Speaker: No change in seating arrangement at DUN despite PSB-PDP merger plans

Mohamad Asfia (left) speaking to reporters at a press conference held at DUN Sarawak in Kuching on Sept 19, 2023.

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By Ashley Sim

KUCHING, Sept 19: Sarawak Legislative Assembly (DUN) Speaker Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohamad Asfia Awang Nassar has made clear that the seating arrangement of members of the DUN during the sitting in November will remain the same, despite the intended merger between Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) component party Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

Mohamad Asfia stated at a press conference held today at DUN Sarawak that it is the Speaker’s discretion to arrange who sits where (in the DUN) under Standing Order 2.

“Now, this is governed by whether that merger is recognised and sanctioned by the ruling GPS. If it is not sanctioned, then the status quo remains.

“If it is sanctioned, and they (the PSB assemblymen) are all taken in and embraced as fellow GPS members, then I will have to review the seating arrangement,” he said.

On July 13, it was reported that PDP had officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with local Opposition party PSB for the purpose of collaboration.

PDP president Dato Sri Tiong King Sing briefly explained that the agreement symbolised the parties’ commitment to advancing stability, solidarity, and unity in order to strengthen the Sarawak government.

Meanwhile, on Sept 9, Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, who is also Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) president and GPS chairman, reiterated that PBB’s stand is similar to that of GPS, which is to allow the two parties to collaborate as they see fit.

Abang Johari however maintained that only PDP is a member of the GPS coalition, while PSB is not.

PSB currently has three members in the 19th Sarawak DUN, namely Bawang Assan assemblyman Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, Engkilili assemblyman Dr Johnical Rayong Ngipa, and Ba’kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian.

In response to another question, the DUN Speaker stated that currently, there are 76 members on the government’s side, five in the Opposition, and one independent member.

“According to one leader of the parties in the merger, it takes some time for the engagement and sometime for the ‘marriage’. It is difficult for me to predict what their ‘child’ looks like. How do you predict; strong personalities are involved.

“The engagement takes time, negotiations until December, and then the merger takes time,” he noted, adding that opposition members in the DUN remain five, comprising three from PSB and two from Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Mohammad Asfia continued, “Of course, the most senior of them is Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh (PSB president and Bawang Assan assemblyman). He has been state minister of finance for 15 years, that’s a record. So he commands three seats. Then DAP two seats.

“And then the member of Batu Lintang (Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How) is independent. He may want to decide which side he wants to join, that is up to him.” — DayakDaily