Julau voters vote for change in Dayak heartland

Larry Sng (left) caused an upset in Julau by defeating incumbent Joseph Salang.

Commentary

Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) candidate Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum and three-term incumbent unexpectedly lost to independent candidate Larry Sng in Julau in a straight fight.

Larry managed to beat Salang with 1,931 votes by garnering 10,105 votes agaisnt the latter’s vote of 8,174.

Julau was one of the hottest seats to watch in this general election because of an unexpected factor. Seemingly out of nowhere, a week prior to nomination, Larry who contested in Lubok Antu in the last general election suddenly announced on his social media page that he would contest in Julau.

The announcement came as a surprise because except for the fact that Larry’s father Datuk Sng Chee Hua was Julau MP from 1995 to 1999, there was nothing to link Larry with Julau, a constituency represented by Salang for the last three terms which Salang secured with comfortable wins.


However, a check with the locals revealed that there was behind initial impressions, a good reason for Larry to want to contest there instead of Lubok Antu, where he contested in 2013, or Selangau, where his father made an attempt in the same year.

The Sng father and son team, have been moving from one constituency to another. They used to contest in different areas but for this election, they focussed their resources only on Julau. And this was something that no one should take lightly as the Sngs are known to be financially very strong and generous, and politically, very savvy.

Apart from strong financial backing, the Sngs who were previously rural-based PRS top leaders know well how politics is played out in the rural areas. They know that the support of local longhouse chiefs and leaders is crucial as these grassroots leaders can influence the voters of their longhouses or settlements.

The Sngs managed to gather local chiefs and leaders who have beef with Salang or PRS under one roof, and consolidated a formidable force to challenge Salang’s and BN election machinery on the ground.

Among local leaders, Larry had the support of former Meluan assemblyman Wong Judat, who had joined Sarawak Workers Party (SWP) in the 2013 general election. Former Meluan branch chief Nyempah Sabot who was expelled along with former PRS deputy president Datuk Joseph Entulu had also reportedly joined Larry’s camp to bring down Salang.

With the considerable financial resources of the Sng family, and the local leadership, Larry managed to defeat Salang. This perhaps should not be a surprise because prior to polling day, there were already rumours that Julau might fall.

Larry would not be able to go so far, if it was not for the general discontentment on the ground towards the lack or slow development in the area.

It was also quite obvious that the locals were now very much influenced by the opposition’s rhetoric which reached them through social media. A number of young local voters already showed that they are not like their parents before, and many have geared up for and are ready to make a change.

However, for Julau, a stronghold of Barisan Nasional (BN) since 1968 to fall, it was a big surprise for political pundits. For the voters to make a complete change as to abandon BN which the locals have been living with since 1968, it is a drastic step for Julau voters to take, and they did.

This is a loud statement that they are making — that they have changed, and will not allow anyone to take them for granted. — DayakDaily