Friday, March 22

The Teras delimma


Lian Cheng

THE sudden decision to switch to the newly-formed Teras party by former SPDP president Tan Sri William Mawan and former SUPP Sibu chief Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh must have opened a crack in the hitherto tight-knit State Barisan Nasional (BN) which has not seen its component party leaders defecting nor any new party applying to join the coalition for a long time.

The crack was even more apparent the next day when a Teras delegation, led by Mawan and Wong, paid a courtesy call on state BN chairman and Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan who had responded positively to feelers from the Teras group to join BN.

“They have come to give me an assurance they have always been with BN, are now with BN and will continue to be with BN. I’m grateful for this clarification so that there will be no doubts raised over the matter.

“We welcome them (Teras), their support and will make the necessary arrangements when the need arises,” Adenan said.

It appears Mawan had played a strong hand with his move to Teras. He had the support from a deck of 11 elected representatives – a fact that could not be ignored by the state BN leadership against the backdrop a changing political landscape that requires perspicacious evaluating and handling.

Admittedly, at this stage, the move by Mawan appears tactically brilliant.

Although Adenan may interpret his statement on “welcoming Teras” in his own way, there is nothing to stop others, including the media, from speculating that he has given a tacit “yes” for the new party to join BN.

Events over the past week seem to suggest there is now a crack in the state BN big enough to allow Teras to sneak in.

With 11 of the total state assembly members on board, no one should expect Adenan to pass the new party off with mere cursory interest.

In terms of political alignment, there was apparently more to the courtesy call than meets the eye, especially when it comes with a strong pledge of allegiance and loyalty attached. Admittedly, it must be hard not to take cognisance of such a spontaneous show of unstinting support.

While many parties had tried and failed in their attempts to join BN, for Teras, it appears patently smooth sailing, at least for now.

But is such optimism premature? For one, the other BN component parties – SUPP, PRS and SPDP – must be viewing the unfolding development with a sense of foreboding. With hackles raised, they surely are not going to welcome Teras into the fold with open arms.

Already, they all have raised their objections which should not have come as any big surprise since the leaders of Teras – except for Pelagus state assemblyman George Lagong – are considered as “estranged” from their former parties that gave them the leg-up to political prominence.

There have been calls for them to quit the seats they won under SPDP and SUPP tickets in the last election. The contention is that these seats were allocated by BN to their former parties based on mutual agreement and acceptance.

The seats were won for BN on the platform of their former parties.

And since the “estranged” leaders have “defected” to a new party that is outside BN, the call is for them to do the right thing by handing the seats back to their former parties as a matter of principle.

Teras’ bid to join BN is expected to continue drawing sharp objections from the BN component parties concerned.

The new party also has a major hurdle to clear before it can be admitted into BN. Consensus among the four state BN component parties is the key to untie the admittance knot.

But this is unlikely to happen unless Adenan or national BN chairman Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak decides to push the issue through in total disregard of the discontent of the component party leaders.

Technically, it is impossible for BN to accommodate another party, especially when there are so many overlapping seats involved.

If Teras is admitted now, it will be chaotic for BN come the next state election. Teras will be fighting on three, if not, four, fronts against the BN component parties. It could be a messy affair.

With BN overall well-being at stake, Teras, at best, will be just a BN-friendly party. From a closer look, the fissure that appeared in the four-party BN framework, as a result of Teras “joining BN” overtures, may well turn out to be just a shadow of the heavy lock that can be opened only from the inside.

Whether Teras will be admitted to BN or just survive on its own will depend on how well it fares in the next state election scheduled in 2016 but can be pushed forward a year (2015) if Adenan calls a snap polls to discard the “extraneous baggage” and give the state BN a new and fresh start.

In fact, the survivals of crisis-ridden SUPP and SPDP will also depend on their electoral performance in the coming polls.

The 2016 state election could alter the configuration of the state BN. For Teras, possibly an admission ticket into BN if it put up a creditable showing, while for the other component parties, a continued presence in the coalition if they passed the test.

So the end result – if things go according to random calculations – will be five component parties making up the state BN instead of the present four.

Notably, before Teras can reach a stage where it will face off with the other BN component parties, the new party may have to settle its own problems first.

The issue already creating tension concerns the lineup of its office-bearers. Made up of strange bedfellows, the new party will have its work cut out in naming a lineup that is readily embraced by politicians whose “defections” from the former parties were due pre-dominantly to leadership disputes.

Even at the very onset, Teras was already a timebomb dominated by three distinct factions – G4 (used to be G5 until Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe dropped out after losing the 13th general election), led by Datuk Peter Nansian and including Datuk Sylvester Entrie, Rosey Yunus, Paulus Palo); the former SUPP group, led by Dato’ Sri Wong Soon Koh and including Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, Dr Johnical Rayong and Ranum Mina, and the group of Mawan which includes George Lagong and Anyie Ngau.

Initially, Teras itself was a vehicle created by G4 to park themselves in case of any eventuality in SPDP.

It was set up to fight Mawan but was later hijacked by him (as his own vehicle) to accommodate the rest.

Will G4 submit to Mawan after the protracted feud between them while they were still in SPDP? This is a question on most people’s lips.

The other question is why should Soon Koh, a senior minister, let others such as Mawan and G4 decide his political direction and future?

All the factions in Teras are actually now a very powerful entity in their own right. One does not have any bigger say than the other.

How the Teras power game will pan out remains to be seen. While appearing to be cruising now, the new party may, in reality, be just starting to sail into uncharted deep waters.