Will ‘one YB, one seat’ work in SUPP’s favour?

Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches.

– GARY JOHNSON, EX-NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR

One thing is certain for the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP). The party will contest its seven traditional seats in the coming 15th general election (GE15).

This was made clear by Premier and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) chairman Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg who announced recently that GPS will maintain the status quo in its parliamentary seat distribution for GE15.

Today, let me tackle SUPP president Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian’s “One YB, one seat” declaration, meaning a SUPP candidate can only hold either a state legislative assembly or a parliamentary seat. It’s one seat for one man!

Dr Sim gave his reasons and they are valid and noble. Give the younger party leaders a chance to vie for public office too. SUPP will not be like some opposition leaders, going for two seats and getting double salary for doing only one job.

However, I feel that Dr Sim should also exercise discretion and flexibility. The aim of partaking in an election is to achieve victory. Hence, the top priority is to field winnable candidates – men and women with over an average chance of securing victory, irrespective of other considerations such as age.

I think it is absurd to field a fresh, young candidate with zero chance of winning. That does not hold for me and neither should it for a seasoned, battle-hardened party like SUPP.

Going into GE15, will the SUPP president’s preference work in the party’s favour? This is the key question which Dr Sim and his party colleagues must find real, honest answers to.

Firstly, what is the situation in this Sarawak’s oldest political party today? I would say it has just been rejuvenated in some ways. Whether that good vibes will continue in SUPP will depend on the party’s leadership and the direction they chart moving forward.

Again, thanks to the late chief minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem who helped SUPP win over the Chinese voters in the 2016 Sarawak election. Adenan was the “feel good” factor – let’s give it to him.

Even after the handsome win in 2016, SUPP fared miserably again in GE14 in 2018 but bounced back with a dynamite victory in the 2021 Sarawak polls.

This is the peculiar scenario which SUPP has to seriously dissect. Is the party only good at state level but considered “utterly useless” at federal level?

Is SUPP contented only with playing a role in Sarawak but disinterested in any role in Putrajaya? I don’t think so but I must also ask whether SUPP has lined up potential candidates for ministerial position at federal level?

Except for Serian’s Datuk Seri Richard Riot, the party has said it will be fielding young candidates in the other six SUPP seats. Except for Riot again, I would not take my chances for a fresh SUPP face to be a federal minister.

Why? For one, UMNO bullies in Putrajaya are tough nuts to crack and it would be foolhardy for SUPP to throw a meek, inexperienced first-time MP into a sea of sharks. He will be swallowed whole in no time. No, this is no laughing matter!

I have also noticed an interesting but not necessarily positive feature in SUPP. Its leadership base in “top heavy” in favour of Sarawak with no prominent or senior leaders emerging at federal level.

This is something which SUPP should also take a good, hard look at.

The party’s rejuvenation is due to the many years of solid work put in by several senior leaders led by Dr Sim himself. The president has led by example. He is a recognised workaholic and his sense of dedication to duty has rubbed on his party colleagues like secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting, Padawan Council chairman Lo Khere Chiang, Sibu Municipal Council chairman Clarence Ting and Miri Municipal Council chairman Adam Yii.

Younger newly elected YBs like Wilfred Yap and Michael Tiang are also aware of their president’s penchant for hard work and have become well known service-oriented assemblymen themselves.

Here, I would suggest to SUPP to field three new faces and three other senior outstanding YBs in their allocated six parliamentary seats.

I do not see why Dr Sim himself or Lo could not be fielded in the Kuching or Stampin seat; Clarence Ting or party stalwart Wong Ching Yong in Sibu or Lanang and Sebastian Ting in Miri.

To narrow my choices, if I were a decisionmaker in SUPP, I would pick Dr Sim for Stampin, Wong Ching Yong for Sibu or Lanang and Sebastian Ting for Miri.

The other three seats of Bandar Kuching, Sarikei and Sibu, I will field three younger candidates to enable them to have their baptism of fire in electoral warfare.

If any of them win, they will have a term to learn the ropes from their seniors in the party.

SUPP is 63 years old. At this age, it should not be fielding candidates just to “test the waters”. All its candidates must be “winnable”. If not, better skip it.

It’s quite embarrassing, shameful even, for a 63-year-old party, born in 1959, to offer token resistance in an election in 2022.

To me, that is moving backwards, not forward.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.

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