Sarawak party joins Pakatan

SNAP, initially a component member of the Barisan, was expelled from the coalition in 2004 and had contested in subsequent general elections (in 2004 and 2008) and state election (in 2006) as an opposition party.

Malaysian Mirror

The Sarawak Nasional Party makes it four for the Pakatan Rakyat coalition in the state.

It is learnt that SNAP leaders have joined forces with their compatriots in DAP, the PKR and PAS to beef up the alternative coalition in Sarawak, in preparation for the upcoming state elections.

At the last general election in March 2008, the three peninsula-based parties, despite different political idologies, had worked on a pact to avoid contesting against each other and to only go for straight fights against the ruling Barisan Nasional.

The strategy worked and the alternative coalition, which also rode on a crest of disenchantment against the Barisan, managed to slice the ruling party’s two third majority in Parliament as well wrest control of four state governments  –  Penang, Selangor, Perak and Kedah – besides retaining its hold on Kelantan.

Perak has since returned to the Barisan fold following defections by three elected state representatives from Pakatan parties. 

Started as Dayak party

SNAP was formed in Betong in April 1961, the third party to be formed after the  Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and the Parti Negara Sarawak (PANAS), to open the way for the Dayaks’ active involvement in state affairs.

Two years later, it accepted non-Dayaks and many Chinese and Malay politicians joined the party to make it a multi-racial entity.

In August  1962, a new party came into being to cater for the Ibans. The founders of  the party , which was known as Parti Pesaka Anak Sarawak (PESAKA) had refused to join SNAP.

PANAS and PESAKA later merged with another  party, Barisan Rakyat Jati Sarawak (BARJASA), to form Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) which is, today, the most influential party in the state and headed by Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

The PBB, along with the SUPP, the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) and the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), form the current Barisan ruling coalition in the state.

Political parties in Sarawak, from both sides of the political divide, have all taken the guise of multi-racial parties with members drawn from all major and minority groups in the state.

SNAP, initially a component member of the Barisan, was expelled from the coalition in 2004 and had contested in subsequent general elections (in 2004 and 2008) and state election (in 2006) as an opposition party. 

Pakatan unity dinner

The party’s allegiance to the Pakatan was made public at a unity dinner  here on Saturday night,  which saw its leaders sitting together with state leaders of the DAP, PKR and PAS.

It was the first time that SNAP and the three major components of the Pakatan grouping were involved in a major opposition event in Sarawak.

PKR strategic diredtor Tian Chua, in welcoming the inclusion of SNAP in the alliance, said the time was ripe for the people to make changes to counter problems that had surfaced under the Barisan administration.

In Sarawak, parliamentary and the state elections are not held at the same time, as is the standard practice elsewhere in the country.

Thus, the people of Sarawak go to the polls more often than fellow-Malaysians in other states – every two to three years. So, the political campaigning actually never stops.

For instance, at the last general election in 2008, only parliamentary seats  – 31 of them – were up for grabs.

The 71 state seats will be decided at the next state polls, which is due in 2011.

Speculations, however, had been rife lately that Taib, who is president of the powerful PBB party, may go for early polls. This could happen by the middle of this year.

The question of CM

Should there be snap polls, a pertinent question would arise – as it had in previous polls – will the next state election see the last of the serving CM?

According to some political observers, Taib will certainly step down this time.

They said he has, after all, summoned his politician son, Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, to return home to Sarawak to be groomed as the next chief minister.

Furthermore, they said, following the death of his wife, Lalila Taib, last April, the CM is no longer in the mood to continue his political career.

In paying tribute to Laila during their 50th wedding anniversary celebration in January 2009, Taib had said she was his pillar of strength and source of inspiration.

“I must acknowledge that it is not easy for any woman to be a politician’s wife. Laila has played a major part in making my life very bearable,” he reportedly said.

Governor next for Taib?

Should he step down after naming his successor,  Taib would still continue to be an importtant figure in Sarawak. The way it is done in the state, a retired chief minister is likley to be appointed the Yang di Pertua Negeri (or Governor).

Political observers are confident that Taib had already made his choice of successor after Sulaiman quit his federal post of deputy tourism minister in December.

Taib, a shrewd and experienced politician, has probably other strategies to also stop the tide of opposition influence in his vast state, where elections in some places, take more than a day.