We live in a volatile period in this part of the world – everything you hear, read, see and think about is about politics. There has been an overload of politicking in the country, something unprecedented in our recent history.
Every morning, we are bombarded by headlines screaming of yesterday’s natural disaster somewhere in the world, the continuing state of a medical epidemic, some massive accident involving train, plane or vehicles, or the passing of some public figure.
However if one were to count the percentage of news devoted to politics, public outcries, rebuttals, and to press releases from both the government, the opposition and the independents – more than half the daily news is devoted to them. Sports, entertainment and news of celebrities take a back seat to such news items.
Focusing on local news from Sarawak, what’s been trending these days is news of politicians from all sides trying to scrumble (a rugby term) a position and an inside track – aimed towards the forthcoming state elections due by June 2016.
Suddenly, everyone is offering a willing ear for the usually ignored and disfranchised petty trader or longhouse dweller. It’s now the in-thing for a candidate to be to be photographed with groups of loosely formed small time businessmen or clansmen at gatherings or at the close of Gawai celebrations.
We have witnessed the jostling for candidature recently – which will go on for some time, until the candidate is picked – between political figures within the political parties here – SUPP vs UPP, SPDP vs Teras, and even among PBB between its veterans and some wannabes.
Opportunistic independents hoping to be spoilers have also prematurely announced their candidacy, picking constituencies where they foresee three- or multi-cornered fights.
All this is not new, and its novelty is fading, after having been practised at so many elections in the past. Many of the more educated, well-read and better experienced voters in our midst have already wised up to the political schemes, selfish dealings and devilish manoeuvrings.
Yet, old habits tend to be hard to break. Here are just a few recent cases:
First, UPP championing the cause of the MJC petty traders and hawkers at the Thursday weekly market, by forcing the Padawan Council (controlled by SUPP) to delay their ‘forced move to a new location’ by six months.
They hope that elections would have been called by the end of the period, falling which they will fight for another extension. At the end of the day, they still have to move. It’s only a delay tactic at best.
The reason behind it all? Both SUPP and UPP are vying for the Batu Kawah state seat, last held by SUPP until an upset win by DAP at the last election in 2011.
Second, longhouse chiefs in the Meradong constituency have apparently been warned by SUPP heads to not entertain UPP members from ‘campaigning’ in their areas. Yes, again another hotbed of possible strong rivalries between UPP and SUPP members is apparent here.
Third, at Engkilili in Sarawak’s Second Division, which used to be a SUPP stronghold, Ngu Ping Siew of UPP opined that the area was “no longer their (SUPP) turf” as the people were very supportive of Dr Johnicol Rayong, who is with United People’s Party (UPP). Ngu accused Sri Aman assemblyman Francis Hardin from SUPP of coming in to disturb them.
Fourth, SPDP’s secretary-general Anthony Nogeh Gumbek said that it was natural for Teras deputy president Peter Nansian, being the incumbent, to insist that he is the most winnable candidate.
But Anthony insisted on stating, “We are saying the seat is traditionally held by SPDP, and it will be given to SPDP as a component of BN. We have winnable candidates too!”
If these examples weren’t enough, it would also appear that PBB itself is split by factions supporting SUPP/SPDP and Teras/UPP.
The state elections is still 11 months away, and as the date in July 2016 creeps nearer one can foresee even more politicking ahead.
It makes for rather lively news reporting, and become a hot topic for coffee shop gossip and speculation. The final say, however, will still come from Adenan Satem, who will, like his predecessor before him, has to make the decisive casting vote as to who will stand and who will be dropped.
And no amount of politicking will matter then.—- Edgar Ong