Of Bawang Assan and Termites

If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.

– Thomas Sowell, American economist

While Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg poured cold water on the prospect of an early state election recently, the topic of election candidates to be fielded in certain seats continues to be the talk in local political circles.

Earlier this week, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) vice-president Dr Annuar Rapaee categorically denied that the party will be contesting in Bawang Assan.

It is uncertain how this rumour of the party contesting in the seat now helmed by Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh came to light but then again, this isn’t the first time that the seat is in contention.

Just months after Wong resigned from the State Cabinet and turned PSB from being a Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) friendly party to a full-fledged opposition, a few GPS component parties appeared to stake their claim on the seat.

For PBB, it was in Dec 2019 when more than 1,200 Iban voters in the constituency asked that the incumbent step down and the seat be contested by the party in the upcoming state election.

This was during a PBB Bawang Assan’s ‘Solidarity Night’ where Dr Annuar was the guest of honour, representing PBB deputy president and Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.

What the group wanted was for PBB Bawang Assan chief Romeo Christopher Tegong — the political secretary to chief minister — to contest.

Romeo, this week, however denied he is eyeing the seat.

“I have never declared my intention to contest in Bawang Assan. People did ask me whether I am going but I said not likely, not unless our chief minister asked me to do so, only then I will be willing to go for it,” he said when polled by a local daily.

Besides Romeo, Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing was also rumoured to be interested in the seat.

Tiong the Bintulu MP, who hails from Sibu, was seen by observers to be actively visiting residents in the area to promote PDP.

This also came to the attention of incumbent Wong who previously accepted Tiong’s challenge for a ‘president vs president’ showdown in the constituency.

The PDP chief, however, appeared to push the party’s Bawang Assan Youth chief Joshua Ting to be a potential candidate for the seat, pulling himself out of the race.

Of course, Wong, who won the seat in in 1991, had originally contested under a Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) ticket. Despite quitting the party in 2014, he retained his seat and his ministerial position in the state government until July 2019.

If we were to go by the traditional seat concept, Bawang Assan belongs to SUPP as its branch chief Senator Robert Lau Hui Yew would stress.

Lau, a lawyer by training is seen to be a safe bet to be fielded by GPS in the state election for Bawang Assan. But then again nothing is certain.

Regardless, the most important thing now is for the component parties to continue to work with each other in the seat allocation rather than working against one another.

Realising this fact was SUPP president Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian who called on component parties to contest in their traditional seats to avoid split.

“In fact, fighting for another component party’s traditional seat should not be a culture in GPS because it brings more harm than good to the coalition, but sadly such issues always resurface near election period.

“Therefore, SUPP urges all GPS component parties to not be the termites in the coalition by creating any split dispute among each other, but instead, cooperate to face our mutual enemies,” he said on Thursday.
It is unclear which component party he was referring to as the “termites”.

The last time the term “termites” was used to devastating effect was when then GPS-friendly PSB poached members of the coalition’s component parties which did not go well with GPS members.

GPS chairman Abang Johari in early 2019, without naming any parties, had lambasted these “termites” within GPS. Later that year, PSB was booted out of the state government.

Surely with the state election expected to be around the corner, one could hope that the component parties sort out their disputes on seat allocation.

With the national political situation as dynamic it could be and void of any real stability, it is important that Sarawak remains stable for the sake of its people.