Any organisation has a future, provided it is properly led and it sticks to the objective of that organisation.– Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former prime minister
As GPS prepares for the coming Sarawak elections, it will be an interesting contest against a powerful united opposition.
The 12th state election is due before Sept 7, 2021 when at least seven political parties will contest for 82 seats.
In the last polls in 2016, GPS, which was part of BN, swept into power capturing 72 seats, while DAP and PKR only won 10 seats.
It was popular chief minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem who achieved this victory.
SUPP were the beneficiaries because DAP lost the five seats it had held in the 2011 election.
Turning back the clock, DAP and SUPP have been going after each other’s throats ever since the former, Malaya-based party spread its wings here in the 70s.
The DAP-SUPP spat started in 1974 after Chong Siew Chiang, the father of current Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen, won the Repok seat on a SUPP ticket.
Following a fallout between Siew Chiang and SUPP secretary-general Tan Sri Stephen Yong, the former persuaded Chief Minister Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub to allow DAP to establish a branch here.
In September 1978, DAP secretary-general Lim Kit Siang was invited to set up its first two offices in Sarikei and Sibu.
The following year, Siew Chiang contested on a DAP ticket but lost his Repok seat.
It was not until 1996 that DAP made inroads, winning three seats – Wong Sing Nang (Pelawan), Wong Ho Leng (Bukit Assek) and Wong Sing Ai (Kidurong). From then on, DAP began to gain ground and in 2011, won eight seats.
In that election, DAP toppled SUPP leader and deputy chief minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan, and scalped seven others.
In 2018, DAP found themselves in the federal government after a famous Pakatan Harapan (PH) win.
It was Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohammad’s Bersatu party which made this possible when he partnered with the opposition PH that helped them win the May 2018 general election.
Under Dr Mahathir, PH held the reins of the federal government for 22 moths before personal interests and a leadership struggle led to its downfall. PH had hardly enough time to settle down when a squabble between two PKR leaders — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Datuk Seri Azmin Ali – over the coalition’s succession issue led to its total breakdown.
Unhappy with the power struggle between the duo and their followers, Dr Mahathir resigned, leaving PH in the lurch.
Deputy Bersatu chief Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Azmin Ali left the PH coalition and cobbled together a new team with former BN kingpin Umno and PAS as members. They formed the Pakatan Nasional (PN) coalition, which has grown from strength to strength.
With the backing of the King, Muhyiddin and the new PN coalition got the nod.
Within the next six months, GPS and its PN partner will face a crucial battle in the state election against DAP and two new political groups — PSB and PBK.
GPS will however have the edge because Chieng Jen shot himself in the foot following perennial caustic remarks that have irked many Sarawakians.
Chieng Jen himself has not been able to deliver his promises, so he may even be sidelined by his loyal supporters.
As such the focus is now on Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) who will each be contesting all 82 seats.
A former senior minister with the BN cabinet, PSB leader Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh was part of SUPP until his followers had an altercation within the coalition about three years ago and were sacked.
On the other hand, PBK under lawyer-cum-former policeman and former assemblyman Voon Lee Shan, is using the battle cry “Sarawak for Sarawakians”.
Bintulu-based PBK hopes to appeal to the electorate’s sentiments on issues affecting the state and safeguard the concerns and autonomy of Sarawak.
The coming election will be a test of Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, leadership, who took over as chief minister from Adenan in January 2017.
A political veteran, Abang Johari was mentored by two political stalwarts, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and Adenan, as he waited on the wings for almost 40 years.
Fondly called ‘Abang Jo’, the 70-year-old has a heart for the common man and epitomises the adage ‘patience is a virtue’.
Now it’s up to GPS to hold on to its promises and return to Sarawak the dignity it deserves.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.