Tuesday, March 19

SUPP and political territorial imperative

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ARISTOTLE once wrote that man is a political animal. By extension then, politicians and their political parties in our system of parliamentary democracy are strange beasts indeed.

Thanks to the study and research of many anthropologists, we know now that in the animal kingdom, lone or herd animals are driven by their instinct for territorial imperative for their survival.

They need a certain size of territory in their natural habitat to provide enough food for their survival. They will claim and defend their territory to their death. The competition for territory and mates has been the chief source of violent conflict in the natural world.

In the case of many herd animal species, the territorial imperative is particularly strong on the part of the Alpha Male, who must fight to defend his turf from other competing males, so he can enjoy exclusive access to the many females in the herd.

Human beings are also social animals. We too share many characteristics with other animals in nature, and human groups are often engaged in turf war. This is particularly obvious in the political domain.

Politicians and their political parties need their electoral territory to survive. In Malaysia and Sarawak, where coalition politics is the norm, partner parties of the same political coalition resorts to the         press to mobilise public opinions to their cause of grabbing more political territory.

In the case of the Pakatan Rakyat in Sarawak, the DAP, PAS, and PKR have been rocking the media airwaves about how many seats they want to contest in the next state general election. The number of seats they claim to want to contest looks preposterously unrealistic. They are just probably jostling for the best deal in subsequent negotiation among themselves.

In Peninsular Malaysia, MCA is going to hold their extraordinary general meeting on Oct 10, to decide whether party president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Kiat or suspended deputy president Dr Chua Soi Lek will become the Alpha Male of the party to reign supreme in the entire MCA territory nationwide.

As the Chinese saying goes, one mountain cannot accommodate two tigers simultaneously.

In Sarawak, the press has been filled with pages and pages of verbal wrestling over the formation of the SUPP Dudong branch.

Many acrimonious verbal missiles have been hurled onto the front pages of the Sarawak Chinese newspapers daily, providing much entertainment to the Chinese readers across the entire state.

Now, the SUPP is mulling over the possibility of holding an extraordinary general meeting to allow all the delegates from throughout Sarawak to settle the issue once and for all.

This divisive crisis has been brewing and festering beneath the surface for a long time. There have been various attempts for SUPP party leaders to mediate between the two factions led by Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh and Datuk Dr Soon Choon Teck respectively. Apparently, a middle way acceptable to both belligerent parties has not been found, and the heat of the battle is gaining temperature by the day.

Now, the open conflict              is beginning to suck in SUPP factions from other parts of Sarawak. We outsiders who do not know the power-brokering and the tactical manoeuvres behind the scene can only speculate.

The up-coming EGM is shaping up to be more than just about the formation of the Dudong branch. It is working out to a showdown between competing groups to determine who shall be the SUPP Alpha Male when the current president Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan retires in the foreseeable future.

It is still a turf war, a huge conflict triggered by who has the right to form Dudong branch in the first place. Political territorial imperative drives the factional leaders to lay claim over control of territories, because the more territory they have, the better their chance to position for dominant power within the SUPP.

The media is all too happy to give the various parties an airing, because confrontation and conflict are the primary stuff of news that sells. The people love to read such news because it is like watching a furious cockfight and betting on the ‘manok’ of their choice.

Of course, in the end, after the EGM is over, the minority should accept the decision of the majority, and the victor should respect the vanquished.

But it does not always work that way in Malaysia and Sarawak.

Usually, in an internal crisis, the winner takes all the political territories and the losers are marginalised to the wilderness, waiting to sabotage their own party candidates in the next general election.

The SUPP has lost much electoral territory to the DAP in the 2006 general election. If they cannot heal their deep wound after the proposed EGM, and embark on reconciliation effort, their future on the Sarawak political stage will indeed be grim.

They really have to control and check their natural impulse for territorial imperative.