The careless whispers of Saratok

Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom

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It has been said that Tan Sri William Mawan narrowly won the Saratok parliamentary seat as an independent candidate in 2013.

Just an hour before the polling stations in the Saratok constituency closed, it was rumoured that PKR candidate Ali Biju and his secret BN friend who supported him, had raised their arms in victory;  a picture purportedly showing this was in hot circulation on social media at the time.

And because of that, the state BN decided to give it a final thrust and fight. BN personnel started to go knocking door to door, making personal contact with voters, urging them to go cast their votes. The BN machinery, when fully launched, was a formidable force.

And that last minute effort paid off. Mawan who was then Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras) president won with a majority of 2,081 where he polled 11,600 votes against Ali Biju’s 9,519 votes.

Words on the street then was that, if Ali who is state PKR chairman did not make the mistake of announcing his victory earlier, he could have won the seat.

His careless whispers, according to word on the street, had caused the opposition a parliamentary seat.

The Saratok parliamentary seat comprises the three state seat of Kalaka, Krian and Kabong.

Ali, an approachable and friendly politician who always carries a smile on his face, has held the Krian seat for two terms.

Ali defeated BN candidate Datuk Peter Nyarok Entrie in the 2011 state election with a majority of 2,090 votes.

Considering the fact that the Bumiputera community in Sarawak are staunch BN supporters, BN losing a Bumiputera seat in an election could be seen as a careless oversight.

However, in the 2016 state election, despite the conscious attention of the state BN, Ali again beat BN candidate Kilat Beriak with a majority of 1,640 votes in a three-corner fight.

That speaks volumes of either Ali’s personal charm and charisma or the wide discontentment on the ground.

With the general election around the corner, Saratok again is under the spotlight.

For the opposition camp, there is no doubt that Ali will most likely stand as the Pakatan Harapan candidate, since he is already the state assemblyman of Krian and a popular guy on the ground.

As for the prospective state BN candidate, the situation is very unsettling.

At the moment, three wannabes including Basil Thomas, Subeng Mula and Dr James Chela are on the ground. The situation is complicated by the fact that incumbent, Mawan who is also Pakan assemblyman is interested in defending the seat for BN.

In an interview with a blogger, Mawan even voiced out frankly that if the state BN is strictly adhering to the principle of no elected representative should take up both state and parliamentary seats, he was willing to give up his state seat.

Mawan, like Ali, is a politician that relies a lot on his personal charm. Once a senior minister and party president of two parties, Mawan does have an edge over the rest of the BN candidate wannabes.

The question over Mawan, however, is the fact that he is partyless. Although there are negotiations ongoing for him to rejoin Progressive Democratic Party, the new name of his former party Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party, Mawan has been reluctant to return. After all, he put so much effort into getting himself out of the party before, why should he join again?

With four potential BN candidates moving on the ground, fighting against each other, it would not be inconceivable for the opposition to emerge as the winner as they stand to benefit from the whole situation.

However, Ali and his supporters need to be more careful now by making sure that there is no repeat of the mistake of careless whispers.