No permanent friends or enemies

We are torn to pieces by parties and animosities. For my part I see no end to them.

Anne Somerset, English historian

Lately, Puncak Borneo MP Datuk Willie Mongin, the Plantation Industries and Commodities Deputy Minister, and Jugah Muyang, the MP for Lubok Antu, are the focus of mainstream and social media.

With the anti-party hopping law likely to be passed in the next few months, both have applied to be part of the ruling state Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition, in a move widely seen as a bid to pre-empt the legislation. 

Willie, contested Puncak Borneo in the 14th general election (GE14) under a PKR ticket but later quit the opposition party and “placed” – as he claimed – under Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (BERSATU)  to support the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government under the leadership of the then prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

“When the government changed (following the Sheraton Move), I did not join any party, but I do not deny that I was placed under BERSATU to provide backing to the government at that time,” he said, countering claims that he was again doing a “froggy stunt” when he applied to join Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).

Jugah, who contested as an independent in Lubok Antu in GE14 and won with a majority of 1,059 votes, has applied to join Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), reasoning that it is PRS’ traditional seat; he hopes to defend the seat in the coming general election (GE15).

Actually Jugah was invited by Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) president-designate Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin to join her party, but he chose to join PRS to better serve Sarawak and his constituents.

He joined PKR in May 2018, before leaving the party in June 2020 following the Sheraton Move which saw 11 PKR MPs led by Datuk Seri Azmin Ali hopping to BERSATU. Jugah remains an independent MP till now.

The question is whether GPS will accept these party-hoppers. My hunch is that they will have to be accepted despite the coalition insisting after its convincing state election victory last December that there is “no room for political frogs”.

Remember, in politics there are no permanent friends or enemies. But then again, do we have to compromise principles? Yes and no!

Yes, if it’s for the sake of bringing development to a constituency and improving the lot of the rakyat. But no, if it is purely a numbers game – to win as many seats as possible!

Frankly, it’s a tough decision either way.                 

PBB vice-president Datuk Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah thinks taking in Willie will not constitute party hopping.

“Well, not exactly. In politics, nothing is carved in stone. Today you are enemies, tomorrow you may be friends. This has happened before.”

He gave former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad and his deputy Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as an example. “They were once together side by side, then they went separate ways. A few years later, they came back and hugged each other. That is politics.”

Willie’s popularity has to be taken into account as he won Puncak Borneo by a majority of  4,000-plus votes.

“That means he is well-liked. This is what PBB has to take into account. The party cannot just brush him aside and that is how I look at it,” says Abdul Karim.

He has a point there.

PBB, according to its secretary general Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta, will soon call for a meeting to discuss Willie’s application.

Jugah, on the other hand, who also enjoys strong grassroots support, is praying hard his application will be accepted by PRS. “I have expressed support for a local party and I leave it to the party (PRS) leadership to decide, I hope my application is accepted.”

That both their applications will be accepted by the GPS parties is inevitable. But will both be featured in GE15? Or will they be accepted with conditions. Will they be asked to work their way up?

It’s highly unlikely that Willie and Jugah will want to accept any conditions. Anyway, let’s wait for the decisions of PBB and PRS. We don’t have long to wait as they have to make their decisions fast before the anti-party hopping legislation is passed by Parliament soon.

Another question: will their acceptance encourage other elected representatives to switch parties? We have Saratok MP Datuk Ali Biju (BERSATU) and Sri Aman MP Datuk Masir Kujat (Parti Bersatu Sarawak) who might be thinking of jumping ship.

Chances are if Masir applies to go back to PRS, he might be rejected; he’s considered a spent force. Even if he is accepted he might not be fielded.

Biju, however, is still popular with his people and he might be considered.

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