Hornbill Unleashed

June 21, 2012

New spoiler for electoral tussles in Sarawak

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:42 AM
Tags: , ,

Keruah Usit

The newly-registered Sarawak Workers Party (SWP) is something of an anomaly. This self-proclaimed “BN-friendly” political party is led by a rich man’s son, Larry Sng (and is widely understood to be supported by his father, business tycoon Sng Chee Hua). It is hardly a likely contender to represent workers in the state.

Oddly for a “workers’ party”, SWP is interested only in rural constituencies, having declared an intention to stand in six parliamentary seats in the coming elections, out of Sarawak’s total of 31.

These are Selangau, Julau, Lubok Antu, Sri Aman, Hulu Rejang and Kanowit, nearly all in the Iban heartland. The rural voters there are mainly farmers rather than workers, and have not seen much in the way of political awakening or class consciousness.

The Industrial Revolution has yet to hold sway over most of these areas. Workers’ rights are somewhat less important than feudal attachments to wealthy political kingpins like Sng and his son.

james masing and parti rakyat sarawak prs logo launch 160107These rural seats targeted by SWP are the only six constituencies held by Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), led by James Masing of “Jangan Lawan Towkay” fame.

Sng and his son were once leading figures in PRS, but were turfed out by party president Masing during a leadership struggle in 2009. The bad blood between the Sng mini-dynasty and Masing appears to have boiled over.

Larry became the youngest ever state assembly representative in 2001, when he won the Pelagus seat at the age of 22. His father, a Chinese businessman who made his fortune trading up the mighty Rejang river in Kapit, had vacated the seat for him.

Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud embraced the younger Sng, making him an assistant minister in his cabinet, and protecting him even after Masing expelled him from the PRS.

Taib has a venerable track record of playing crafty divide-and-rule games. Throughout his 30 years in power, he has encouraged so-called “Dayakism” among the leaders of parties like Snap and PBDS, and later, PRS and the SPDP.

He then engineered divisions within these parties, cutting them down to size and ensuring no Dayak-majority party could ever challenge his dominance.

azlanTaib has applied this tactic most fervently when the Dayak majority in Sarawak appears to be uniting against his minority Melanau dynastic rule. This dynasty was established in 1970 by his uncle Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, his predecessor as chief minister.

Throughout the years of “Dayakism” – failed attempts to forge ethnic Dayak unity – Taib has built up various Dayak supremacist parties, and then demolished them.

Taib prodded Snap – a beacon of multi-ethnic politics in the 1970s – into a “Dayakist” split and left it moribund. He then accepted the SPDP, a weakened splinter party from Snap, into the state BN.

Taib also engineered schisms in PBDS, a party that surprised him and nearly toppled him from power in 1987. He buried the Dayak party in 2004.

PRS, the ragged remnant of PBDS, is now a junior “Dayak majority” component, together with the SPDP, in Taib’s BN coalition. PRS, it seems, is becoming the new cuckold in the state BN.

Taib is making a clear point to the PRS and Masing that they, too, are dispensible, if they do not toe the line.

‘Dayakism’ fading fast

The SWP is part of the intricate pattern of racial politics woven by the wily Taib.

It is unsurprising that, according to the Borneo Post, Taib replied to questions about the registration of the SWP by saying: “Well, it is part of the political scene of Sarawak. We have embraced democracy. One more party joins in, why not?”

Even after premier Najib Abdul Razak observed that the SWP ought not to contest against the BN in the upcoming election if it claims to be BN-friendly, Larry appeared unfazed, texting” “I am not surprised by PM’s comments. That is for public consumption.”

The SWP appears bent on supplanting the PRS in Taib’s affections in Sarawak BN. Will it succeed?

In several of the six seats it wants, the SWP may indeed split part of the anti-BN vote, because it may be seen as an alternative to less popular PRS candidates. This would certainly endear the Sngs to Taib.

But in one or two of these seats, such as Hulu Rejang and Kanowit, PKR, the main opposition party in rural areas, may be the beneficiary from a split in the vote for the PRS.

azlanIn all these seats, it is unlikely that the SWP will make leave much of a footprint. A similar ‘mosquito party’, the much diminished Snap, resurrected for the state polls in April 2011, failed to retain its deposit in 26 of the 27 seats it contested.

In the long term, what are the prospects of a new, multi-ethnic, homegrown political party campaigning on policy and ideology, instead of racial supremacy or a blatant attempt to replace a rival in the state ruling coalition? This remains a distant speck on Sarawak’s political horizon.

By comparison, established Pakatan Rakyat parties may have limited constituencies, but at least hold certain fundamental principles.

The DAP grew from a position of socialism, the PKR advocated natural justice and multiculturalism, while PAS has championed both Islamic jurisprudence and a welfare state.

What does the SWP stand for? As of now, it appears, its main raison d’être is simple: being BN-friendly.

KERUAH USIT is a human rights activist – ‘anak Sarawak, bangsa Malaysia’. This weekly column is an effort to provide a voice for marginalised Malaysians. Keruah Usit can be contacted at keruah_usit@yahoo.com


  1. He He He! James Masing is correct about Datuk Sng….he is very kind murah hati to the poor Dayaks…in fact he contributed much more than whole Dayak leaders combined…..

    James Masing quoted on The Borneo Post Special Supplement on 23rd January, 2005:
    ” Dato Sng Chee Hua is very generous. I have seen people coming to him and asking for help and he will help without hesitation. Just look at his company, the majority of his employees are Dayak. He started an education fund in Pelagus with RM1 million to educate mostly the Dayak. There are few Iban millionaires but how many of them have started an education fund to help the Dayak? None! Then come a Chinese into our midst and he does it. What better investment is there then to invest in our young? Dato Sng put in RM1 million into the PBDS education trust fund. How much did Dayak contributes? ”

    More allocations likely for the Larry Sng Education Fund
    By Jack Wong, The Star, Monday April 5, 2010

    AT AGE 21, Larry Sng raised many eyebrows when it was announced that a RM1mil education fund was set up in his name in 2001.

    Few Sarawakians then knew who Larry Sng Wei Shien was as the youngster was just a university undergraduate in Britain.

    His father Datuk Sng Chee Hua, however, is no stranger to many as he is a veteran politician and businessman in Sarawak.

    The Sng family, in forking out the RM1mil for the Larry Sng Education Fund, apparently had a big political plan for Larry.

    Weeks into the fund’s announcement, Larry was made the youngest Barisan Nasional candidate.

    He stood in Pelagus, a Dayak-based rural constituency in the upper Rajang River Basin in central Sarawak, which was previously represented by his father.

    Despite being the youngest and probably the most inexperienced politician in the polls, he won.

    Nine years later, the Larry Sng Education Fund remains the first and only such fund sponsored by a Sarawakian elected representative.

    Larry, now an Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, said the fund had disbursed about RM800,000 over the past nine years and benefitted some 500 students in his constituency.

    “About 70% of the recipients are bumiputras going for matriculation courses or tertiary studies,’’ he told StarMetro.

    The fund gave out RM500 each to some 60 recipients in February. There are three secondary schools in the Pelagus constituency.

    Larry was given an additional job as Assistant Minister for Youth Affairs and Training of Youths in the Cabinet reshuffle last November. He is also Assistant Minister for Industrial Development (Planning).

    “In setting up the fund, I am continuing the hard work and legacy of my late grandfather Sng Chee Joo, who always encouraged parents to provide good education for their children.

    “We are not very rich but we do what we can to help. Rural parents face bigger challenges in their children’s education compared to urban parents.’’

    Chee Joo was the MP for Kapit in 1963 and also served as a district councillor.

    Larry said each recipient was initially given RM2,500 but the amount was reduced so that more students could benefit.

    To ensure the financial aid was not abused, the fund disbursed the money only after the recipients had enrolled for matriculation or tertiary studies, he said.

    “An offer letter from an institution of higher learning is not good enough. We found out that some parents did not enrol their children after receiving the offer letter and used the money to buy gold,’’ he added.

    Asked if the fund would consider giving study loans or scholarships to deserving students, Larry said that needy but bright students could obtain loans or scholarships from the Federal and state governments through organisations such as Yayasan Sarawak.

    He said that since the RM1mil allocation would be used up soon, the Sng family was likely to allocate more as the Larry Sng Education Fund was a noble cause to help rural students.

    Sng: My loyalty to PBDS should never be questioned
    by KS Paul, Malaysia Kini, 6 June 2003

    Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) vice-president Sng Chee Hua said today that he is a party loyalist and that his loyalty to PBDS should never be questioned by anyone within or outside the party.

    “I have been through thick and thin with PBDS since I won the Pelagus state seat in 1991 when the party was still wandering aimlessly in the opposition in Sarawak. Even through those difficult years, I had never wavered in my support for PBDS,” he stressed.

    Sng said that even when he was dropped at the last minute as the Barisan Nasional candidate for the parliamentary seat of Julau (although he was the incumbent then) in the 1999 general election, he went all out to ensure victory for his successor.

    Julau victory

    “I utilised my machinery, resources and mobilised all my supporters in Julau to make sure that the candidate (PBDS treasurer-general Joseph Salang) secure a handsome victory,” he recalled.

    “A lesser man would have abandoned the party upon being dropped. But I stayed on and toiled tirelessly for PBDS and the BN during the election campaign,” he added.

    Sng was responding to recent criticisms against him in recent weeks questioning his loyalty to PBDS and his ability to serve the interests of members of the predominantly Dayak party as he was a Chinese.

    Sng is now the running mate of party’s information chief Dr James Masing in their quest to wrest control of the PBDS top posts at the party’s triennial delegates’ conference next month.

    They are currently embroiled in a factional feud with their rivals for the president’s and deputy president’s posts, Daniel Tajem and Joseph Salang.

    Sole Chinese winner

    In the 1991 state election, Sng was the lone Chinese candidate to win on the PBDS ticket. He was then an associate member of the party. Several other Chinese candidates who also contested under the PBDS banner were defeated. The party won seven state seats that year.

    When PBDS amended its constitution to open its doors to non-Dayaks, Sng became a full-fledged card carrying member of the party. He made his parliamentary debut in the 1995 general election and won the Julau seat for the party.

    Sng also secured the second highest majority votes among BN candidates in Sarawak in that elections – and this, for a Chinese contesting in a Dayak-majority constituency, was no easy feat.

    In the 1996 state election, Sng retained his Pelagus seat unopposed. He did not contest in the 2001 state election to make way for his son, Larry Sng, in Pelagus.

    ‘Seditious’ remark

    On party president Leo Moggie’s recent remark that he preferred Dayaks to be the president and deputy president of PBDS, Sng responded: “Moggie is entitled to his opinion”.

    “In fact, I am quite surprised that Moggie (for his standing and stature) had made those remarks which can be described as ‘racial’ and which even bordered on ‘sedition’.”

    Sng also asked whether by his remarks, Moggie meant that only the Dayaks can help the Dayaks and that a Chinese cannot help his fellow countrymen from another race.

    “If this is the case, then Moggie had run foul of the BN’s concept of promoting multi-racialism and the creation of a Bangsa Malaysia.

    “Even as we speak, there is a proposal to turn the BN into a single multi-racial party and that proposal is being seriously bandied about by top BN leaders in a move to promote and strengthen multi-racial politics,” he said.

    Sng said that he advocated multi-racial politics as it was the best concept to ensure that the state and nation attain greater heights in all spheres of development.

    “Racial politics is a thing of the past. It cannot work anymore. We have to bury it and look forward to multi-racial politics which is about caring, compassion and sharing among the people”.

    Petty and vindictive

    Sng also pointed out that PBDS leaders must practise what they preach.

    “It is a fact that PBDS subscribes to the BN policy of power-sharing among people of all ethnic groups.

    “Yes, PBDS leaders have also been preaching multi-racialism all along. It is wrong and even dangerous to be ‘racial’ just because of one party election. It is also petty and vindictive.”

    Sng stressed that he would not be unduly distracted in his political belief of upholding multi-racialism to enable the working of a vibrant democracy in the state and nation.

    “All of us have since learnt that a multi-racial concept of power-sharing requires immense patience and tolerance.

    “And in the run-up to the party election, I will continue to be patient and tolerant,” he assured.

    Right to contest

    Asked why he wanted to go for the deputy president’s post, Sng said he felt he could continue to serve the best interests of the party better in a more senior position.

    “There is also nothing in the party constitution to prevent any member from contesting party posts, so why should anyone try to stop me,” he asked.

    “From Day One, Moggie never told me that I cannot contest for this post or that post. PBDS is a democratic party and a member’s right to go for any party position should never be curbed,” he added.

    Another reason why he agreed to be Masing’s running mate was because Moggie had repeatedly told him (Sng) that Masing was his choice as successor.

    “In fact, I agree with Moggie all these while that Masing should take over as party president once he (Moggie) decides to step down.

    “Of course, Moggie can change his mind in mid-stream but I am staying by Masing. It is also because I feel Masing is an experienced and qualified administrator and a person whom I can trust to do a good job”.

    Speak Iban like an Iban

    Sng 59, hailed from the Iban heart-land of Kapit in central Sarawak. He is a long-time businessman and corporate player.

    One distinct advantage he has as an elected representative in a Dayak-majority constituency is his ability to speak the Iban language. He is well-known as a Chinese who speaks Iban like an Iban.

    On public perception that he was the sole financier of PBDS, Sng was modest in his reply, “let’s just say that I contribute to the party just like everybody else”.

    However, Sng said that the PBDS education foundation was something close to his heart and he would continue to support it for the sake of the future generations of Dayaks.

    He revealed that since the foundation was set up, he had contributed RM1.4 million towards it.

    “Of the 150 students who had benefitted from the foundation so far, only three were Chinese”, he said.

    “Just take education as an example. Don’t tell me that a Chinese cannot help the Dayaks here,” he added as a matter-of-fact.

    Comment by Teddy Gumbang — June 26, 2012 @ 3:17 PM | Reply

  2. Just don’t buy anything these people make or build. We all know who they are and how they are connected.

    Comment by goupama — June 23, 2012 @ 12:30 AM | Reply

  3. Sng Junior is the adopted son of Taib.

    Every one knows it!

    SWP is the brainchild of Taib.

    Every one can see it!

    The functions of SWP:
    1 To cut the wings of James Masing, ultimately to annihilate PRS
    2 To replace SUPP and SPDP

    Comment by Williams — June 21, 2012 @ 3:49 PM | Reply

  4. More like ‘Exploiting Workers’ Party to me.

    Comment by Ray — June 21, 2012 @ 1:13 PM | Reply

  5. We are witnessing the beginning of a new wave of Taib’s politics of enriching himself and families. Soon Taib will surmount Awang Tengah Ali Hassan to challenge Abang Johari in PBB’s next election. Abang Jol as he is fondly called will have absolutely nothing to lose by stepping forward to challenge Taib Mahmud for the presidency instead or forever remains a coward. The game plan will be the same as defending his deputy presidency against Awang Tengah Ali Hassan as engineered by Taib Mahmud. Instead of defending, Abang Johari must go for broke by “attacking” the thief minister and challenge him for the post of president of PBB.

    The thief minister’s wicked agenda is to eventually replace SUPP, PRS and SPDP with SWP for reason only known to himself and for his own political survival and power grip over the state’s vast natural resources. Taib and his family ill gotten wealth and assets will only feel safe with Awang Tengah as CM or another thief minister and Len Talif Salleh as a senior minister in charge of finance or resourses planning.

    The big question now is what are Peter Chin of SUPP, James Masing of PRS and William Mawan of SPDP waiting for? Sooner the group aligned to Wong Soon Koh in SUPP and the recalcitrant five of ex SPDP will join SWP before the next Sarawak state election.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — June 21, 2012 @ 1:10 PM | Reply

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