Jepak is a stronghold of GPS, leaving almost no chance for another party, but still insists in fielding a candidate – Stevenson Joseph Sambang who managed to garner 587 votes in the 2021 Sarawak Election.

“As you know, it seems that there is no more Opposition in Sarawak because the unity government has absorbed all the political parties in Sarawak as part of it, only leaving the few of us.

“The dominant one leading the Opposition is PBK, and we have a responsibility or obligation to fight in this by-election to represent the voices of the Opposition,” said Voon recently when unveiling his candidate for Jepak.

Many have predicted that GPS will retain the seat in the Jepak by-election as the constituency is a stronghold for the coalition’s backbone party Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), with more than 54 per cent of the voters being Malays and Melanau.

Some are even going so far as saying that the candidates of PBK and Aspirasi will lose their deposits.

It is thus not surprising that political scientist Prof Dr Jayum Jawan of Universiti Putra Malaysia too has dismissed all doubts, and predicts that it will be a walkover for Sarawak’s ruling coalition.

Tanjung Batu assemblyman Johnny Pang, however, refuses to take Jepak for granted and argued that the strong support on the ground for GPS is due to the humble efforts of its leader and not the result of a “hao lian” attitude.

Despite the high chances of retaining the seat, he said Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) will work hard to support PBB candidate Iskandar Turkee.

He said GPS is determined to secure more votes as compared to the last general election, which was over 9,000 votes from Jepak for Bintulu parliamentary seat’s incumbent Dato Sri Tiong King Sing.

This is because the outcome of the poll will be an indication of people’s response towards GPS’ policies and efforts so far.

The Jepak seat was vacated due to the passing Datuk Talib Zulpilip who passed away on Sept 15, 2023 at the age of 72 due to health complications. He had held the seat for six terms since 1996.

In the 2021 Sarawak Election, Talib retained the Jepak seat by securing 6,277 votes, against PSB’s Rabaáh Tudin (2,034 votes), PBK’s Stevenson (587 votes) and independent candidate Tuah Kazan (141 votes).

The Election Commission has fixed Oct 21 as the Nomination Day, with polling day set for Nov 4. According to the updated electoral roll, Jepak has a total of 22,804 registered voters. — DayakDaily

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