Showdown in Stampin

Rivals square off. — DayakDaily.com file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

Commentary

By Lian Cheng

Within Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN), there are few complications in terms of candidacy for Bumiputera-majority areas due to the strong BN influence especially in the rural areas. However, the situation in the Chinese-majority urban seats are more dynamic where the choice of candidates will have an impact on the results of the upcoming 14th general election, and explains the ongoing caution, strategy and scheming by various parties in deciding on candidates.

This also speaks of the reluctance from both Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) to reveal their respective candidate list for Kuching with the latter recently unveiling its candidates for the Central Region — incumbents Alice Lau for Lanang, Oscar Ling for Sibu and Wong Lin Biu for Sarikei.

For the Northern Region, things are still under wraps. Why? Is there truth to the rumours suggesting that SUPP president Datuk Prof Dr Sim Kui Hian (Batu Kawah assemblyman) may be fielded in Stampin? And because he is the president, the stakes are higher, and thus, the extraordinary caution in confirming the candidacy?


The truth of the matter is, it will be Dr Sim for the parliamentary seat for Stampin and 41-year-old SUPP Women’s chief Kho Teck Wan for Bandar Kuching if there is no sudden change of plan. This statement is not made according to any statistics or prediction but rather, the simple fact that a little bird from SUPP confirmed it.

Of course, such a decision will be subject to very last-minute change, especially when there are also rumours that state DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen might also be making a last-minute decision of switching his seat from Bandar Kuching to Stampin, culminating in a “king vs king” royale battle scenario where the state BN’s only Chinese component party’s top gun faces off with the state DAP’s top brass.

This, of course, is what political observers would like to see. But for both Dr Sim and Chong, the stakes might be too high. While Chong is confident of winning Bandar Kuching, things are very different in Stampin. If such a scenario is played out, both are facing great risks. On the other side of the coin, as the stakes are high, so the fruits of victory will be much sweeter. The winning for either one would be a resounding triumph which will have a long lasting effect on Sarawak Chinese politics.

For Dr Sim who is already Local Government and Housing Minister to consider standing as a parliamentary candidate, there must be something about the Stampin constituency which promises a considerably good chance of winning. Let us take a look at the Stampin constituency profile.

Stampin which was affected by the 2016 re-delineation exercise now consists of the three state constituencies of Kota Sentosa, Batu Kawah and Batu Kitang. Batu Lintang which has a high percentage of Chinese voters was carved out for Kuching Bandar after the creation of the new constituency of Batu Kitang.

Based on the electoral roll gazetted on Feb 2018, the redelineated Stampin now has a total of 66,342 voters, out of which Chinese voters make up 64 per cent, Malays 16 per cent, Dayak 18 per cent and others constituting the remainder. Compared to the 2013 general election for which there were a total of 84,732 voters, where 73 per cent were Chinese voters, there is a drop of nine per cent of Chinese voters.

Now let us see how strong is SUPP and DAP respectively in each of the state constituencies under Stampin.

Based on the 2016 state election results, Chong won Kota Sentosa by garnering about 39 per cent of the total votes, while SUPP candidate Wilfred Yap won 28 per cent.

In Batu Kawah, Dr Sim wrested back the seat by polling 6,414 votes, which is 38 per cent of the total votes; while DAP’s candidate Christina Chiew, managed to get the support of 25 per cent of voters.

With Chong dominating Kota Sentosa and Dr Sim commanding Batu Kawah, that means the two state constituencies in effect neutralise each other. This leaves the constituency of Batu Kitang as the king-maker for Stampin.

According to the 2016 electoral roll of the Election Commission (EC), Batu Kitang has a total of 17,494 voters with Chinese constituting 55 per cent.

Lo managed to garner 37 per cent support (6,466 votes) for state BN in that election while the total support for the opposition (DAP’s Abdul Aziz Isa got 4,626 votes while Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR’s) Voon Shiak Ni garnered 883 votes) was 31 per cent.

Such a result was not surprising, the main factor being that Batu Kitang is known to be a constituency with high numbers of early voters. According to the electoral roll gazetted on Feb 2018, there are 2,915 army votes and 1,388 police votes, which make up a total of 4,303, constituting about seven per cent. Lo’s win was thus self-explanatory.

A brief general overview of these figures seem to suggest that SUPP does have a good chance to win in Stampin. That explains why Dr Sim dares to take it up and is eyeing it. His only concern perhaps is whether Chong will decide to field himself in Stampin as well, where Chong may tilt the outcome of Stampin through his charisma and status as a top state opposition leader.

However, perhaps Dr Sim does not have to be too paranoid. Chong, who is also Kota Sentosa assemblyman as well as Bandar Kuching MP has as much to lose as Dr Sim especially if the ultimate aim of Pakatan Harapan is to recapture Putrajaya. The opposition coalition will need every seat and Chong cannot gamble by placing himself in a seat where preliminary checks on the figures show that it is in state BN’s favour.

Over the years, polling in the Chinese majority areas are like soccer matches — their results, hard to predict. History has shown that it does not take a giant to kill another giant. Taking this into consideration, together with the pain brought about by the Goods and Services Tax which continues to precipitate and aggravate, as well as the mystery surrounding 1MBD which continues to puzzle the public, just perhaps, a young face from the opposition is enough to take down a giant.

It has happened before. Quite a few times, in fact. — DayakDaily