PBB sweeps all 14 seats including Puncak Borneo, deals blow to Baru to keep Lawas

Clockwise from top left: Nancy, Henry, Rodiyah, Willie, Dr Richard and Mohamad Shafizan.

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 20: Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), one of the oldest and most respected political parties in Sarawak, has again proven to be a formidable force after making a clean sweep in all its 14 federal battlegrounds including strengthening its hold on P198 Puncak Borneo and delivering a big blow to Opposition heavyweight Baru Bian to keep P222 Lawas as the curtains come down on voting for the 15th General Election GE15). 

The hot seat of P198 Puncak Borneo has finally returned to Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) through Datuk Willie Mongin, despite some tension between the incumbent’s staunch supporters and the GPS election machinery over involvement in campaigning which could have put him in an unfavourable situation as his supporters were threatening to defect to the Opposition.

But that seemed to have little or no impact given his popularity in the Bidayuh-majority constituency coupled with all-out efforts from the GPS State assemblymen in Serembu (Miro Simuh), Mambong (Datuk Dr Jerip Susil) and Tarat (Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn) who combined forces to help Willie.

Willie secured his second term as Puncak Borneo MP with a 13,338-vote majority in a three-cornered fight. He polled 29,457 votes to beat Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Diog Dios 16,119 and Parti Sarawak Bersatu’s (PSB) Iana Akam 5,578. 

A second major factor which contributed to Willie’s victory was that he is a committed representative who has done a lot to develop the constituency in his first term, including in his capacity as the Deputy Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, as compared to his two contenders who are not so well known by the people of Puncak Borneo.

From foes to teammates, Willie’s road to candidacy was a complicated one but being accepted by PBB as a member and then endorsed by GPS showed that he is a viable and competent candidate.

He first won P198 Puncak Borneo, a new constituency created in 2018, under a PH-Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) ticket in GE14 with a comfortable majority of 4,005. Following the collapse of the PH federal government, he left PKR in 2020 to join Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). Earlier this year, he quit Bersatu to join PBB where he was accepted as an ordinary member.

Up in P222 Lawas, PSB’s Baru Bian, a seasoned politician, failed to remove incumbent Datuk Henry Sum Agong who defended the seat for the fourth term with a 5,677-vote majority in a three-cornered fight. Henry polled 11,361 votes to beat Baru’s 5,684 and PH’s Japar Suyut 1,163. 

Despite Baru being no stranger to Lawas as he is also a third-term assemblyman for Ba’Kelalan, one of two State constituencies under Lawas—the other being Bukit Sari under Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan—his shift to P222 Lawas from P214 Selangau where he served for one term has proved to be a costly one. 

Both Baru and Henry who are Lun Bawang were seen to be in a tight race as they are highly respected in the local community. Perhaps it was not so much a personality or leadership issue, but the sticking point for Baru could have been his ticket under PSB, a party led by Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh which has not gathered enough traction and influence since its formation in 2014. In the run up to this general election, PSB has seen many members quitting the party including Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How this year. 

Furthermore, since the announcement of Baru’s shift to Lawas, he had been criticised for abandoning the people of Selangau without bringing any development to the area during his four years as its MP. 

In addition, Baru’s results in previous elections have not been particularly outstanding. In the Ba’Kelalan seat in the 2011 State election, he won with a majority of 473 votes, in 2016 with a margin of 538 votes and in 2021 there was only a slight increase to 680 votes. A similar margin was also seen in the Selangau seat in GE14 where he only won with a 486 majority.

Like Willie, Baru, who was former PKR Sarawak chairman, won Selangau on a PH ticket. But he later quit PKR during the political intrigues which led to the collapse of the PH government, and he subsequently joined PSB in May 2020. 

Henry, on the other hand, has the strong backing of his mentor Awang Tengah. But there were rumbles on the ground that Henry, 76, should pass the torch to a younger candidate. However, with today’s results, it appears that Henry still appeals to voters as he is a well-liked, experienced and issue-proof person in his area. 

PBB’s outstanding results were predictable given the strong backing from the GPS election machinery throughout the 14-day campaigning period and the momentum built from the 12th State Election in December last year where GPS won 76 out of 82 State constituencies, highlighting voters’ strong approval of its ‘Sarawak First’ governance and policies.

The support from Premier of Sarawak Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg in person especially for the new faces fielded, was critical. The years of solid groundwork laid out in all State constituencies under GPS, and the GPS government’s excellent achievements and performance over the last five years have led to infrastructure projects rolled out, industrialisation expansion and strong revenue growth, all to position Sarawak to become the most advanced State with high income targeted by 2030.

Meanwhile, the PBB rookies also delivered their maiden wins in P200 Batang Sadong and P201 Batang Lupar.

Engineer Rodiyah Sapiee, who took over from incumbent Dato Sri Nancy Shukri, won P200 Batang Sadong with a majority of 14,893 votes. She scooped up 18,668 votes to beat Pakatan Harapan’s (PH-Amanah) Lahaji Lahiya who garnered 3,775 votes in the straight fight.

The youngest parliamentary candidate for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) Mohamad Shafizan Kepli, 37, who replaced incumbent Dato Sri Rohani Abdul Karim, also prevailed in his three-cornered fight in P201 Batang Lupar with a 9,299 majority. He wooed 14,463 votes to take down PH’s Maxwel Rojis (2,768) and Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) Hamdan Sani (5,164).

As such, these two rookies should not take for granted their smooth sail to victory, but prove they are an asset capable to bring weight to their constituents’ voices, do the hard work and produce real results, especially in fighting for the rights and interests of Sarawak in Parliament.

As for P193 Santubong, it is a sweet homecoming for Dato Sri Nancy Shukri who easily defeated her two challengers— PH-Amanah’s Mohamad Zen Peli and independent Affendi Jeman—with a 33,623 majority. 

Contesting on her home turf for the first time after taking over from incumbent Dato Sri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, Nancy needs no introduction as she was the three-term MP for Batang Sadong since 2008 and held several ministerial positions since the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration. 

While many believe she has big shoes to fill to live up to her predecessor who has set the bar high, it should not be a problem for Nancy who is down-to-earth, hardworking and knows what people need. Sure enough, she retained the seat with the blessings of Santubong electorates today.

In P204 Betong, newcomer Dr Richard Rapu, who took over from Datuk Robert Lawson Chuat, also delivered the seat with a 11,302-vote majority in a three-cornered tussle. Dr Richard obtained 16,479 votes to defeat his opponents — PH’s Patrick Kamis (5,177) and independent Hasbie Satar (5,057).

As for the remaining eight seats, all the PBB incumbents comfortably saw off their challengers to defend their seats.

They are Dato Sri Fadillah Yusof who secured his fifth term as MP for P194 Petra Jaya; Datuk Rubiah Wang (P197 Kota Samarahan) for her third term; Ir Yusuf Abdul Wahab (P206 Tanjong Manis) for a second term; Ahmad Johnie Zawawi (P207 Igan) for a second term; Datuk Hanifah Hajar Taib (P213 Mukah) for a second term; Dato Sri Alexander Nanta Linggi (P215 Kapit) for his sixth term; Lukanisman Awang Sauni (P218 Sibuti) for his second term; and Hasbi Habibollah (P221 Limbang) for his fourth term. — DayakDaily