Both sides need to avoid complacency

Many are wondering when the state election will be held.

Will it be mid-2021, just before it is due, or will it be in 2020, as some analysts predict?

I believe nobody knows for sure, except the chief minister himself. But, even the chief minister may not be so sure of the date since it will depend on certain factors that may be beyond his control.

This state election promises to be different from the previous ones. The war drums have started on both sides of the political divide, and the fight will no doubt build up into the mother of all battles.

The past state elections had rarely been this exciting; in most cases, the Malayan parties DAP and PKR only strived to establish a strong opposition in the Dewan Undangan Negeri (DUN) while their other partners only had a token presence here.

This time around, Pakatan Harapan seek to capture the state government. They have declared this right from the start, but can they?

To get a feel of the situation, let us look at the composition of the DUN immediately after the last state election in 2016.

In 2016, BN (now GPS) won 72 out of the 82 DUN seats on an unprecedented wave of popularity of then Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

The opposition PH only won 10 seats but the tide has ebbed somewhat in the GE14, which would have increased PH seats, if the DUN election were held simultaneously during last year’s election.

But, one year after GE14, DAP actually do not really have much ammunition left against GPS. There is nothing like the 1MDB or GST issue played by the opposition in the last polls.

Even racial and religious issues are not expected to play prominent role in the state election because there are no such issues that can be blamed on the state government or GPS.

Matters related to bumiputera rights and religious extremism are mainly associated with federal powers where DAP are now part of the federal government. If DAP can’t even push through their agenda on ICERD, or push against introduction of khat calligraphy in school curriculum, then can they claim to be better than SUPP in GPS?

In fact, the state government has been most accommodative in providing land and grant for building Chinese schools, recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), providing business opportunities as well as fair employment in the government sector.

The state government has gone out of its way to help the Chinese, even to the consternation of the bumiputeras.

Another issue, namely the Native Customary Rights (NCR) land has been solved with the completion of perimeter survey by the state government of almost one million hectares of NCR land since 2010.

Indeed, this is a big accomplishment. The recent amendment addressed the issue of pemakai menoa and pulau galau with the new legal provision for Native Territorial Domains in the Land Code.

For the above reasons, it makes more sense for all Sarawakians to keep a distance from Malayan political parties, and hence fight for devolution and autonomy from Putrajaya.

Let us chart our own future in our own way, in our own mould away from divisive race or religious extremism and move together towards excellence.

On the other hand, PH’s image has fallen sharply out of failure to fulfil important campaign pledges that include promises to grant autonomy and respect for Sarawak’s rights over oil and gas, as well as the promise to cancel all outstanding PTPTN loans of graduates.

These failures on the part of PH have fanned anger and resentment among Sarawakians.

Of course PH, in particular DAP and PKR, may try to rewind old issues of corruption. If so, they are outdated as the chief minister is as clean as anyone can be.

Even his house where he stays now is no better than that of a lowly retired government servant like me.

Another issue Chong Chieng Jen, the Sarawak DAP chairman is harping on now is accusing GPS as the third leg in an unholy alliance between Umno and PAS.

How he came to this conclusion, I just cannot comprehend. It sounds a little far-fetched. On the other hand, he should try to recall the past unholy alliance of DAP and PAS in Pakatan Rakyat as the opposition in Parliament and a government in Selangor. I am not against PAS; it is not something out of the ordinary for an Islamic party to work with others in mainstream politics.

So far, I have talked too much to downplay DAP or PKR’s chances. I am actually afraid of being accused by GPS leadership of trying to inject complacency among their leadership and rank and file by being optimistic in my assessment in favour of GPS.

Other analysts may have different views. They may even be upbeat over the chances of PPBM, which I feel have very slim chance of winning a seat in Sarawak.

If PPBM cannot beat Umno in the last general election, they will have much lesser chance against PBB, which are much stronger here.

Even then, it will not be walk in the park for GPS. After all, both DAP and PKR have proven track record, not just in Chinese areas but also in some rural constituencies.

They have been working hard for the last few years as well to consolidate in areas they won in the last general election. This is worsened by the defection of PSB, which have now vowed to fight GPS.

Unlike before, DAP and PKR do not enter the fray as opposition parties; they are in fact the federal government now having federal ministers in control of government facilities, and resources as well as the media.

Despite the above, PH have nothing to offer bumiputeras as they have no bumiputera agenda.

I gathered from a few friends, the Chinese community may be friendlier to GPS in the coming state election; this does not mean the majority, but at least a significant improvement from the last general election.

All in all, based on my rough estimate, there are 10 to 16 of GPS’ existing seats (including five PSB seats) at risk of going to PH. So, there are a handful of uncertainties GPS have to deal with.

Still, the actual outcome of the state election is difficult to predict. Many unexpected things can happen between now and the election date; so all parties have to be on maximum alert, otherwise one has to pay for its complacency.

I reckon the state election would be held around end of 2020, but the actual date could even be earlier if a favourable event suddenly presents itself to GPS.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.