Friday, January 21

Who would YOU be voting for come Dec 18?

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Election Commission workers prepare items such as voting booth’s partitions and ballot boxes, ahead of the Dec 18 Sarawak state polls. — Bernama photo

Edgar Ong

THE election is a very exciting event – it only occurs once every five years for both the federal and the state governments to face the electorate and to either renew their mandate (for the political parties in power), or to upset and topple the old government and form a new government.

It is our, registered voters’, only chance to make our votes count, our voice heard and our support or disapproval recognised.

Come this time next week, on Saturday – Dec 18, 2021, all 1,252,014 registered voters (recorded as at Dec 6, 2021) in Sarawak will be eligible to cast their votes for 82 members of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN).

Although the constitutional amendment to lower the voting age and enforce the automatic voter registration was gazetted on Nov 25, 2021, the government had decided not to enforce it.

At the dissolution of the 18th DUN Sarawak on Nov 3, 2021, there were 70 government members from the various parties namely PBB, SUPP, PRS, PDP, and friendly Independents; and 12 opposition members from the DAP, PKR, PSB.

How would these numbers change after Dec 18?

It is neither my desire in this column to put forth any political analysis, nor to expound on or do a critical piece on either supporting continuity by voting in the present group of people, or to upset and overthrow the status quo. For that, we have the likes of critiques like Prof James Chin, one of the best political analysts of the Sarawak (and overall, Malaysian) political scene whom I know. He’s a good friend and I always follow and appreciate his well-thought out and heavily researched pieces of political opinions – he doesn’t mince his words and most of the time, he tends to upset most politicians, by simply telling them the truth, or the truth as he sees it! I am usually in agreement with his views, which can sometimes be rather harsh and outrageous!

My column today seeks to give only my own very personal take on this particular 19th Sarawak state election; and at the end of it, give an endorsement and support for a handful of candidates who are known to me personally – of course hoping and urging you, if you’re a voter, to vote for them if you are in their respective constituencies!

I’ve always been very interested in politics! In 1971, the day I had reached my 21st birthday, I made a beeline to register myself as a voter at the SUPP headquarters in Kuching. I come from a highly visible political family – my eldest uncle, the late Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui, had together with a few others founded the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) in 1959. I was only nine then, but if I were older than 21, I would have joined as a member.

It was actually rather strange that I had never actually become a member of SUPP – I suppose by the 1970s and 1980s I was so deeply involved in my career in marketing and management that I didn’t have the time, and indeed, although I was still very much into politics, it never made much personal impact on my life and those around me.

Later in life, I had two missed chances of joinin SUPP; once in late 1970 when approached by the late Tan Sri Stephen Yong (then, the party’s president) to be his protégé with a view of becoming active in party politics in Kuching branch. The timing was off as I had recently become a father and had wanted to devote myself to family life.

The second time was when Datuk Song Swee Guan, my dear friend and mentor, was the Speaker of the House in 1988; at age 38, I thought I was ready to enter politics and I had gone to consult and seek his advice. What he told me was most disheartening then, and in many ways, still true today. He had opined that in order to make any headway and progress within the party hierarchy, one would need to be bilingual, with Mandarin being the lingua-franca of the party.

It seemed to him then that those who were English educated were almost always sidelined and ignored – the party’s strength, it had seemed to him then, was in its overall ‘reverse sinophobia’.

So that had put paid to my initiatives to join any political party.

For a great many years after Swee Guan had exited from the party, and with the other incoming presidents – from Wong Soon Kai to Dr George Chan, to Peter Chin – I had lost all interest in any semblance of support for the party itself as in my view, it had veered vastly from its founders’ vision and political ideals. It was only in 2014 when Prof Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian became the president that I had regained my faith and began to return and support the party again – after I’ve seen the sheer sincerity and trustworthiness in the man and the fact that he was the real stuff – a genuine, down-to-earth workaholic who’d never say no or give up the fight. He’s indeed his father’s son!

In my years in the wilderness in politics, I had taken a fancy to firstly DAP and then PKR – to this day I am still a fanboy of both Lim Kit Siang and Anwar Ibrahim; I believe that both of them are true statesmen and only have the country’s interest in their lifelong fight. Of course it has never been Kit Siang’s wish to ever be PM, but to have seen his son Guan Eng briefly become the Finance Minister must have been a dream realised, no matter how briefly the tenure was! I can only wish Anwar the very best, but I truly believe that his star has dimmed.

In next week’s state election I do not expect anything spectacular to happen, not like what we had seen at the last general election with so many upsets and the formation of a 20-month-old PH government at the federal level.

I also have told myself not to expect the typical Sarawak voters to have woken up or come to their senses or to change their past umpteen years’ habit of accepting momentary gains or promises in exchange for five more years of the ‘same-old, same-old’.

However, I can feel in my gut that there will indeed be quite a number of upsets too – especially from PSB, a party which to me has all the possibilities of making a difference – they will find massive support in some pockets of strongholds where personalities — and deep pockets — hold sway, as well as the usual 25 per cent of protest votes from the non-Muslim Bumiputera voters.

As in every past state election, there will be the hardcore block of roughly one-third supporters who will vote along party lines; the second block of another one-third to vote for the personality or the candidate due to reasons of friendship or relation; leaving the final block who’d be casting their protest votes and the sway votes – whosoever the candidate can ensure his ‘momentary happiness’ or ‘sweet promises’. Unfortunately, they will be the ones who will decide who wins.

I’ll be voting in the Padungan state constituency; I had previously voted for DAP – this time around, I will vote for my good friend Dato Wee Hong Seng of SUPP-GPS. Hong Seng is a long-time and very close family friend and I’ve seen and recognised his good work. I also urge all Batu Kawah voters to vote for Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian as he deserves to win big, and I give him my fullest support.

For voters in Batu Lintang, I am endorsing See Chee How of PSB; he has done well and will continue to serve his electorate for as long as he can. In Ba Kelalan, I endorse Baru Bian of PSB – he too is a true statesman and I see a very bright future in the man.

Finally, I have a good friend in Joe Jinggut, who is standing in Bukit Goram in Kapit under the DAP banner. Joe is a long-time friend and has proven himself to be an extremely effective administrator in his former post as Kapit District Chairman.

As you can judge from my five endorsements, I am not a party man. I support friends and those whom I view as capable, honest, efficient and hardworking, and who can and will make a real difference — if YOU VOTE THEM IN.

Be sure to go out and cast your precious vote this coming Dec 18!