Would the Bidayuhs be better represented this time?

IT is quite a feat for the small Bidayuh community to have won all its six seats for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the last four state elections since 1996.

And its ability to deliver 100 per cent of the Bidayuh-majority seats, namely Tebedu, Kedup, Tarat, Bengoh, Tasik Biru and Opar also means that the community is now hoping that it would be better represented in the State Cabinet.

Currently, out of the six assemblymen representing the community, only two have been appointed as members of the State Cabinet – Dato Sri Michael Manyin (PBB-Tebedu) as a full minister and Datuk Peter Nansian Ngusie (SPDP-Tasik Biru) as an assistant minister.

And since SUPP has been routed by the opposition by losing 13 out of the 15 of its urban Chinese majority seats, the focus is now on two SUPP assemblymen from the community in the persons of Dr Jerip Susil (Bengoh) and Ranum Mina (Opar).

According to Dr Ahi Sarok, a senior lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations, Unimas, BN would be seen as being fair if it appoints another assemblyman from SUPP as an assistant minister.

“Based on the election result, Dr Jerip should be given the opportunity as he garnered better majority than Ranum,” Ahi told The Borneo Post here yesterday.

Dr Jerip won his seat in a four-cornered fight, where he obtained a majority of 3,646 votes compared to Ranum’s 2,006 majority in a similar fashion in Opar.

Ahi’s argument is valid as both Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh (Bawang Assan) and Datuk Lee Kim Shin Senadin), the only Chinese SUPP candidates to have won their seats, have been retained in the State Cabinet.

On the other hand, SUPP’s two other assemblymen – Datuk Francis Harden (Simanggang) and Dr Johnical Rayong (Engkilili) – are from the Iban community. But since Harden has been given an assistant minister’s portfolio, it is therefore more meaningful and fair if Dr Jerip could be appointed as an assistant minister to give his community a better representation, said Ahi.

Manyin also concurred with Ahi’s view but said that the appointment has to come from the party concerned. On this matter, he stressed that SUPP would have to recommend Dr Jerip to the BN top leadership.

“And it is the prerogative of the Chief Minister to decide whether he would be appointed into the State Cabinet,” Manyin told the media at the handing-over of the Certificate of Practical Completion of DBNA Multi-Purpose hall and the Baruk at DBNA headquarters here Wednesday night.

When contacted, Dr Jerip said he would leave it to his party to decide.

He also said that since he is a BN assemblyman, he also leaves it to the Chief Minister, who is also the state BN chairman, to decide whether he should be considered for an assistant minister’s post.

Interestingly, SUPP’s central working committee (CWC) meeting chaired by Datuk David Teng last Monday decided to recommend its Bumiputera assemblymen as members of the cabinet.

If the reading from the voters were anything to go by, then one of the two Bidayuh SUPP assemblymen should be considered by the state’s BN top leadership. After all, the Bidayuh community has given its 100 per cent support to the ruling coalition, a sign that the community has full trust and confidence in the present BN leadership.

Ahi also said that should the state government decide to appoint either Dr Jerip or Ranum as assistant minister in the state cabinet, it would be a sign that the community’s continued support for BN was much appreciated and reciprocated.

Ahi’s view is strongly supported by Prof Dr Frank Kiong, director of Open University Sarawak Campus, who stressed that with the Bidayuh community’s ability to retain all the six seats for BN, BN leaders should acknowledge them as it shows commitment not only of the Bidayuh leaders but also the community at large.

“Such acknowledgment should be in the form of at least an assistant minister’s post, perhaps from among the SUPP Bidayuh YBs. The Bidayuh cannot be sidelined forever despite the continuous support as failure to acknowledge this could result in better opposition inroad into Bidayuh areas in future elections,” he noted.

Kiong’s concern that the opposition is making inroads in the Bidayuh community is not without basis.

According to a study conducted by Dr Bridget Welsh, an associate professor of Political Science at Singapore Management University, the swing of the Bidayuh voters to the opposition was 17.9 per cent as compared to the 2006 state election results.

In her finding which was published by The Borneo Post yesterday, Welsh pointed out that although there is a growing number of Chinese supporting the opposition in Sarawak, they are not alone as statistics showed that the Chinese swing towards the opposition in the last
state election was comparatively less than that of the other communities.

Besides the Bidayuhs and the Chinese, the swing of votes to the opposition was as follows: the Orang Ulus (20.5 per cent), Malays (18.4 per cent), Ibans (14.2 per cent) and the Chinese (13.4 per cent).

She attributed the swing of votes to the opposition as due to the increasing number of young voters which accounted for 26 per cent of the total voters.

Welsh, who was in Sarawak observing the state election, however said her analysis was drawn from newspaper publication of results thus should be seen as indicators of trends rather than absolutes.

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