PBB senior vice-president Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof

By Natasha Jee & Nia Natasha Hasenan

KUCHING: Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) will hold its final mini convention here today at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK). The previous ones were held in Miri, Betong and Sibu, in that order.

Twenty-six branches — from N1 to N26 constituencies, and from Lundu, Serian, Bau, Kuching and Kota Samarahan as well — will participate in the convention. Around 1,250 members are expected to attend and in compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) under the recovery movement control order (RMCO).

PBB senior vice-president Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof has been selected to head the convention’s southern zone committee. In this interview, he shares some details of the convention and his hopes for the coming 12th state election.

New Sarawak Tribune: What are the programmes of the convention?

Fadillah: The content will be slightly different from the others. Basically, we will talk about all the initiatives of the government, not only in terms of assistance to the people but also all the projects which are critical to development. We will also talk about the latest achievements of the state, particularly our successful negotiations with Petronas. The national oil company has already paid RM2.96 billion of the state sales tax (SST).

More importantly, this convention is to get the grassroots leaders to come forward as we want to hear the voices of the grassroots so that the government can solve issues faced by them. 

Is the theme the same as those of the other conventions?

Yes. The theme has been decided by the main community. It is ‘Hak Sarawak Diutamakan, Pembangunan Diperkasakan’ (Sarawak Rights Prioritised, Development Empowered).

Is the convention a preparation for the state election?

Yes and no. We do not work just to prepare ourselves for an election. It is a continuous programme. We have been holding conventions almost every year. This is actually to update the grassroots on state and federal policies and all government initiatives that help them. It is also for us to listen to the grassroots voices.

What are your hopes for participants in this convention?

Firstly, it is to get together. By getting all the people to come to the convention, we can get all the grassroots people and leaders to meet one another. With that, I hope we can exchange views but they can interact and exchange views on how they can serve the people better.

Most importantly, it is to strengthen teamwork with each other.

Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof

What are the strengths of Abang Johari’s leadership as PBB president and in bringing Sarawak forward?

Number one, I would say he is a visionary leader. That is why he has introduced all new policies and initiatives. We can see clearly; he is guiding Sarawak in the right direction and with the right strategies. He is farsighted in terms of his vision. For example, on the setting up of Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros), the firm is an active player in the oil and gas industry in Sarawak. Because of that, we were able to negotiate with Petronas and finally, we received the SST payment.

Number two, when we announced that the state’s focus was on digital economy. After the Covid-19 pandemic hit us, we realised that it is very important for all the people to embrace technology, including online technology, and that requires information and communications technology (ICT) knowledge. And now the chief minister’s focus is on improving connectivity in terms of telecommunication connectivity.

Other than that, he is also focused on closing the gap between the urban and rural areas. That is why the coastal roads are being constructed. He also dares to provide big allocations to improve basic amenities of the people, particularly in the rural areas, in terms of water and electricity supplies. All are funded by the state government. That is why we have Sarawak Alternative Electricity Supply (Sares) and Sarawak Alternative Electricity Supply (Sawas). They are to speed up water and electricity supplies in remote, rural areas. All these show that the chief minister is very committed and farsighted in giving the best to the people of Sarawak so there is no reason why we should not support him.

What is Abang Johari’s vision for PBB?

Firstly, it is to strengthen PBB in terms of unity. As the backbone of the Sarawak government, we must unite in order to become a strong party. We must also enhance the capability and the capacity of the people, which means the leadership empowerment must be there. And of course, inclusiveness. We must have representation of young people and women. More importantly, the chief minister expects leaders who are committed to serving and giving their very best to the state and to the people of Sarawak. Also, we need to have people who are knowledgeable and skilful in whatever they do.

What do you think are the main challenges PBB is facing and how should the party address them?

All the parties have their own challenges and they must face them. We must be sincere in whatever we do and we must put the interest of the party, people, country and the state first. These are good values we need to nurture among the party members.

CM has mentioned that in the coming state election, there will be more new faces. Will some of the incumbents be making way for fresh blood or be dropped? What are some of the criteria for the candidates?

I know some senior leaders or veterans had contributed a lot to the people and to the party. They realise it is time they hand over to the young people. This is the culture we have in our party; we have been trained that way. So, if it is time to go, then it is time to hand over to the younger people who can give better services to the people.

So, I would say thank you to all the leaders, who have, of course, indicated their willingness to hand over and informed the chief minister they are retiring as the people’s representatives. Of course, as politicians, we know when it is the best time to hand over to the new generation. This is good for the party and the people. For those who think they are not able to serve and there are already inputs from the people that they want new faces, I think it is good for them to hand over.

I think voters want candidates who can give their best when serving the people, who are always there when there are problems and find ways to solve them. The candidates must also be visionary and knowledgeable.

The young voters want candidates who understand their aspirations. 

What are the lessons learnt from defeats in the past elections?

A lot of things. If we analyse what happened in the 14th general election (GE 14), if you are talking about Barisan Nasional which, at that time, was under the leadership of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, all sorts of assistance were given to the people. But at the end of the day, people may not vote for you just because of what you do for them or the country.

At the end of the day, perceptions are quite important. So, try to avoid personal or family issues. People also expect candidates with integrity, who are committed to serving them and the country. Giving the best service is not enough. They must be clean in all aspects of life.

Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof

If the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) is dissolved tomorrow, how confident are you that Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) will be able to secure a big win?

I am confident because of what GPS has done and provided to the people in terms of all the assistance, particularly during this challenging time of Covid-19. And if you look at the economic performances, some countries right now are on the verge of bankruptcy. Some states are not able to help the people and they need to rely on the federal government. But, for Sarawak, on top of all the federal initiatives, the state has its own initiatives to help the people as well.

If you judge all the things that have been done by GPS, I see no reasons for people to support any other parties other than GPS. We have a good track record. Our chief minister has delivered what he promised and we have seen the state’s success in many things. Besides addressing the Covid-19 issues, we are able to get the RM2.9 billion state sales tax (SST) payment from Petronas and its subsidiaries. Other parties may say they are championing Sarawak rights and so on. But the true winner is GPS.

Abang Johari has mentioned previously that existing party MPs will not get to stand in the state election. What’s your view on this?

We will abide by the chief minister’s decision. If he says so, of course we will support him.

The opposition parties are said to be making inroads in the rural areas, particularly in Dayak areas. If there is some truth to this claim, how does GPS plan to counter the opposition?

This is a democratic country, so opposition parties can do whatever they want but as far as GPS is concerned, particularly PBB, we are here to serve the people. We have proven ourselves that we are serving the people. We have the track record.   

Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB), Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) can go anywhere they want. What happened to Pakatan Harapan (PH)? It promised so many things. DAP in particular promised to give us 20 percent oil royalty and to refund or return 50 percent of the tax collected from Sarawak. What happened to these promises?

Therefore, people must realise this. When it comes to elections, opposition parties can promise many wonderful things. But can they deliver? So, learn from what happened to PH. At the end of the day, because of internal squabbles to be the prime minister, it failed the people. It did not even focus on its manifesto or the promises it made to the people and to the state of Sarawak.

GPS is set to be back after the 12th state election, that’s for sure. But political analysts are asking whether a two-thirds majority is achievable this time around. Do you think the coalition will better previous seat performances?

I will take whatever studies and analyses done by experts at face value. What will determine whether we can score a two-thirds majority win depends very much on how well our party representatives have served the people. If they have served the people well, definitely they will support us.  

What is your hope for the coming state election?

I hope Sarawakians will continue to support the GPS government in the coming state election. This is because GPS under the leadership of the chief minister had proven its capabilities. Although the federal government had channelled various forms of assistance, the state government also provided help to the people.

Secondly, the GPS government’s priority is to fight for the rights of Sarawak. We have received the SST payment from Petronas and negotiations will continue.

So, that is why I urge the people to give our chief minister the mandate to continue leading Sarawak, and God willing by 2030, I am confident Sarawak can be one of the most developed states in Malaysia.