Hornbill Unleashed

March 27, 2011

Can S’wak pull off a political tsunami?

Sim Kwang Yang

Finally, the 10th general state election in Sarawak has arrived, with the polling date fixed on April 16, 2011.

The question to ask is: can we expect a political tsunami, in which the long established Barisan Nasional will suffer its worst ever bashing at the hands of the opposition parties?

In the past few months, we have seen dramatic and unexpected changes in the Arab world.

Without warning, powerful regimes in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have fallen to popular uprisings, pulled down by the bare hands of the people.

Will the same thing happen to the Sarawak regime in Malaysia, via the ballot box?

egypt the day after mubarak overthrow celebration 1On the surface, the Sarawak BN’s hold on power looks unshakeable. The BN’s control over all institutions of authority has long been secure, with the government firmly holding the reins of power. Superficially at least, it looks impossible for the opposition to gain a firm foothold in the state.

We do not know how a political tsunami is formed. All we know is that the state of Sarawak is ready for a turn of the political tide. The state has been in the iron grip of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud for 30 years, making him the longest serving chief minister in Malaysia’s history.

Corruption is rife since Taib exercises absolute rule over this resource-rich state. Sarawak needs a new political era where there is more even-handed political competition.

NONEThe Sarawak Report website has published a series of very revealing articles about how the chief minister has accumulated fabulous wealth.

It has also predicted an unprecedented breakthrough by the opposition parties in the coming poll.

Sarawak Report has grabbed international attention after its series of shattering exposes on the inner workings of the Taib regime.

But as the election looms, Sarawak opposition party Snap has come back from the dead, and has boasted of contesting in the election in a very big way.

We Sarawakians are used to hearing mosquito parties that wake up from long years of slumber, often just before a general election to announce their intention to contest on a large scale. They generally do not do well, and they go back to hibernation after the polls.

But the antics of Snap will have the negative effect of distracting the voters from their political focus. They are certainly going to weaken the chances for PKR, by dividing opposition support and splitting the vote in three-cornered fights. This must be sweet music to the ears of BN leaders.

Money politics daunting

On paper at least, the DAP seems the most likely beneficiary of the next general election. The party has enjoyed a kind of resurgence after it surprised observers in the most recent state election in 2006, by adding six seats to its collection.

There is a reason why the DAP is strong in the Chinese-majority areas. The Chinese voters are the most financially independent people in the state and they do not depend much on government allocations for the purpose of socio-economic development.

They are also the best informed, because living mostly in the towns and cities, they are most likely to have the latest online information at their fingertips.

One of the constituencies to watch in the election is Ba’kelalan (DUN 70), where the state PKR chief Baru Bian is likely to contest. It is a remote constituency in the mountains in the deep interior of Sarawak, where Baru is seeking to represent the Orang Ulu.

Anwar Ibrahim arriving to open Sarawak PKR convention in Batu Kawah, near Kuching. Left is Sarawak PKR chief Baru BianAs usual, Bian’s worst enemy is money politics. In Sarawak, vote buying is a matter of routine, and feasting, paid for by the candidate, is a standard practice of canvassing.

Election campaigns are hugely expensive affairs, beyond the means of most people. Politics is limited to being a game for the very rich.

At the time of writing, there is some confusion among the opposition parties over the allocation of seats and appointment of candidates.

The opposition parties have yet to learn the art of co-existing peacefully and they have not always shown that they can give and take with a big heart. If they cannot resolve their differences amicably, they will go to the polls with many injuries done to their collective health. That is not sound politics.

I have to conclude that a political tsunami in the next state poll is highly improbable. The opposition parties will count themselves lucky if they make a small gain in the number of their seats.

The kind of people power that graced Libya, Egypt and surrounding nations will probably happen only once in a generation. It is unlikely to happen in Sarawak, much to my regret.




SIM KWANG YANG was member of parliament for Bandar Kuching, Sarawak from 1982 to 1995. He can be reached at sky8hornbill@gmail.com. All comments are welcomed.


  1. The poor Dayaks in the long houses must be made to decide whether to be able to add more food on the dining table or to continue to have ‘ubi rebus’ everyday for another five years if they give the BN the mandate to rob more and more NCR land. The zinc sheets and low grade mattress is only fit for illegal immigrant squatters only. Dayaks are landlords! Vote the BN OUT!!!

    Comment by batulawi — March 27, 2011 @ 1:21 AM

  2. The way the opposition is self destructing- no worries for PBB BN to romp home by 10 furlongs!

    The day we are waiting for will be postponed till today’s 5 years old baby turns 25!

    Comment by Suararakyat — March 27, 2011 @ 12:55 AM

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