Crucial for PRS to sort our leadership issue

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KUCHING: Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) needs to sort out its leadership issue soon as it is always the party leader who would lead any negotiation on matters affecting the party.

“It will be impossible to send an acting president to negotiate because the acting president will have no legitimacy, so they better sort out their presidency as soon as possible,” said political analyst from the Asia Institute, University of Tasmania, Australia Prof Dr James Chin.

He said this when contacted for his views on PRS secretary-general Datuk Janang Bungsu’s recent assertion that the six parliamentary seats allocated to PRS to contest in the previous general election are not up for negotiation.

Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum is currently acting president following the demise of the party’s president, Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Jemut Masing, on Oct 31 last year. 

“It is still too early to talk about seat negotiations; usually the formal negotiations will start after people are certain of the dates (of the election).

“So before that, this is what we call public positioning, which is informing the public through press releases and news reports on what the party wants,” explained Chin.

He opined that PRS – being without a party leader – would be worried that other Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) component parties might disrupt the seat arrangement.

“The statement is simply a reminder that they hold onto these six seats,” he said.

Regarding seat negotiations, he said the way it worked in a coalition like GPS was that a component party would forward their requests.

“The golden rule in GPS is that if you are the party which has the incumbent YB (elected representative), most of the time you would get to keep the seat,” he said.

However, he said this golden rule would not apply anymore for seats held by non-PRS representatives as the party had lost.

“Unless your party is very strong like Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), then you can impose your will on the smaller party,” he said.

Chin said with the outcome of the recent 12th Sarawak state election (PRN-12), GPS chairman and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg had significant power and thus the decision was really up to him.

He said if Abang Johari did not want to give these seats to PRS, there was not much the party could do.

“In public, people will say that this will be dependent on the prime minister because it is a federal election, but the way it works for Sarawak is that basically it is up to Abang Johari and not the prime minister.

“Abang Johari will make the final recommendation to the prime minister and unless something extraordinary happens, the prime minister in almost all cases will go along with the wishes of the coalition leader – in this case, Abang Johari in charge of GPS,” he said.

When prompted for his comments on PRS’ chances of winning the seats, he said it was still too early to predict. Nevertheless, he pointed out that GPS now had the momentum following its landslide victory in PRN-12 in addition to plenty of resources.

He said in rural areas such as Julau and Lubok Antu, it was a question of having the right candidate with massive resources.

“If they can find a really strong candidate for these two seats, then GPS can win them back – whether it through is PRS or some other party, which remains to be seen,” he said.

Commenting on Janang’s statement that the six parliamentary seats had been given to PRS as per their agreement within GPS, Chin said such agreements could not be enforced in politics.

“Agreements are subject to the political environment. PRS cannot really enforce whatever understanding they had previously – because Abang Johari is in such a powerful position, he can ignore whatever agreement made previously,” he said. 

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