Big battle looms in Saratok
By:Rudi Affendi Khalik
Date:

IN this round of the general election (GE15), the Saratok parliamentary constituency is anticipated to have the most intense rivalry.

This area is considered challenging because the mission of reclaiming back the seat is expected to be tough with the odds against Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

This is due to Datuk Ali Biju, the state’s sole candidate for Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). Ali was Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources before parliament was dissolved.

The Saratok constituency, with an Iban majority, is truly unique and fraught with controversies. It was formed in 1968 and began to compete in the parliament in 1969 and was represented by prominent figures in national politics.

Datuk Seri Edmund Langgu Saga (1971–1986), Datuk Seri Peter Tinggom Kamarau (1986–2004), and Jelaing Mersat (2004-2013) are a few among them. At the federal government level, each of them has been appointed as a deputy minister.

Jelaing was replaced by Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom in 2013, who successfully contested for the seat.

In spite of this, he was not renominated in 2018 due to his decision to leave Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) in 2013 and form Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (TERAS).

Ali Biju

At the time, Ali Biju, who was running for the second time after losing to Mawan in 2013, triumphed over the new face candidate of BN (Barisan Nasional)-PDP, Jagah @ Subeng Mula. Ali obtained 11,848 votes while Subeng received 10,859 votes.

Saratok is located in Betong Division and is divided into three state constituencies — Krian, Kalaka and Kabong.

From a demographic standpoint, the Election Commission (EC) voter register records for 2021 show that this area has 31,247 registered voters; 57 per cent of them are non-Muslim Bumiputera and 36 per cent Muslim Bumiputera.

In the state election in 2021, GPS candidate Mohamad Duri won the Kalaka state seat with a majority of 2,868 votes, while Mohd Chee Kadir retained the Kabong state seat with a majority of 2,763 votes.

It’s interesting to note that Ali Biju registered to defend the Krian state seat he won in 2011. He withdrew, nevertheless, and urged his supporters to back Friday Belik of GPS-PDP. With 3,885 votes, Friday defeated three other candidates to win by a majority of 932 votes.

Despite announcing his withdrawal as an independent candidate and not campaigning at all, Ali garnered 1,777 votes, placing third in the competition.

At a news conference in Kuching, Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that an agreement between Bersatu and GPS had been made at the time, and Ali had decided to drop his desire to run for the post. The structure of the political accord, however, was not made clear by both parties.

And this time, it was noted that 58-year-old Ali appeared to be better prepared. According to intelligence sources, the former civil engineer with a degree from Valparaiso University and a former student of Kolej Datuk Patinggi Haji Abang Abdillah has entered the field earlier.

He resumed his campaigning strategy from the state election of 2021, making as many rounds and stops as he could in every part of the region.

In his capacity as Deputy Minister prior to the dissolution of parliament, he had the support of the people, which provided him with exceptional advantages in terms of facilities, finances and other things.

Unlike before, he is now more approachable to the people, and he makes the most of this opportunity, not to mention that prior to the dissolution, he had a good relationship with the GPS machinery.

That makes it difficult to challenge Ali this time. Even if he is running on the Bersatu or independent ticket, he has very solid and integrated relationships with his supporters.

Giendam Jonathan Tait

The PDP previously confirmed that Giendam Jonathan, 49, had been nominated as the party’s sole official candidate to run against Ali in Saratok.

They are convinced that Ali’s term as Saratok MP would end on November 19 based on GPS’s overall domination in all three DUN seats in the most recent Sarawak election.

Even so, it’s not a one-on-one contest; rather, it’s believed that Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is fielding a candidate this time — Ibil Jaya Mundat, a graduate of the University of Southern Queensland in Australia and PKR Sarawak vice chairman.

Many eyes will be on this fight in Saratok because many believe that Ali has become a “giant” in the area since 2018, on par with the MPhe replaced, Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom.

Therefore, these two opponents (excluding those from subsequent parties) must come up with a twofold plan of attack. Ali’s aura cannot be matched by an easy path or any path other than gaining influence and authority.

While it’s true that he won in 2018 with a margin of less than 1,000 votes, keep in mind that in the most recent state election, he managed to get 1,700 votes in the Krian state seat without campaigning for a position.

On November 19, thousands of fence-sitters, including new voters who were automatically registered earlier this year, may actually have a decisive influence on the outcome.

New Sarawak Tribune e-Paper

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