Has PSB lost its allure?

A healthy democracy requires a decent society; it requires that we are honorable, generous, tolerant and respectful.

Charles W. Pickering, politician and former US judge

There’s one salient question this week on the mind of political observers, that is: Has Parti Sarawak Bersatu’s (PSB) rise to being a prominent opposition party in Sarawak come to a screeching halt?

It was this party that fielded candidates in 70 out of 82 seats in the recent Sarawak state election.

So optimistic that they were, they even hinted that they could form the state government after the Dec 18 polls.

But then again, that could probably be the highlight of its short-lived allure to the voters and even its own political leaders.

This week, we were shocked to learn that Sri Aman MP Datuk Masir Kujat, a presidential council member of the party, has resigned from PSB.

Masir, a former Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) leader and former Deputy Home Minister, instead declared his support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and the ruling federal government.

In his statement, he said: “I quit PSB after consulting my grassroots supporters and also because of several main factors among which is national political instability that has affected the national economy, development, and people’s well-being.

“I believe the best way forward now is to put aside politics in efforts to stabilise and rebuild the nation.”

It was the second high-profile resignation from PSB in just as many weeks with PSB’s Batu Lintang deputy chief Desmond Kho resigning a week earlier.

Kho maintained that his resignation was apolitical and that he wants to concentrate on his legal practice. Whether there are other reasons besides that, is anyone’s guess.

He had only joined the party two years ago, together with the entourage of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) defectors – Baru Bian and See Chee How. Previously, he was state PKR information chief.

On the election trail of the Sarawak polls at the end of last year, the party also suffered a blow in the form of its former Dudong assemblyman Datuk Tiong Thai King.

Tiong, who was not re-nominated for the seat instead urged his supporters to back Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) to the dismay of his former party.

Even then, the party had suffered prior setbacks when its potential election candidates quit the party after they were purportedly forced to borrow money to fund their campaign.

I recall that it was not too long ago that PSB was touted to be the party to watch out for by the press, pundits and analysts.

In reality, it was merely a party that happens to be occupied by political personalities who are famous or infamous for various reasons.

They tried to put on a brave front, championing a left leaning narrative to influence members of the public and potential voters.

In the aftermath of Masir’s resignation, PSB through its secretariat has come up with this message:

“PSB has come so far despite its relative infancy and our spirit and camaraderie is built on the collective work, contribution and support of our leaders and members, with the fervent support and encouragement of the people of Sarawak.

“The support of 139,515 Sarawakians towards PSB during the recent state elections has given us hope and optimism for the future. That represented 18.69 per cent of the total votes cast and had positioned PSB as the party with the second highest number of votes garnered, after Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).”

True as it may be, the total votes obtained by the party was still less than one-third of Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s votes of 457,233, making up 61.26 per cent of the total votes cast in the Sarawak state polls.

Through the ‘first past the post’ system which we used, it translated to a mere four seats for the party, a reduction of two seats from the six seats it held prior to Dec 18 state election.

In any case, it remains to be seen whether the party can replicate the result in the upcoming 15th general election which could come sooner than expected.

With the resignation of Masir, the party now only has one representative in Parliament in the form of its Selangau MP.

Inevitably, if the defections were to continue, the prospect of an unassailable Borneo Alliance with Parti Warisan Sabah (WARISAN) – another party already marred by defections – would be pretty much dead in the water.

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