By Peter Sibon
RECENTLY, Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) announced its new line-up, where deputy president Datuk Nelson Balang Rining and secretary-general Datuk Anthony Nogeh Gumbek swapped places.
The new appointments included its two senior vice-presidents and three vice-presidents, along with its new supreme council members. They will be endorsed during the party’s Triennial General Assembly (TGA) on Jan 12, 2019.
It was also decided that the top posts, including the president’s post, would not be contested as party president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing wanted to consolidate the party to face future challenges.
But the most daunting task facing PDP right now is to reclaim three ‘lost’ seats from its Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) partner Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB). This is in addition to wresting two seats it lost to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in the last state election in 2016.
Before the last state polls, PDP used to have eight seats, but due to internal struggles that resulted in then president Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom being forced to leave the party and joined a breakaway Barisan Nasional (BN)-friendly party — Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras), its number of seats dropped to seven.
But two of its elected assemblypersons, namely Paulus Palu Gumbang (Batu Danau) and Rosey Yunus (Bekenu), also followed Mawan to Teras, leaving the party with only five seats.
As Teras was not a BN component party, the three lawmakers were picked to defend their respective constituencies as BN direct candidates in the state election in 2016.
However, shortly after winning their respective seats, it was bad news for PDP as both Paulus and Rosey were absorbed into PBB. Mawan, who was left as a partyless BN elected representative, was only accepted into PBB recently.
In a recent interview with DayakDaily, Mawan insisted that he is “a team player who listens to the voice of the leader”. He, however, kept the identity of that `leader’ under wraps. But the grassroots have acknowledged that Mawan is a capable leader who is willing to listen to their plights and cared about their needs. For that, he is considered a winnable candidate for the Pakan seat.
Now, while it may sound easy to claim back these three seats from PBB, in reality, however, it is as good as gone as the idea was shot down by PBB vice-president Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah. Abdul Karim told PDP to shape up and win its remaining seats. Perhaps, if that happens (winning all remaining seats), then PDP will have more credibility to convince PBB to return the three seats to them.
As for the Ba’Kelalan and Krian state seats that were lost to PKR, Balang recently said he was confident of toppling Ba’Kelalan assemblyman cum Works Minister Baru Bian. He based his confidence on the fact that he beat Baru on two occasions: in the 2004 by-election (following the demise of Datuk Dr Judson Sakai Tagal in a helicopter crash) and in the 2006 state election.
With the acceptance of Mawan into PBB, PDP is now left with only three state assemblymen and two MPs. The party lost the parliamentary seats of Saratok to Ali Biju of PKR and Mas Gading to Morni Bimol of DAP in the 14th general election on May 9 this year.
With that kind of results, PDP has a lot of soul searching to do in order to convince its supporters in order to win all its five state seats in the next state election that is due in 2021.
According to some party insiders, there are dissatisfaction with the new lineup as the three assemblymen — Dato Henry Jinep (Tasik Biru), Roland Duat (Meluan) and Datu Dr Penguang Mangil (Marudi) — were only appointed as vice-presidents, while both the deputy president and secretary- general posts have been given to non-elected representatives. Its two senior vice-presidents are Baram MP Anyie Ngau and Senator Datuk Paul Igai.
But political analyst Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said appointments to top party posts in any political party was the prerogative of the president.
“In order to consolidate the party, the president has been entrusted by the supreme council to appoint leaders whom he can trust from among his senior and capable leaders,” he stressed.
As for the future of PDP, it will not be all gloom and doom, it seems, as Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg is expected to officiate at the party’s TGA next month in Bintulu.
Thus, it is hoped that seat allocations among GPS members could be resolved amicably by then in order for PDP in particular and GPS, in general, to face their most formidable task ahead — facing the opposition, notably state Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties, which now has the backing of the federal government, in the next state polls. — DayakDaily