Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weather forecast: Tsunami in Sarawak to sweep BN away

A political tsunami is expected to rock Sarawak in the impending elections as Chief Minister Taib Mahmud’s dirty linen has been washed in public too many times for voters to ignore.

“The rakyat are responding well to us. We are confident we will at least deny BN a two-thirds majority – at least 36 seats. The news of Taib’s squandering, the Bible issue and the Penan rapes will not go down well for him during the elections,” PKR MP for Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin told Malaysia Chronicle.

The candidate set to contest against Taib himself in his stronghold is a woman, whom Zuraida said she hopes will put Taib to shame for his “rotten” treatment of ladies. She referred to the Chief Minister’s treatment of a female candidate in the previous election, where his bodyguards tried to physically block her.

Apart from the political slap in the face such a move was meant to be, PKR leaders also said it was meant pre-empt any undue and overly-harshly harassment against the Pakatan candidate by Taib and his men.

“We hope Taib will be more circumspect when he and his gang campaign against our candidate. If he wants to be rough and resort to violence, that’s his problem but we warn him it will backfire and expose him even more as a dark force that Sarawakians must reject at all costs,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.

Riding the wave of anger
The anger of people over land issues among other things gives this elections an upbeat atmosphere said Pakatan’s Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh.

“Sarawakians are very angry with Taib, mostly over land issues and this puts BN in a very tight spot. For Pakatan, we are riding on the wave of the best elections mood so far,” said Fuziah.

However, they have to watch out for BN’s tactic of offering goodies to voters, especially those from semi-rural and rural areas.

Sarawak voters who were mostly below the poverty line are very dependent on the financial aid given to them and susceptible to BN’s tactics. BN might even be willing, to amend policies, to make the hopeful she said, adding this campaign proves to be a challenge for the Opposition as the duration is very short and logistics are tough.

“The Ibans and Dayaks are very loyal people. They will not ride on boats bearing BN flags to transport them to polling stations if they are Pakatan supporters. Since it is very difficult for us to get our boats inside, they will wait and wait until elections are over,” she quipped.

According to Fuziah, sentiments are high but it was difficult, to translate sentiments to votes, to predict how Pakatan will perform this season.

Machang MP Saifuddin Nasution said PKR will be announcing the seat allocations and the 10 to 12 focus areas, which it considers to be winnable. The identity of Taib’s contender will be confirmed, today, in the presence of PKR top guns in Kuching.

“They think they can fool people, especially those who live in the rural areas in Sarawak because of their poor living conditions. But what now, the relevant issue, related to these people is the land exploitation,” he told Malaysia Chronicle.

This was said in reference to Nazri Aziz’s comments that handouts and goodies in the form of financial assistance, to voters during elections cannot be considered as corruption. He has never before seen such a blatant misuse of government funding, Saifuddin said.

Tipping the scale for BN
Known to be the largest electorate in the state, Dayak voters accounted for 41 percent or 401,716 registered voters, followed by Chinese voters at 31 percent (303,737) and Malay/Melanau at 28 percent (274,343), it would be interesting to know if the Dayak will tip the scale in favour of Sarawak BN with the dirty laundry that is being washed.

As the smallest number, the Melanau was given the chance to lead when the Dayak was the one who should have led the state. Being rural voters, the Dayak community, is a challenge for the Opposition to break from the BN and get them to favour them. Thus far they have held 29 seats from the 71 state constituencies.

Having a loyal mindset they feel let down on the extent to which the government was able to develop rural projects and settling their traditional rights, which will determine the loyalty votes.

Political analysts believe BN would be able to retain most of the seats but in some areas it would find it difficult to defend the seats due to the delay in providing the much needed development in an area.

The Opposition could also play up the thorny native customary rights like the NCR land title ownership, to convince the people but it maybe too difficult for them. Some areas like Ba”kelalan, Balai Ringin or even Kedup are the “grey” areas the BN was predicted to have a tough time. Effective strategy to win the hearts and minds of the people had been providing clean water, tarred roads and electricity supply, now read as the Internet, to connect the towns and villages.

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) senior political science lecturer Dr Ahi Sarok told Bernama “It is safe for me to say that in some areas, the opposition will make significant inroads but not enough to win and in some Dayak-majority areas, the majority will be reduced.”

As far as the NCR land issue was concerned, he said, the question was whether the land owners were being paid compensation by the government based on the market value, including the Bidayuh villagers affected by the Bengoh dam project near here.

Dr Ahi said the issuance of NCR land titles on areas not affected by land acquisition for development purposes would have some positive impact, especially among the state BN coalition while the opposition might exploit the provisional native customary rights (NCR) land lease issue to their own advantage.

For Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association (SDGA) president Dusit Jusit, “Land issue is the heart of all issues.” A lot of rationalisation needed to be done depending on how effective both sides could penetrate these affected areas to resolve and rectify the issue.

It is commonly known the Sarawak Land Ordinance was utilised under the reason of development for the state government to seize, NCR land and allow companies to carry out plantation projects and logging related activities without the owners permission. However, Taib’s leadership did take measure to implement the perimeter survey for NCR land under the New NCR Initiative of the Tenth Malaysia Plan (10MP).

“Sentiment is one thing but translating it into votes is another thing,” Dusit, adding the people were better educated nowadays besides having access to information.

The youth was exposed to the world, where a lot of self and national developments motivated people globally especially in the political sphere. This bodes well for them to make informed decision when it comes time to exercise the right of freedom, to vote according to their conscience and liking.

Nominations have been set for April 6, and polling on April 16. The dissolved Sarawak state legislative assembly has 71 seats with BN winning 63 seats through Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) (35), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) (12), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) (8) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) (8).

Opposition party DAP has six seats while Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM) account for one each. – Malaysia Chronicle

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