Sunday, July 5

Intrigues in eight Bidayuh seats


OF the 11 new state seats, the Bidayuhs have been allocated two, bringing the number of seats for the community to eight – three in Bau-Lundu area, two in Padawan-Penrissen area and the remaining three in Serian area.

The current six Bidayuh seats are Opar, Tasik Biru, Mambong (formerly Bengoh), Tarat, Tebedu and Kedup.

The delineation exercise by the Election Commission this time around is seen as ‘very fair’ by the Bidayuhs who were visibly elated when Chief Minister DatukPatinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem announced that Bukit Semuja in Serian and Serembu in Bau would be allocated to the community.

The logic behind the move is quite simple. The Bidayuhs make up about 10 per cent – approximately 2.6 million – of the state’s total population. So the eight-seat allocation to the community is deemed justifiable as it is also about 10 per cent of the total 82 seats to be contested in the looming state election.

However, after the euphoria subsided, there has beenintense lobbying, right up till today, in the two constituencies – Bukit Semuja and Serembu – over which component party in the ruling coalition should represent the community in the election. With the ongoing impassioned canvassing, the grapevine is suggesting the Chief Minister who is also the state BN chairman, might just field direct BN candidates in the two areas.

This latest twist is not welcomed news to many of the top Bidayuh political leaders who had hoped their nominees would be considered as BN candidates to represent their respective component parties in ruling coalition.

Many of these leaders had also hoped the two new seats would be allocated to Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) as the party is well accepted by the Bidayuh community largely due to the itsstability and strong leadership.

But since Adenan, who is also PBB president, has announced his party could only stake a claim to five of the 11 new seats, the level of anxiety among these Bidayuh leaders, especially from PBB,has begun to soar. And with the recent bombshell announcement by state BN secretary-general Datuk Dr Stephen Rundi Utom that the two new Bidayuh seats would not be allocated to PBB after all, but instead to the other BN component parties, their hopes have taken a knock.

The five new seats confirmed for PBB are Tellian, which is Melanau-majority, the three Malay-majority seats of Kabong, Gedong and Stakan and the Iban-majority seat of Bukit Goram.

So the probability now is quite obvious. Should BN win both Bukit Semuja and Serembu through direct candidates, they will subsequently be allocated to both SUPP-UPP (Sarawak United People’s Party and United People’s Party) and SPDP-Teras(Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party and Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak) respectively.

Of the remaining three new seats, two – Murum and Samalaju – have been allocated to Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and one – Mulu – to SPDP.
Anxious wait for lineup
Among the six Bidayuh incumbent assemblymen, three are from PBB, two from UPP and one from Teras. While the PBB trio – Dato Sri Michael Manyin Jawong (Tebedu), Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn (Tarat) and Martin Ben (Kedup) – have been endorsed by Adenan to defend their respective seats, the other three hopefuls from UPP and Teras are still anxiously awaiting the greenlight from the top BN leadership.

In Tasik Biru Datuk Peter Nansian Ngusie, the Teras deputy president, is facing a stiff competition from Singai SPDP-nominated Dato Henry Harry Jinep for the right to use the BNDacing symbol.

As for the two UPP leaders – Datuk Dr Jerip Susil and Ranum Mina – they will have to wait till the end of the month when Adenan is expected to announce the official BN lineup.

There have also been speculations that in the yet-to-be filled three areas, the BN might want to retain the incumbents to cool down the intense lobbying that has been going on for far too long and could adversely affect the BN as a whole.

Although it is quite normal for potential candidates to lobby for seats, there is, however, every possibility forthemto get carried away and start ‘washing dirty linens’ in public – which could backfire on the BN at the end of the day and givean ‘extra advantage’ to DAP’s Mordi Bimol in Tasik Biru and for other opposition candidates in the other two areas.

But as whole, these six established Bidayuh seats should be safe for BN as there has been obvious development taking place in the areas, especially with the 51 initiatives and policies introduced by Adenan in the last two years since taking over from his predecessor, Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, on Feb 28, 2014.
More intense intrigues
The intrigues now are seen to be more intense in Bukit Semuja and Serembu, which have attracted many potential suitors from both sides of the political divide.

Since there are strong indications a direct BN candidate may be fielded in Bukit Semuja,at least two prominent individuals have emerged as potential front runners.

One is said to be a government administrative officer named John Ilus, in his 50s, and currently based inSerian District Office, while the other is a well-known radiologist Dr Eric Marcel Munjan, in his late 60s, who is also the first Bidayuh from Serian to qualify as a medical doctor.

Joining the fray is former Kedup assemblyman Datuk Frederick Bayoi Manggi, who has made no secret of his intention to go all out for the kill after resigning as a PBB member.

There are also speculations both DAP and PKR might join in the fray but recent talks between the two peninsular-based opposition parties suggest they might have reached a compromise to allow PKR’s Reginald Abel instead to take on the BN. Such a move will allow Serian DAP chief Edward Andrew Luak to concentrate on Kedup. So in all probability, there could be a four-corner fight in Bukit Semuja.

As for the Serembu seat, it has also attracted many suitors,being ‘ripe for the picking’, especially among the BN component parties which all feel they have a definite edge.

Among the apparent first choices are SPDP strongman Dato Anthony Abang, a businessman, whom the party believes has the upper hand since the seat is an SPDP stronghold.

Then again, there is a former high-ranking police officer Datuk Peter Nyomek Nyeap, a favourite son of the people in the area, who could play spoiler. Speculations have it that even Serian Resident Dahim Nadot is a keen contender as he will be retiring soon.

With the date for the announcement of the BN candidates drawing near, lobbying in these two seats – Bukit Semuja and Serembu – has intensified in tandem.

But the latest twist for both Bukit Semuja and Serembu seats has confirmed earlier speculations when Adenan revealed to the audience at meet-the-people session at Kampung Rasau, Serian that he would choose the candidates for the two new seats before nomination day, after the dissolution of DUN.

He emphasised that before he made his decision on the two candidates, he would consult top Bidayuh political leaders to ensure that two candidates he picked would have their blessings, and thus, to ensure their victory in their respective seats.

Adenan’s rationale was to prevent political bickering from among the BN component parties in wanting the two seats.

Thus, the decision of the chief minister would augur well for the Bidayuh community, as rightly pointed out by their paramount chief Temenggong Austin Dimin, that the top BN leadership should pick the best candidates for these two new seats, and for the three incumbents and the three candidates to be picked for the three established Bidayuh seats, to continue with their fine performances as a team so that the people will continue to enjoy maximum benefits from the Chief Minister’s Rural Transformation Programme over the next five years.