Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president James Masing Anak Jemut, as an interested party, wants to do something about the so-called Sarawak Workers Party (SWP) – that is, make it disappear – but the question is where and when to begin.
Time is of the essence. There are both political and legal considerations in this stakes game which goes to the very top of the power structure in Sarawak.
The SWP, led by Larry Sng, has publicly pledged to finish off PRS at the 13th general election.
Larry has loads of largely government contracts-related money from old man Sng Chee Hwa, now Masing’s mortal enemy, and his father-in-law Ting Pek King, the construction king, to mesmerise the 70% illiterate Ibans with their money.
Sng was once Masing’s deputy in PRS after being his deputy, as the moneyman, in the deregistered Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) when the party was hit by the a two-president syndrome.
Meanwhile, SWP is said to be non-existent after the Sabah People’s Front (SPF) deputy president Osman Enting and 31 senior party leaders lodged a police report on May 31 in Kota Kinabalu that no extraordinary general meeting was ever held to change the party name to SWP, or effect changes in the line-up, or switch the party’s abode to Kuching.
The 32 SPF leaders further alleged that the minutes of the purported meeting were falsified by their president and secretary-general.
Their allegations were carried in the local media the next day along with the disclosure on the police report.
The Sabah Registrar of Societies Matthew Anak Barin, in a text message on July 6, responded: “There is no complaint received by us [so far] on SWP or SPF.”
Sword of Damocles
The police report has reportedly been lodged with the Registrar of Societies in Putrajaya together with the minutes of a special party meeting convened on June 3 in Kota Kinabalu under Osman to suspend SPF president Berman Angkap and secretary-general Salun Dueasim. Osman heads the party’s disciplinary council.
The latest from SPF is that Osman & Co made a decision on June 16 to “withdraw” their police report on condition that SWP expands to Sabah and fields them in the 13the general election there. It could not be immediately verified whether the police report has since been withdrawn, and if so, whether the complaint, if any, with the ROS in Putrajaya has likewise been withdrawn.
In short, Masing is in a real fix – in between Sng’s pledge and the SWP’s reported dubious status compounded by the planned withdrawal of the police report – but whether it’s a permanent fix is something that only he can decide.
No one else, including Osman & Co, will move on SWP in Masing’s favour. They appear more interested to keep a Sword of Damocles over Sng’s head in a bid to wrest the maximum concessions for them.
Masing hasn’t been getting anywhere so far on SWP and the rest of his party are waiting for their chief to do something and purely based on their trusting, albeit naïve, belief that “Datuk knows best”.
He has reportedly been consulting various lawyers in Kuala Lumpur on SWP since, and not surprisingly, no lawyer in Sarawak except Baru Bian and Harrison Ngau Laing will touch his case with even a ten-foot pole. Bian and Laing are both with PKR in the opposition, the former the chief of the Sarawak chapter.
The position taken by Sarawak lawyers gives credence to reports that Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud is behind SWP and with good reasons too.
Taib “complains” that he’s having the same problems with Masing that he once had with Daniel Tajem Anak Miri, his deputy chief minister in the late 1980s. Taib, for some reason, suddenly decided one morning that Masing “had become too big for his boots” – whatever it means – and needs to be taken down more than a peg or two.
That’s typical Taib politics since he replaced his maternal uncle, Abdul Rahman Yakub, as chief minister in 1981: crush the politics of the Orang Asal (native Dayaks) to smithereens if they are not Muslims. Taib himself as a Melanau is a Dayak from a family of Christian converts to Islam.
The only way Masing would have been safe from Taib’s vengeance was to have allowed the latter’s crony, old man Sng, to lead him (Masing) by a noose as during his PBDS days.
Masing’s legal position isn’t by any means entirely clear.
Any complaint lodged with the ROS will take six months to investigate and resolve. That’s the position as explained by Barin.
The question is whether a complaint has really been lodged by Osman & Co with the ROS in Putrajaya. Barin doesn’t know and isn’t in a position to get that information.
Masing can only go to the High Court to apply for leave to seek a judicial review of the ROS’ decision to accept the contents of the allegedly falsified minutes of the purported EGM held by SPF.
He can claim locus standi on the legitimate grounds of not being a busybody, or crankster but having real interest and in danger of suffering losses if not already having suffered losses.
The leave application will reveal whether the ROS in Putrajaya did receive a complaint from Osman & Co.
If a complaint was indeed received, the ROS is likely to tell the High Court that he’s studying the matter and will only make a decision in six months’ time.
This will result in the leave application being rejected by the High Court and SWP, according to the ROS rules, is free to operate pending a final decision. Irrespective of the legal status of an organisation, the ROS position is that members must be free to organise their activities in line with the Federal Constitution.
In the meantime, if the 13th general election is held, SWP will be entering the fray against PRS and any adverse decision subsequently taken against the former will be rendered academic.
Any SWP winners come the national polls can still re-group, with Taib’s blessings, under a new platform in a BN-plus state government. There was a precedent established in 1983 when the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) objected to the inclusion of its breakaway PBDS in the state government. Taib, undeterred, formed the BN-plus state government including PBDS.
If Osman & Co did not really lodge a complaint with the ROS in Putrajaya or withdraw such a complaint, Masing can lodge a fresh complaint based on documentary evidence already with him.
Again, that would mean him waiting for another six months to know the outcome of his complaint.
There might be a ray of hope somewhere for Masing if he falls back on a certificate of urgency filed in the court as the only available remaining option. The ROS would have to explain in the court why he needs six months to investigate a complaint.
Any ROS decision on SWP can be squashed in court by judicial review by way of an order of certiorari. A judicial review by way of an order of mandamus would compel the ROS to ask SPF to show cause why it should not be deregistered.
The catch is that any application for leave to apply for judicial review must be made within 45 days of the ROS making a decision or deciding not to make a decision. The ROS, as evident from pervious court cases, is not given to replying queries.
It only replies a week before any matter comes up in court. Then the court will turn around and tell the applicant: “You have no cause to complain. The ROS has given you a reply. Follow procedures and exhaust your remedies available at the Home Ministry.”