By Lian Cheng
Between the Sarawak Election 2016 to the dissolution of the Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) on Nov 3, 2021, various factors and incidents have caused some elected lawmakers to switch allegiance and though these shifts may not impact parties with many seats, they however can easily change the fate of parties with few seats.
During the last Sarawak Election on May 7, 2016, Barisan Nasional Sarawak (BN Sarawak) managed to win 72 seats out of the total 82 seats, while the Opposition, Pakatan Harapan (PH) Sarawak, secured the remaining 10 seats.
Despite its strong will to maintain its autonomy, Sarawak politics could not help but be impacted by Malayan politics.
The fall of the national BN coalition saw a complete pull-out of BN Sarawak on June 12, 2018 where attempts were made to rebrand the latter as an autonomous ruling coalition known as Gabungan Parti Sarawak, after it refused to join forces with the ruling PH government at the time.
The component parties of GPS namely Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) held a total of 67 seats while SUPP’s splinter party, United Peoples Party (UPP) – then a GPS’ friendly party whose candidates directly contested under the BN banner – retained all its five seats of Bawang Assan (Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh), Dudong (Datuk Tiong Thai King), Opar (Ranum Mina), Engkilili (Johnichal Rayong) and Mambong (Datuk Dr Jerip Susil), making up BN Sarawak’s 72 seats which former Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem described as a “landslide victory” on the evening of the polls.
UPP continued to stay friendly where two of its elected lawmakers, including its president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh who is also Bawang Assan incumbent, was appointed as a minister holding two portfolios including Second Finance Minister and International Trade and E-Commerce Minister. At the same time, UPP’s Mambong incumbent Datuk Dr Jerip Susil was appointed Assistant Transport Minister.
However, politics continued to change and evolve in Sarawak.
On Dec 8, 2018, UPP officially announced that it would be rebranded as Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and remained as GPS’ ally despite not being a component party. Relations between GPS and PSB however, became more and more strained with each passing day, due to continuous strong objections from PRS and SUPP on admitting PSB into GPS’ fold.
About half a year later, on July 15, 2019, Wong sudden announced his resignation from the Cabinet, citing reasons that PSB’s elected representatives were not allocated development funds and the party was experiencing a “total blackout” from all local councillors’ lists.
At this stage, PSB continued to pledge loyalty to GPS chairman Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.
Over time, relations between PSB and GPS also became strained due to claims of PSB encroaching into GPS’ areas. Their relationship further deteriorated and was finally called off when the former made a strong public statement such as its intention to replace GPS and announced its position as a local opposition party.
With GPS and PSB parting ways, GPS lost five seats held by PSB. From its total of 72 seats, GPS lost five PSB seats, holding then 67 seats.
As sudden as Wong announcing his resignation from the cabinet, likewise on July 11, 2019, PSB deputy president Dr Jerip resigned from PSB with immediate effect. About three months later on Oct 24, 2019, he joined PBB.
Following Dr Jerip’s resignation from PSB and his decision to join PBB, GPS held a total of 68 seats, while PSB was left with four.
The story did not end here. The Sheraton Move of February 2020 was a huge political tsunami that not only brought down the ruling PH government, but it wiped out all PKR seats in Sarawak.
PKR Sarawak held three seats after the 2016 Sarawak Election. They were Ba Kelalan (Baru Bian), Krian (Datuk Ali Biju) and Batu Lintang (See Chee How).
After the Sheraton Move, PKR Sarawak was shattered to pieces when all of its incumbent left the party. Later, both Baru and See joined PSB while Ali joined Malayan-based Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM). PKR Sarawak found itself losing all of its representation in DUN and political prowess and influence overnight.
PKR Sarawak became the biggest loser while PSB, the biggest benefactor of the Sheraton Move.
Meanwhile, DAP Sarawak which retained seven seats including Pending (Violet Yong), Kota Sentosa (Chong Chieng Jen), Pelawan (David Wong), Bukit Assek Irene Chang and Tanjung Batu (Chiew Chew Sing), Padungan (Wong King Wei) and Pujut (Dr Ting Tiong Choon) after the 2016 Sarawak Election also did not fare as well.
Its Pujut assemblyman Dr Ting Tiong Choon was disqualified following the Federal Court’s judgement of owning dual citizenship, and its Padungan incumbent Wong King Wei, now an independent, resigned from the party to focus on his legal firm, leaving with it only five seats when DUN was dissolved on Nov 3, 2021. — DayakDaily