Sarawak election: Battle royale in some constituencies, déjà vu in others

The Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) Complex in Kuching.

By Peter Sibon

Kuching, August 3: As the 12th state election (PRN12) looms, so too are the battles shaping up in many constituencies especially those which are held by some of the state’s top politicians.

While nothing much has been heard about Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) seats as yet, speculations are already rife in other Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) component parties such as in Parti Rakyat Bersatu (PRS), Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDS).

For PRS, its president Tan Sri James Jemut Masing is poised to face a challenge by Koh Kumbong, who is the elder brother of Hulu Rajang MP Datuk Wilson Ugak Kumbong.

Koh, a former Information Department officer retired recently and has since joined PRS’ nemesis Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) to face off against Masing,

While Masing, who has been Baleh assemblyman since 1983, is unperturbed with Koh’s intention to mount a challenge against him, he (Masing) cautioned him that should he (Koh) proceed with his intentions, then there is a high possibility that it will backfire on his brother, Ugak, in the coming 15th General Election (GE15) which could be held simultaneously with PRN12.

While some of Ugak’s relatives have given assurance that it would be just a family affair matter between Koh and Ugak, Masing’s supporters are not convinced with such rhetoric and insisted that Koh should back off or face the wrath of Masing’s die-hard supporters in Hulu Rajang, which consists of Baleh, Belaga and Murum state constituencies — all of which are PRS strongholds.

In whatever shape the battle will be, Masing when contacted said he welcomed Koh’s challenge and described it as nothing new, as he had faced a similar situation in 2006 when he faced Joseph Jinggut, who was the brother of former Hulu Rajang MP Datuk Justine Jinggut in the eighties.

“This is a democratic country and we welcome any challenge,” Masing told DayakDaily when contacted today.

As for SUPP president Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian, rumours from the grapevine is that Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Chong Chieng Jen may switch seats from Kota Sentosa to contest in the former’s seat of Batu Kawah, which could be touted as battle royale if it does materialise.

As for PDP president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, it is speculated he could make a comeback to state politics and is rumoured to be interested to contest in Dudong to face off with its incumbent Datuk Tiong Thai King of PSB.

Not many people appear to realise that Tiong is actually Sibu-born but migrated to Bintulu where he eventually became its MP.

However, if he moves to Dudong and it creates bad blood with SUPP (as SUPP Dudong has already identified its chairman Wong Ching Yong as its candidate), Tiong could then move to Bawang Assan instead, to face PSB supremo Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh.

Elsewhere, the war drums have been sounded in SUPP-held Bumiputera seats, namely Opar, Mambong, Simanggang and Engkilili.

In Opar, Naponi Undek has been identified by SUPP’s Bumiputera Bureau as its only candidate to face off against Datuk Ranum Mina of PSB.

In Mambong, the SUPP Bumiputera Bureau has identified three — Victor Nub, Ahkim Sarok and Jimson Jium. However, the intriguing part is that Mambong’s incumbent assemblyman Datuk Jerip Susil has joined PBB and the naming of SUPP’s candidates by SUPP Bumiputera Bureau chief Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem yesterday, could trigger a fresh tussle between the two GPS’ component parties.

But a win-win situation could be achieved if PBB allow SUPP to contest in its traditional seat and allow Dr Jerip to contest in the Puncak Borneo parliamentary seat in the coming GE15. The current incumbent for Puncak Borneo is Willie Mongin who won under a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) ticket in the 2018 general election, but has since joined the Perikatan Nasional (PN)-led federal government in support of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Wilie remains unaffiliated with any of GPS’ four component parties.

As for Sri Aman, it should be smooth sailing for its incumbent Datuk Francis Harden to retain the seat. While in Engkilili, SUPP’ three potential candidates Desmond Sateng Sanjan, Cr Semijie Janting and Kua Jack Seng, will have to get the party’s endorsement before anyone of them will get to face sitting PSB assemblyman Johnical Rayong Nyipa.

Up in the north, former state PKR chief Baru Bian, who is now one of PSB’s strongmen, will most probably face off against his former nemesis, Datuk Nelson Balang Rining, who on two occasions defeated him for the Ba’kelalan seat — in the 2004 by-election and in the 2006 state election. — DayakDaily