Twists and turns in Selangau

Whether there will be a three-cornered fight in Selangau between Entulu, Rita and Baru will only be known come nomination day on May 5.

Commentary

State Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) dropped a bombshell yesterday when it announced that its chief Baru Bian will be standing as their Selangau candidate in the upcoming 14th General Election (GE14) which falls on May 9.

Once the news hit social media, the immediate reaction of most people was “Who made that stupid decision in PKR?”

And sure enough, less than half-an-hour after the news broke, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing came out with a sarcastic statement pointing out how could Baru who lost among his fellow Orang Ulu miserably in Limbang in the last general election expect himself to win in the Iban-majority seat of Selangau?

An hour later, so-called ‘news’ which was later debunked as fake, started circulating on social media, alleging that Selangau incumbent Datuk Joseph Entulu who was sacked by PRS a few nights ago, joined PKR, and a photo of Baru and Entulu who happened to be at the same function and which was taken last year, started to go viral.


Overnight, Selangau became one of the hottest areas to keep an eye on this GE14.

According to the gazetted electoral roll as of February this year, the area has a total of 30,103 voters, where 335 are Malays; 993, Chinese; 3, Indians, 37, Sabahan Bumiputera, 2, Penans and the remaining 28,619 are all Ibans.

Under Selangau, there are the two state constituencies of Tamin, which is fiercely guarded by PRS’ rising star and first-term Tamin assemblyman Christopher Gira, an outspoken, daring and serious looking man despite his young age; and Kakus, which is held by Datuk John Sikie, one of Masing’s most trustworthy comrades-in-arms.

With the two state constituencies under PRS, it would be very hard for Baru to make inroads into Selangau. Masing did have a point when he said if Baru failed in an Orang Ulu majority area, how can Baru as an Orang Ulu manage to win in a 95 per cent Iban constituency?

And anyone who knows the Ibans, especially more conservatively-minded Ibans, would know that it is deep in their psyche that they want someone local, someone “Made in Selangau” to represent them. Someone who understands their culture, speaks their language and drinks with them like a brother or sister.

Baru is the last person that fits that bill. Being well versed in English but not Iban, clean-cut and an introvert, Baru is cut out for city folk and not the majority of Selangau folk who are hardy and down-to-earth people. Most voters would have no interest in “check and balance”, “Act 355”, “taking over Putrajaya” or “Tun Mahathir” which Baru may be well versed in. All these voters want is basic infrastructure of water, electricity, good road connectivity, better income, tertiary education and good jobs for their children.

In addition, even though both Orang Ulu and Ibans are Dayaks, the former has never identified with the latter. Culturally, they are also quite different, as the Orang Ulu are the highlanders while the Iban community has traditionally dwelled along river banks.

In terms of temperament, cultural identity and being a non-local and the fact that Selangau is PRS’ stronghold, Baru is most unlikely be able to go far in Selangau.

In the last general election, even a seasoned politician like Datuk Sng Chee Hua who has been eating and drinking with the Ibans and speaks Iban better than some Ibans, only managed to garner 4,485 votes while Joshua Jabeng from PKR, a local, managed to poll only 3,891 votes. Baru who is parachuted in is expected to have less chance. His only advantage is his reputation as state PKR chief.

The biggest threat to PRS’ first woman candidate Rita Insol, through whom the party hopes to create history as the first Dayak woman parliamentarian, is still the incumbent, Entulu.

Perhaps that is why PKR is eyeing Selangau. It is the opposition’s hope that Entulu after being sacked from PRS, might further defy Barisan Nasional (BN) by standing as an independent, where BN votes will be split between Entulu and Rita.

So for PKR to have made the decision to field Baru, that was after all, not that “stupid” a decision!

However, according to Entulu’s close friends, he is unlikely to contest as an independent. At this stage, there is no confirmation from Entulu, and so, no one is certain.

And with nomination day still a few days away, anything can happen. There may be the possible twist of Entulu joining PKR and at the last minute, Baru pulls out to give way to Entulu. It may also be a scenario that it becomes a three-cornered fight between PRS’ Rita, Entulu as an independent and Baru as the PKR candidate.

These are all possibilities and we will have to wait until nomination day to know for sure who are the wannabes for this Iban-majority constituency which is one of the fast growing areas in Sarawak. — DayakDaily