PBB’s new faces — Commentary

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by Lian Cheng

With the dissolution of Parliament on April 6 and May 9 set as polling day, the 14th General Election is here.

While parties on both sides of the political divide aggressively making last-minute preparations for the big game ahead, as a news portal known for its commentaries, DayakDaily will deliver a series of articles analysing as many political parties and constituencies as we can until polling day.

Today, we will start with the general overview of state Barisan Nasional (BN) parliamentary seats where the focus will be on Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) and its new faces.

Sarawak, with its 31 seats is dubbed as the kingmaker in this general election. With no one expected to interfere with the mutual understanding that has long existed within state BN, it is likely that PBB will contest in 14 seats; Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), six; and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), four.

The only problem now is with Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) which is experiencing complications as it may be forced to share some of its seven seats with its splinter party, United People’s Party (UPP).

Of the 14 seats under PBB, it is expected that the party will make a clean sweep of all the seats it contests.

These seats are Petra Jaya, Santubong, Kota Samarahan, Mukah, Batang Sadong, Batang Lupar, Tanjong Manis, Betong, Igan, Kapit, Puncak Borneo, Limbang, Sibuti and Lawas.

Among the 14 incumbent MPs, Mukah MP Tan Sri Dr Muhammad Leo Michael Toyad has expressed his intention to give way and Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s daughter Dato Hanifah Taib, has been rumoured as his replacement.

Moving south, Puncak Borneo MP Datuk Seri Dr James Dawos Mamit has also indicated his willingness to call it a day due to health reasons. Since then, it has been reported that as many as 12 wannabe candidates have been busy on the ground, hoping that they might be the chosen one to represent PBB, the backbone party of state BN.

Betong will be another area that will see a new face after PBB deputy president Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas’s announcement last year that he had decided to focus on state matters and would forego his parliamentary
seat. Former Bukit Saban assemblyman Lawson Chuat is expected to replace Uggah as Chuat had obediently given up his state seat to pave way for Uggah to return to serve Sarawak. For Betong, there should be no surprise and no internal squabble or bickering over the candidacy.

While political observers are quite certain that Mukah, Puncak Borneo and Betong will see new faces, they are unsure about Sibuti and Santubong.

Sibuti MP Ahmad Lai Bujang has been seen to be lobbying too hard to stay on, going public numerous times to convince PBB’s top leadership of his relevance. Rumours on the ground have it that he has been very unpopular since before the 2013 General Election. Despite a majority of 6,066 votes then, there is a higher possibility now that he might be replaced with a new face.

Like Ahmad Lai, Santubong MP Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar faces a similar situation at this stage. Wan Junaidi who is Natural Resources and Environment Minister of the present caretaker government, is a seven-term MP. He is known as an elected representative who delivers and has been serving his constituents effectively and faithfully. There is nothing to penalise him about except his age. The only factor against him now is his age of 72.

What makes things even more interesting is that there is a PBB black horse standing by, waiting to take off anytime. This black horse is none other than PBB Satok Branch deputy chairman Ibrahim Baki who is also PBB deputy secretary-general.

Ibrahim Baki

Ibrahim is known to be Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s faithful lieutenant. He has been the deputy faithfully assisting Abang Johari in serving Satok state constituency.

In 2004, Ibrahim was supposed to be fielded for Petra Jaya but at last minute, Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof was chosen instead. Like Abang Johari, Ibrahim was put into political exile and was suppressed for many years.

With Abang Johari now coming to power, it is most likely that Ibrahim would be taken out of cold storage and be fielded as a candidate. After all, he was supposed to be nominated more than a decade ago.

The question now is which constituency would Ibrahim be fielded? Rumours have it that Fadillah who hails from Sibu may be moved to stand in Santubong to replace Wan Junaidi as only Fadillah has the calibre to fill in Wan Junaidi’s big shoes. With Fadillah moving to Santubong, the way is clear for Ibrahim who is originally from Petra Jaya to stand as BN-PBB candidate for the area.

Whether the rumours will finally become a reality, no one can be sure. As outsiders, we can only wait until the day BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announces the BN candidate list. However, one thing which is certain is regardless of who PBB chooses as its candidates, he or she will win. The only question is the size of the majority. That is how strong PBB is now!

This version corrects an earlier version of this piece which miscaptioned a photo of an individual as Ibrahim Baki. Our sincere apologies to the individuals involved. Any inconvenience is much regretted.

— DayakDaily