Dr Jerip and the storm he created

The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.
― James Freeman Clarke, American theologian and author

Emmm, that was quite a show from Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh. He certainly quit his Cabinet post in style.

He had those press people into his office where he spoke of why he cannot just leave.

He said he was quitting, no doubt about it, but just that he must meet the chief minister first as “a matter of courtesy and common decency” and hand in that quit letter.

The problem is he preferred meeting the press first, Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, second.

Quitting was not what Soon Koh liked to do. He just had no choice. As he had earlier admitted, he no longer had the “moral locus standi” to remain in the state Cabinet after PSB was sidelined from having representatives in local authorities and statutory bodies, and when their elected representatives’ minor rural project (MRP) and rural transformation project (RTP) grants were frozen by the state government.

Of course, the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back is Datuk Dr Jerip Susil quitting Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB).

To have lost his No. 2, his co-founding member, his right-hand man and someone he could bank on winning his seat in the next election must have been hard.

Dr Jerip is a political heavyweight and he is all that to Soon Koh and PSB; his departure, therefore, is devastating.

Without doubt his entry into Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) is like a shot of adrenalin to the ruling coalition, which is why there has been a kind of euphoria in the air on this side of the fence.

Of course, the same cannot be said of the mood in PSB where people expressed shock and surprise.

Most affected is none other than the PSB president who least expected it because just 24 hours before the bombshell dropped, they were locking hands and telling all and sundry they were inseparable.

Following the exclusion of PSB from local council administration, Soon Koh said, “All my arms and legs have been chopped off.” And then as if someone added salt to his still-raw wound, Dr Jerip departed, and it was like he had lost an eye. It left the 77-year-old groping for answers to questions as simple as if he should quit the state Cabinet. He had to be prodded into it — by academics, fellow politicians, and even by the man on the street.

Literally, no one begged him to stay; they all wanted him to go, including the 3,000 PSB delegates coming for the party’s annual meeting in Sibu last Saturday.

In other words, letting go his ministerial portfolios (Finance Minister II, and International Trade and E-Commerce) is neither a betrayal nor a sin to whomsoever. Soon Koh should not feel guilty about saying good bye to his Cabinet colleagues.

On the other hand, if he had stayed, he would have been asked if he hadn’t also lost his hearing faculty, which would have made him out to be a complete wreck.

However, on Monday, Soon Koh showed that, like a house lizard, that tail can grow back.

Now as to Dr Jerip, he certainly has a few suitors, in their own ways, qualified suitors in fact.

PRS says it wants him. No doubt, somewhere in the history of Mambong there is a line connecting PRS, Tan Sri Dr James Masing Jemut, the PRS info chief Datuk Wilfred Nissom, defunct Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) and Dr Jerip to each other.

But I think so much water has gone under the bridge, Dr Jerip need not feel sentimental about some blurred instances of political history.

SUPP says Dr Jerip belonged there before, it is only right if he chooses to return. Simple logic, however, says it is illogical for Dr Jerip to return. Why? Because United People’s Party (UPP) was SUPP and PSB was born out of UPP, why would he leave PSB to return to SUPP, which is UPP, which is PSB?

The current Mambong isn’t the Mambong before GE14, so whatever his decision Dr Jerip must consider the popular sentiments of his constituents.

One thing GPS must remember is to be guided by the experience of GE14 when voters in Mas Gading, Puncak Borneo, Lubok Antu, Saratok, Selangau and Julau ignored the Barisan Nasional (BN) ‘dacing’ logo.

There is no guarantee that the same will not happen to GPS if it is not careful about who and which parties to contest which seats.