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By Lian Cheng and Karen Bong
KUCHING, Nov 23: The overlapping claim involving the three seats of Opar, Mambong and Bawang Assan is a non-issue to Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) chairman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.
Acknowledging the issue, he chose to see it positively that if only three out of the total 82 seats were to be contested were problematic, then GPS is still in a good position.
“For Mambong, maybe it is a bit of problem. We will discuss later. If three of 82 seats (are disputable), (it) means 79 are okay.
“We can solve it. There is no problem. Personality (candidacy dispute) is normal. We will decide after consultation. It is still premature as today is only Nov 23 and the EC (Election Commission) is holding a special meeting tomorrow.
“There is no need to rush. Time (to announce candidacy) will come before the nomination day,” said Abang Johari who is also Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) president.
Abang Johari, who is also the chief minister gave the assurance that the issue over overlapping seat claims will be solved and GPS will contest as a team for all 82 seats.
“GPS will contest in 82 seats. I will unveil the list when the time comes. We go in as a team. There is no problem,” said Abang Johari at a groundbreaking ceremony for a multi-fuel station at MJC, Batu Kawa here today.
Also present at the function was Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) president cum Batu Kawa incumbent Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also Local Government and Housing Minister.
Opar, Mambong and Bawang Assan are seats traditionally allocated to SUPP.
In 2014, one of its former top leaders Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, who is Bawang Assan incumbent, broke away to form a splinter party known as United People’s party, bringing with him four lawmakers namely Dudong assemblyman Datuk Tiong Thai King, Opar assemblyman Ranum Mina, Mambong assemblyman Datuk Dr Jerip Susil and Engkilili assemblyman Johnichal Rayong.
In the 2016 Sarawak Election, as UPP maintained a friendly stance with the ruling coalition, the five contested under the Sarawak Barisan Nasional (Sarawak BN) banner as direct candidates.
Following the change of government in the 2018 General Election, Sarawak BN which refused to work together with Pakatan Harapan chose to remain independent from Peninsular Malaysia politics and revamped itself as GPS.
In the same year, UPP changed its name to Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and continued its friendly stance with GPS. The relationship between GPS and PSB, however, took an adverse turn after allegations of PSB infringing into PBB areas.
In 2019, in a shock move, Wong left the Cabinet and in the same manner, in the same year, Dr Jerip left PSB to join PBB.
Over time, the relationship between GPS and PSB further deteriorated where the latter finally announced itself to be a local opposition party.
With the 12th Sarawak Election around the corner, the seat of Mambong now becomes a disputable seat as its incumbent Dr Jerip is now a PBB candidate while SUPP continues to lay claim on it, as it has traditionally been a SUPP seat.
There is also speculation that PBB leaders and members in Opar and Bawang Assan are keen to take on PSB in both seats. — DayakDaily