Will PBB go solo?

Abang Johari (centre, right arm raised) together with his Deputy Chief Ministers Masing (fifth right), Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas (fourth right) and Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan (third right), together with other ministers and state BN elected representatives show the BN Sarawak GE14 Manifesto booklet during the official launch ceremony, on April 9, 2018. — DayakDaily.com file pic

Commentary

In the just concluded 14th general election, Pakatan Harapan (PH) claimed victory nationwide, but not here in Sarawak.

Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN) remained intact, though the ruling coalition of four parties comprising Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) suffered a major setback and is badly shaken to the core. Out of the 31 parliamentary seats, for the first time ever since this coalition came into being, state BN retained only 19 (61 per cent).

The fact of the matter is, despite this, state BN can still lay claim of having a majority mandate from Sarawakians. The state BN when compared to other parts of Malaysia, still stands tall and firm. It was shaken only because as a part of a coalition that wins more often than it loses, the present situation of “losing” is seen as unacceptable.

With the fact of their “losing” being thrown into their face, each party after a week of licking their wounds, is now getting ready to face the music and is getting ready to re-examine, re-evaluate and re-position itself, whether to stay as a party on its own, or continue to move together as a coalition.


Of the four component parties, a precursory glance at SUPP suggests that it suffered the worst losses. However upon closer look, it has not lost any ground compared to the 2013 general election. At that time, SUPP lost six seats and kept only Serian. In fact, it just failed to wrest back the lost seats then, but this time round, it managed to put up a good fight. In Stampin and Sarikei, it lost only by a small majority.

For SUPP which has been losing traction in Chinese-majority areas since the 2006 state election, leaving BN has always been thought to be on its agenda.

The party has been seen for a long time, to be weak in face of its BN counterparts, where its views were constantly ignored and its decisions often overruled by top state BN leadership. A faction consisting of party veterans has long existed within the party where they want to revive the party within, to return to its initial struggle — to be a grassroots party and to be the real voice of people, where their leaders meet with them in coffeeshops over a simple plate of fried rice and kopi o and not fancy food in exclusive clubs and restaurants.

And now that the party has failed to regain all the six lost seats after trying so hard, another crisis will again hit the party.

The worst is, the only MP it has now, Datuk Seri Richard Riot Jaem of Serian, is openly pledging his loyalty to state BN chairman Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg instead of SUPP chairman Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian.

It is obvious that SUPP now has nothing to lose. With that being the case, there might be a possibility that SUPP might decide to pull out from state BN and to rethink and to relook at the party. Some may even force it to die first, in order for it to be reborn as a Chinese saying goes — let it die before there can be a rebirth (‘Zhi yu si di er hou sheng’). What move SUPP makes, remains to be seen. Reporters hoping to get some indication from Dr Sim after the party’s Central Working Committee meeting last night were left empty-handed after Dr Sim gave them the slip.

As for the rural-based parties comprising PRS and PDP, from the way their leaders’ explanation, it seems that they would prefer to stay as a cohesive entity and move on.

PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing said that whether the state BN coalition joins PH or stays as opposition, it would be as an en bloc effort, where the four component parties must stay together.

The fragmentation of state BN was definitely not on PDP’s agenda as its vice-president Datuk Paul Igai was genuinely surprised when DayakDaily asked him what would PDP do if PBB decides to go solo.

No, don’t be surprised if PBB decides to go at it alone. It has properly set up branches and has its machinery in place in all the 82 state constituencies. It has the resources, the discipline and the experience to properly manage its own party. PBB in its initial stage, used to rely on Iban-majority parties such as PRS and PDP in areas with an Iban majority. But now, in many Iban-majority areas such as Saratok, it is the other way round — PDP has been counting on PBB to win in the area.

PBB has over the years created an impressive track record of making clean sweeps in any constituency allocated to it. It basically does not need other component parties now, especially after this general election, where the voters showed that race and locality did not matter. If state PKR chairman Baru Bian, who is not from Selangau and also an Orang Ulu, can win over the voters in the 95 per cent Iban area of Selangau, what is there to stop parties from fielding a Bidayuh or Malay candidate in a Chinese-majority area or even an Iban candidate in a Malay area?

Moving forward, no one can deny the possibility that PBB might just go solo, since it is strong enough while other component parties are seen to be losing their influence.

Regardless of what decision the four component parties make, one thing for sure is there is already a major shift occurring in the voters’ paradigm. To survive, the four component parties must make a major revamp from within, including PBB. Not only that, their leaders must also adapt to the new mindset, to be what their voters want, now that the people have learnt how powerful their votes can be.

The four state BN component parties might have survived this tsunami, but perhaps not the next. The total wipeout of MCA, MIC and Gerakan in West Malaysia is a thunderous warning that all BN parties must heed.

With the state election only three years away, state BN component parties have no time to hesitate. They must revamp fast before Sarawakians tell them loud and clear that “You are out because you are irrelevant”. — DayakDaily