June 12 poised to be historic for Sarawakians

Flag of Sarawak. (Matthew A. Lockhart [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Commentary

AS the day of reckoning (June 12) fast approaches, one cannot help but feel nervous about what it will bring.

June 12 is the day of hearing for Petronas’ petition for leave to commence proceedings against the Sarawak Government over oil and gas rights in the state.

Secondly, Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties, namely Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) will convene a landmark supreme council meeting to decide on the fate of the coalition.

Insofar as the Sarawak vs Petronas legal suit is concerned, there is nothing much to speculate or talk about as judgement will be delivered on that day itself. It is only a question of whether the Petroleum Development Act, which was passed in Parliament in 1974, is supreme over the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) or vice versa. Furthermore, tons of news and commentaries have already been penned on the issue.

So the next big thing that is going to rumble on Tuesday is whether the ruling Sarawak BN will dump the once seemingly invincible coalition and form a new Sarawak alliance in order to try to stay relevant in the face of the `Malaysian tsunami’ that propelled Pakatan Harapan to power in the 14th general election on May 9.

Chief Minister and Sarawak BN chairman Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had told a press conference on May 16, a week after the BN’s worst defeat in its history, that PBB, of which he is president, was reviewing its status within the BN family.

Since then, SUPP was reported to have decided to quit the coalition, while PRS had more or less said it would follow PBB out of the door as it (PBB) is the backbone of the state BN, which controls 72 of 82 seats in the State Legislative Assembly. PDP, on the other hand, has surprisingly been mute on this topic, but political pundits believe they will follow its three partners out.

Of these four component parties, PBB has the most at stake as it controls 46 of the 72 seats in BN’s hands. In addition, the state’s top job — the chief minister’s post — and a host of senior posts in the state cabinet are in their grasp.

PRS has 11 seats, SUPP eight and PDP just two, after its Pakan assemblyman Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom joined PBB recently. United People’s Party (UPP), a BN-friendly party, has five.

PBB, which has been governing Sarawak since 1970, seems to have been rudely jolted by the unexpected annihilation of the BN on May 9 and are now engineering what it believes would be the best route to take to ensure they remain relevant in the next state polls, which must be held by 2021.

Even though there is only three years left to strategise a grand survival plan, Abang Johari actually still has time to get his party and its partners ready to face their biggest political challenge since the Ming Court Affair in 1987.

Political pundits and party insiders believe the only way for PBB to prevail is to quickly shed all its ‘liabilities’, failing which they feared the party will suffer the same fate as its sunken mothership — United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

If PBB and its partners were to rebrand themselves, most critics and ardent party supporters believe they can only emerge victorious in the next state election if they can feel the pulse of the rakyat, many of whom are still in a celebratory mood after the unexpected PH victory.

But frankly speaking, PH seems to be doing a great job in fixing the nation’s badly battered international reputation, no thanks to the mountain of scandals involving 1MDB.

To ensure that a “Sarawakian tsunami” does not sweep across the state in the next state polls, the ruling component parties must quickly rid themselves of all its liabilities and stay in touch with what is happening on the ground. It is a do-or-die mission. — DayakDaily