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By Lian Cheng
GABUNGAN Parti Sarawak (GPS) has made a clean sweep of 76 seats in the 12th Sarawak Election, an unsurprising outcome as political pundits had already more or less predicted this result.
GPS’ victory did not come without its reasons. Its chairman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg’s policies, despite being much criticised by the Opposition and mocked and ridiculed by cybertroopers, have secretly been making inroads with the silent majority who have shown their support through their votes.
Abang Johari has launched about 100 initiatives since he took over as Chief Minister and many have materialised while some are ongoing and others are pending results. One of his most notable achievements is getting Petroliam Nasional Berhad (Petronas) to agree to pay the five per cent Sarawak Sales Tax which has translated into a whopping RM7 billion in the last three years. This is an undeniable achievement.
The extra revenue has helped Sarawak weather the difficulties posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns that has brought Sarawak’s economy to its knees.
Apart from the seven Bantuan Khas Sarawakku Sayang (BKSS) packages, the extra income has enabled the Sarawak government to finance crucial development projects which have had a rippling multiplier effect on Sarawak’s economy. Many may not realise that when the government finances a rural development project, it benefits not only the residents in the affected area, but urban employers and folks such as the construction company undertaking the project and its employees, as well as the sub-contractors and their employees.
Sarawak would have fared much worse during the peak of Covid-19 if it wasn’t for the extra revenue that Abang Johari managed to engineer and rake in.
Apart from the more obvious SST income, other policies undertaken by the GPS government such as the various amendments to the Federation Constitution to include Malaysia Agreement 1963, Statewide basic infrastructure development (supposedly the duty of the federal government), and open-minded policies on religion and education are Abang Johari’s initiatives which have been well accepted by Sarawakians.
Politically, GPS’ decision to cut ties with politics in Peninsular Malaysia by leaving Barisan Nasional and forming GPS to stand alone was a good move that drawn support from the public.
The rise of Sarawakian nationalism during Abang Johari’s predecessor Pehin Sri Adenan Satem’s time was further strengthened during Abang Johari’s administration. This has given Sarawakians their own identity and a sense of pride which has subtly united Sarawakians and many have slowly been lured back into the ruling coalition’s fold.
Abang Johari’s development projects and people-oriented policies are general well accepted by Sarawakians except perhaps in one aspect — digital coverage. Lackluster Internet speed, unstable connection, restricted coverage and the total lack of network in rural areas has caused Abang Johari’s administration to come under fierce criticism. This downside however, is forgiven in view of GPS’ other achievements.
Amidst GPS’ resounding victory yesterday, it must be taken note that this was possible due mainly to the comeback of Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) or the downfall of its nemesis Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP).
In the previous three Sarawak Elections, SUPP has been suffering defeat upon defeat due to the winds of change brought about by DAP and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). With such changes coming to a standstill after PH took over Putrajaya in 2018 and its subsequent fall after 22 months in federal power, the hopes of DAP supporters were dashed when DAP failed to fulfil its 14th General Election promises.
The higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment. It is this great disappointment that has caused DAP supporters in urban Sarawak to turn away from the party.
Blunders made during PH’s 22 month in federal power, including DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng’s prophecy of Sarawak going bankrupt in three years should not be taken lightly. The statement offended many Sarawakians and for many more elections to come, DAP will continue to be haunted by this arrogant mistep and other empty promises it has made.
For voters who have yet to build up a distrust against the authorities and establishments, they have returned to the fold of the ruling coalition. For those who already have this distrust or an anti-establishment sentiment, they were at a loss.
Some of their votes went to local Opposition parties Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB), Parti Bumi Kenyalang and Sarawak People’s Aspiration Party (Aspirasi). Others just gave up on voting altogether. Such actions have only resulted in splitting votes for the Opposition, resulting in SUPP being the biggest winner.
Of course, the diligence and sincerity of SUPP incumbents and candidates in serving the people should not be dismissed.
Apart from SUPP, Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) has also stepped up in this election. Not only has the party retained all its incumbent seats of Marudi, Meluan and Tasik Biru, it wrested back two ‘lost’ seats of Krian and Dudong.
PDP managed to take back the two seats through diplomacy. Krian was held by Datuk Ali Biju who won the seat under Parti Keadilan Rakyat. Following Ali joining Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), talks were held between GPS and Bersatu for Ali to give up the seat, which he did, in exchange for GPS allowing him to contest as a Bersatu candidate in the next general election.
For Dudong which was held by PSB and traditionally allocated to SUPP to contest, PDP president Dato Sri Tiong King Sing who finally managed to convince GPS that he was the winnable candidate, contested for GPS in the area and won the seat. With PDP regaining this seat for GPS, it would mean SUPP losing the seat to PDP, for good though it is an added feather in the cap for GPS.
Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), a party under siege by PSB on all fronts, has managed to keep all its 11 seats. This should be considered a great effort in view that PSB candidates sent to contest in those seats were all heavyweights and influential politicians.
For this election, the greatest challenge faced by GPS came from PSB, a party formed by a gathering of GPS’ former full ministers, assistant ministers, elected representatives, political secretaries, local warlords, wondering ‘ronins’ discarded by their former parties or those who had left their former parties for various reasons.
In many constituencies, PSB candidates managed to pose a real threat especially PRS, SUPP and PDP, mainly because they are locals, born and raised in the constituencies. They may be older than GPS candidates, but due to their former political status, they command much respect and influence in those areas.
In the face of such adversaries, the younger GPS candidates had put up the toughest defence and offence either to retain or win the seats.
The rural voters today are no longer those of yesterday. They know their rights and they know what they want. For more than 50 years, they have been deprived of basic infrastructure such as treated water, road connectivity and 24-hour electricity supply. Whoever can bring them such facilities and amenities, they will be elected.
Pathetic? Yes. Rural Sarawak has been neglected for too long. Hopefully after its triumphant victory at the polls, GPS will accelerate all its basic infrastructure projects in the rural areas to repay the folks in villages and longhouses for their faithful support and trust. — DayakDaily