Monday, June 24

The Adenan factor casts a long shadow


THE leader is happy with the performance of #TeamAdenan in the first three days of campaigning.

He looks calmer than when he first led the BN vanguard into the Balingian by-election within two months after assuming the Chief Ministership.

In Balingian, he looked tired and anxious. That was the first electoral battle to gauge how he would be accepted by the people. Balingian was the fortress of the previous Chief Minister.

In a meet-the-people session at this coastal town, not far from Mukah in the Central Region, he was humorous, eliciting much laughter and cheer with some mirthful raillery.

And magically, that down-to-earth wittism warmed the people to him – crucially so at a time when he had no progress report to show them and had been bombarded by the locals for the lack of development and the heaps of outstanding wishes, as highlighted by the media.

In that first polling battle, he was also trying to patch up the two factions in the predominantly Chinese Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP).

At a function organised by the Chinese community, he steamrolled through to assemble Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh and Datuk Peter Chin (SUPP president then) for a “pow wow” on stage.

He won convincingly in Balingian – without a glossy report card but just his sincerity. The BN candidate Yussibnosh Balo, a former Dalat District Officer, polled  8,194 votes to win with a majority of 6,911 over his Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) opponent Abdul Jalil Bujang who got 1,283 votes.

Two years on, in his first ever State election as Sarawak BN leader, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem looks more confident and at ease going into the May 7 polls on the back of his 53 Sarawak-first initiatives and people-friendly policies.

And all these despite the fact that in the past two years, efforts to heal the rifts between two BN component parties – SUPP and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) – and their offshoots – United People’s Party (UPP) and Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras) – had taken up a large portion of his time.

The 11th State election kicks off in a week’s time with a record number of candidates – 228, including 35 independents. And notably different from the previous one in 2011 where every seat was contested, there are two “unopposed” victories this time around. Seven political parties are vying for the 80 seats at stake – BN comprising Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), SUPP, Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and SPDP, and six from the opposition – Democratic Action Party (DAP), PKR, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), Parti Amanah Negera (PAN), State Reform Party (STAR) and  Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) Baru.

The fielding of direct BN candidates and a large number of independents in the fray is unique to the State’s body politic. Geographical and racial make-ups of the State are among the reasons for this trend although division and frustrations in individual parties instigated by rejected hopefuls, can cause the aggrieved aspirants to go it alone.

So what is going to be come May 7?

DAP, contesting in 31 seats, is hoping to double its numbers in the State Legislative Assembly from the present 14 comprising all urban Chinese seats to 28 with hopes of making inroads to the rural areas.

PKR which is known among Sarawakians in its fight for the rights of all races especially the indigenous people is looking to retain its three seats (one urban, two rural) and humbly regards anything more as a bonus despite going for 40 seats.

BN has said it could win 70 seats before the nomination. Now, a week into the campaign, Adenan has said “more than 70 seats”. The vast land area and scattered population do give #TeamAdenan the advantage of “safe seats.”

In the rural areas, the party’s symbol is far more magnetic than the traits of the individuals standing under its ticket. Only when the stance of the party is not clear-cut and cogent will the politics of charisma come into play.

Adenan, a former journalist, has done his homework well. With SUPP and SPDP plagued with internal problems, he sees the need to depend on personalities to draw the votes in some constituencies.

This is where he – with an over 80 per cent popularity rate among all the races – stands out. In all the posters, Adenan is seen with the BN candidate, heralded, in print, with a big shout of #TeamAdenan.

At the former DUN building, for three consecutive nights, he hosted members of the press to simple dinners and thereafter, spent time answering questions from the journalists.

One journalist remarked on the second night: “How smart, journalists will be here and won’t be able to go to the ceremahs.”

Another responded with a quick repartee: “No, this is a smart way to immediately address issues raised by the opposition.”

Yet another chimed in: “He can also enlighten the media on the items he wants to highlight to strengthen his team.”

In fact, journalists at the opposition’s ceremah were texting to their colleagues on the issues raised while the latter were fielding questions to Adenan and the Chief Minister was able to address the issues on the spot.

One of them is status of independent candidates vis-à-vis BN membership and Adenan was firm they would not be accepted into the BN fold even if elected.

He categorised independent candidates under four groups – the frustrated ones, the sponsored ones, the genuine ones and the ones who wanted to be bought.

“Having been in politics for so long, I have noticed there are the genuine independent candidates but they know they can’t do anything even if they win. So they hope to be taken into BN thereafter,” he said.

He could have been referring to PBB Supreme Council member Watson Bangau standing in Bawang Assan and former UPP member Liu Thian Leong in Batu Kawah.

Adenan has shown his sincerity in addressing big and small issues that affect the people with the implementation of his 53 initiatives, that is beneficial to all races. He has also shown in his team manifesto what he intends to do in the next five years. It’s the Adenan way.

The opposition parties have also launched their manifestos. Besides the printed comprehensive report card and forward plans of Batu Lintang incumbent, voters are yet to receive any report cards from the other former assembly members.

Candidates could talk about their performances in ceremahs, but nothing could be more real than a report card in hand for evaluation and records.

It’s a tough decision without the report card – I have my postal vote in hand. Yes, journalists have the privilege to go for postal voting!

Every election, I remember this tweet from my favourite author Max Lucado: “If God chooses only righteous people to change the world, you could count them all on one finger.”

It is a choice between two imperfect governments to be or two or three imperfect candidates. Who is the lesser evil, the less corrupt and the less incompetent – could be a guide.

And, an equally important guide is who is less racist. Even #TeamAdenan could be seen as racist when a suggestion to have Chinese DCM to look after Chinese interest was dropped at a ceremah! Racism is not #AdenanWay, Yes? No?