Saturday, January 22

‘Allowing Bersatu to contest in state polls may backfire on GPS’

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KUCHING: Any decision to allow Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) to field candidates in the next state election would reflect very badly on the state’s ruling coalition Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), said political analyst Prof James Chin.

He said such a move, if materialised, could precipitate federal interference in the running of state affairs.

“GPS always says it stands for ‘Sarawak First’, but if it allows Bersatu to stand, it means that it is allowing the federal side to interfere in local Sarawak politics.

“Secondly, if GPS allows Bersatu to stand, other parties like Umno would want to come in as well. They may say: ‘If Bersatu is allowed to come in, why can’t you let us in?’.

“The other parties would follow Bersatu and this would open the floodgates,” he said when contacted yesterday, adding that should this happen, the influx of political parties from Peninsular Malaysia would ‘muddy the waters’ even further.

Chin was asked to comment on news reports quoting GPS parliamentary whip Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof as saying that GPS would have some understanding with Bersatu and look into how it could accommodate the latter in the next state election.

Fadillah had said that the final stand by GPS on its understanding with Bersatu in facing the state election would be announced by GPS chairman, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He pointed out that GPS, comprising Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), would definitely contest all 82 seats in the next state polls.

“We (GPS) will have all our candidates for all the state and parliamentary seats in Sarawak, but there will be some understanding with Bersatu.

“We will look into how we can accommodate them (Bersatu).

“It is not for me (to decide), but the final stand will be (announced) by the Chief Minister (Abang Johari),” Fadillah was quoted as saying by Bernama after attending a ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ programme recently.

The next state election is expected to be held after the current nationwide Emergency is lifted this Aug 1.

Bersatu holds one state seat through Krian assemblyman Datuk Ali Biju, who won as a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) candidate back in the 2016 elections.

Ali, who is also Saratok MP and a federal deputy minister, had joined the group led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali – who quit PKR during the country’s political crisis in February last year – before joining Bersatu in August.

Besides Ali, Puncak Borneo MP Datuk Willie Mongin also quit PKR for Bersatu – currently, he is a federal deputy minister.

Meanwhile, Chin cautioned that accommodating Bersatu would provide the opposition with more ammunition to attack GPS in the state election.

He believed that the move by the Bersatu-led federal government to appeal against the High Court’s decision on the use of the word ‘Allah’ by the Christians would be ‘a big election issue among the Dayak community’.

“I think a lot of Sarawakians would be unhappy if Bersatu came in with GPS’ blessing.

“I would have thought that it would be quite easy for Abang Johari to actually tell Bersatu to stay out of Sarawak because PN (Perikatan Nasional) would actually need the 18 seats or MPs from Sarawak to stay in power,” he said.

Chin also recalled that during Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud’s era as the Chief Minister of Sarawak, there was a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with then-prime minister TunDr Mahathir Mohamad for Umno and other Barisan Nasional parties from the peninsula, to stay out of Sarawak politics.

“Should Bersatu or any other PN parties win a state seat in Sarawak, they would probably ask for more seats, especially with the parliamentary election also expected to be held soon.

“Being the ruling party at federal level, Bersatu could be the biggest threat to PBB in Sarawak,” he said.