It is quite certain that Barisan Nasional (BN) Sarawak will announce its 14th General Election (GE14) state manifesto on April 9.
State BN top guns including Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) vice-president Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi both confirmed the date.
The question now is, what is the focus of this manifesto?
A Chinese local daily quoting an unnamed source reported that the focus will be on the regaining of state rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
An English local daily however, quoted PBB information chief Datuk Idris Buang and reported that it would be about the digital economy.
When Dr Rundi who is also Utilities Minister was contacted by DayakDaily, he said both the dailies were right as the manifesto was about both.
In a short reply via electronic messaging, he said the manifesto would be along the lines of “Transforming Sarawak through Digital Economy and continue to pursue the return of Sarawak’s rights as per Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63)”.
Meanwhile, Masing who is also Deputy Chief Minister added that one of the manifesto’s focal points will be on the continuation of the legacy of former Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.
Masing said much emphasis will be placed on developing rural areas which have been sorely neglected to close the development gap between rural and urban areas.
“Because of that, three cabinet committees were created where each deputy chief minister is in charge of one of them,” he told DayakDaily.
The three cabinet committees are the Agricultural Development Committee which is under the leadership of Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas; the Rural Transformation Committee under Masing, and the Efficiency and Effective Civil Service Committee under Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan.
“The main tasks of the three committees are to materialise the legacy of Tok Nan (Adenan) to ensure continual development and progress in Sarawak. This will be part of the manifesto.”
When asked about the digital economy, Masing said the initiative will also be part of the manifesto because that was the direction that current Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has charted for Sarawak.
To sum up, perhaps it will be safe to conclude that the general direction of the state’s upcoming GE14 manifesto will involve two main components. One part is the continuation of Adenan’s reformative and people-friendly policies as they are well-received by both the rural as well as urban voters as shown in the 2016 state election.
The other part will be the new initiatives and vision of Abang Johari which involves positioning Sarawak to take advantage of a futuristic digital and cashless economy.
What is most certain at this stage is that the general direction of the state BN manifesto for GE14 will have to be encompassing and not too specific.
For example, if the general focus is just on the digital economy, then the rural constituents which makes up about 70 per cent of total voters would feel left out as they are still fighting for basic facilities and infrastructure. Similarly, if the focus is on rural development, then the urban voters will find it difficult to identify with it.
A good manifesto in the context of Sarawak is one that leaves plenty of freedom for different component parties within the state ruling coalition to later come out with their own party manifesto so that even if their individual manifesto may differ, but at the end of the day, these manifestos will still be cohesive as they will fall under the overall scope of the state BN manifesto. — DayakDaily