SERIAN: Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem is prepared to become Sarawak United Peoples’ Party’s (SUPP) first non-Chinese president if he is elected at the party’s next Triennial Delegates Conference in December.
Stating that he is willing to take up the post for the sake of party unity, the five-term Serian MP clarified that all this would only happen if the majority of SUPP members are willing to break the barrier by electing a non-Chinese as party president.
“The question whether I’m willing to stand as president does not arise for me at the moment. A lot of people have been calling me up and some branches have been openly supportive of me if I were to stand for the president’s post.
“However, let us be realistic. Since the majority of SUPP members are Chinese, the president should be Chinese as well, as we should go for the majority,” Riot, who is also SUPP central working committee member, told reporters when met at the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Pasir Parish Council Fellowship dinner here on Sunday.
Based on media reports, SUPP treasurer Datuk David Teng and deputy secretary-general Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, who is Second Finance Minister, were touted to contest for the president’s post.
Saying that he was strongly against the idea of a contest, Riot suggested that they should go for a consensus, whereby if Wong (also Bawang Assan assemblyman) were to vie for the president’s post, Teng should give way and go for the deputy president’s post or vice-versa.
“SUPP is already in trouble, trouble in the sense that we were given 19 seats in the last state election and lost 13. Of the six we won, four were Bumiputera-majority areas. Whether we like it or not, there will be more internal fighting that will lead to more breakage if we have two contenders for the post.
“The situation means that SUPP might lose out more in the parliamentary election. If this is the case, then I for one, would not come in,” stressed Riot.
When asked on the logic that if SUPP president were a Chinese, it should follow that the deputy be a Bumiputera to reflect the bigger number of Bumiputera seats the party has in the State Legislative Assembly, Riot fully agreed to it and said it was worth considering.
Notwithstanding the mess the party is in now, he hopes that the situation would not affect his Serian parliamentary constituency.
“We have to work very hard. I’m a man on the ground. Even if you are confident, you must still go to the ground. Being deputy foreign minister which requires a lot of travel, I will make it a point to see the people,” he said, pointing out that he had just covered a trip to four continents before arriving in the state last week and that jet lag should not be an excuse for not attending functions and meeting the people.
He added: “If the people still want me, then I will continue to serve. Otherwise I will call it a day.”