Exactly a year prior to my first holy matrimony date, Sarawak held its nomination day for the fourth state election in 1983 — with the polls to be held between Wednesday, December 28 and Thursday, December 29.
It was Thursday December 8 that year and my Kanowit school SMK Sedaya that I led since May that year, was on holiday but not the principal. Nevertheless, the youngest school principal in Malaysia aged 29 then, went AWOL because he was a key official in the nomination of candidate on the said date — I dared to do so because Sarawak Shell Berhad Miri was offering me a job as Community Officer that paid almost double my acting A11 post — despite still being bonded by contract with the government in lieu of my federal scholarship. It was a daredevil move.
That was just a-spur-of-the moment reaction, whereas the underlying cause was my long-time aim to be candidate for Krian (earlier held by my cousin Datuk Amar Dunstan Endawie Enchana). As a young and hot-blooded man with a pedigree (so I thought), and then among the better educated Endawie’s relatives, it was my high hope that I be the candidates for the SNAP seat — yes, but there were three others who were put higher up and when it came to real nomination, none of them made it.
Then Kanowit DO Empeni Lang (now deceased) was top while my cousin Dunstan Melling Undau (now deceased), who was a senior officer of Information Department, was number two and another friend teacher and fellow scouter Edwin Jipun Gawan was number three. Names like Peter Nyarok (Datuk) and Peter Tinggum (Datuk Seri, now deceased) were below ours.
In Sibu, about a week before nomination, I met Datuk Edward Jeli, who was SNAP deputy president. Jeli said I was still young and was number four on their list. But at that time, my mind was set — I had made an agreement to be a proposer for an independent candidate, a retired senior Sarawak Administrative Officer and a graduate from an English university, London.
Most people in Saratok then were thinking I was the one going to stand as candidate when I went mixing with the local Chinese big-time gamblers in the fast card game of si-kipoi (four-card game), winning big twice. A day earlier, I already paid the RM500 election deposit to the senior clerk in Saratok district office and was given a blue entry form and the T-69 receipt plus other related documents.
We gathered in my Kedap longhouse on the eve of nomination (Dec 7) and checked into our hotel room early on Dec 8, took shower and got dressed. Saratok folk were also surprised that I was in the group going to the Kalaka Community Hall for the nomination but not as candidate because my candidate Solomon Buyong Igoh, 44, who was dressed in a blue suit, led the way.
An Ulu Krian native, he was a well-known administrator, having served as SAO in Betong, Pusa, Saratok and lastly as senior SAO in Sibu.
The five contestants were SNAP’s Datuk Seri Peter Tinggom Kemarau, PBDS’ Datuk Seri Edmund Langgu Saga and three Independents, namely John Antau, Japar of Kabo in Upper Krian and my candidate Buyong.
I was the only government servant involved directly as election official and was registered as a proposer — but nobody objected.
My act was in total contravention of the Federal Order 1980 Chapter D Item 10 (c) that forbids a government servant to be a proposer for an election candidate — and the penalty was expulsion from service. But I saved my job because the complaint letter to Education headquarters landed in a rubbish bin (so I was told). I kept my principal job but gave the Shell job a miss.
Apart from paying the RM500 deposit, I also spent close to RM5,000 for the few days in Saratok, paying people with the Form E and other related arrangements (I gave Buyong some cash too).
My brother-in-law Penghulu Kandau Sagoh sent a message via a relative that Peter Tinggom wanted to see me. We agreed to withdraw, hoping such act would favour SNAP. Tinggom said Luhat Wan would be waiting for me and Buyong in Kuching at an appointed date. Yes, we came and stayed at then newly opened Liwah Hotel.
Luhat, SNAP organising secretary, brought us to see party president Datuk Amar James Wong — to reimburse my claims — but Tinggom (who was married to dad’s cousin) still lost by more than 400 votes to Langgu.
Ironically in 1985, I was appointed as SMK Saratok principal, just shortly after the controversial stance but no offence to any politician, Langgu included.