All eyes on the rebirth of Snap

Snap in its heyday was the strongest party in Sarawak in terms of the number of elected representatives it had in the state assembly in 1974, when it won 18 out of 48 seats, with the other BN parties, Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), Supp and Sarawak Chinese Association securing the remaining 30 seats.

Stephen Tiong, Malaysiakini

Interested individuals and bystanders in politics are now keeping a close eye on efforts to rejuvenate a once powerful political force in Sarawak, the Sarawak National Party (Snap).

The party has held three political symposiums so far as the early steps in its rejuvenation programme, after it succeeded in getting the Court of Appeal to set aside its deregistration eight years ago by the Registrar of Societies.

More symposiums and other related activities are expected in the coming months.

The earlier symposiums, which started last year, are to help Snap’s central executive committee initiate plans, strategies, programmes and activities for the party to move forward in the current situation.

“It is like putting Snap back into the factory, with the hope that it will come up as an old product in new packaging, as a new product or as a combination of old and new but in a new format,” party president Edwin Dundang said at the opening of the last symposium recently.

The objective, since the ROS deregistration was thrown out by the court on June 24 last year, has been to make Snap marketable, fashionable and a household name among the old and new supporters.

“We must think of what we can provide to the people and how we can excite the people with our product,” Dundang said.

Young professionals recruited

The party has also brought in some young professionals and veteran politicians in its bid to take Snap back to the position it once held. Some of them have been given key positions, which Dundang described as an effort to inject in fresh blood into the party.

After its deregistration by ROS on Nov 5, 2002, Snap drifted into political wilderness, losing many of its members to a splinter group led by Social Development and Urbanisation Minister William Mawan Ikom and other political parties.

Before the deregistration, the party claimed to have more than 123,000 members, most of whom were Dayaks.

Mawan and his supporters later formed the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), which took over Snap’s place in the Sarawak BN.

NONEAnother big blow to the deregistered party came when its chief financier, James Wong Kim Min (left), stepped down as party president, with the little known Dundang taking over the leadership.

With little funds in its bank account, Snap was literally living “from hand to mouth”. Even money to pay its electricity and water bills was hard to come by.

But now, the party can afford to smile again. Since the Court of Appeal quashed the ROS order, the party has found new friends who are eager to extend financial and other assistance.

Parti Kita, led by former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim, United Borneo Front (UBF) led by former PKR vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan and a citizens group, Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM), have pledged their support.

Parti Kita and UBF have agreed to help Snap to campaign for its candidates in the coming Sarawak election while MCLM said it would help in checking the backgrounds of its potential candidates.

“We are friends with anybody who wants to be our friend,” declared Dundang.

However, Snap’s resurgence is being looked upon suspiciously by one of its partners in Pakatan Rakyat – PKR. DAP has no worry about it, since the party only contests in Chinese-majority constituencies.

Snap is eyeing 28 Dayak-majority seats in the coming Sarawak state election and many of these seats are also on the list of PKR, whose leaders fear that Snap may leave Pakatan to battle on its own.

There is also talk that a number of PKR leaders might join Snap as they would feel more comfortable with a home-grown party.

Among the veteran politicians who have returned to Snap is a former deputy chief minister, Daniel Tajem, who was kicked out of the party over allegations he backed Independent candidates against the party’s candidates in the 1982 parliamentary election.

Tajem: Spirit of the past can be rekindled

Other Dayak leaders then in Snap, including Leo Moggie, resigned in protest against Tajem’s expulsion. In 1983, Tajem and Moggie formed Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS).

With the deregistration of PBDS by ROS in 2004 for failing to settle a leadership crisis, Tajem and Moggie became “partyless” .

Tajem is of the view that the spirit of past Snap leaders like Stephen Kalong Ningkan can be rekindled in the efforts to rejuvenate the party.

Apart from Ningkan, who was party secretary-general, the others were JS Tinker (chairman), Edward Howell, Edwin Howell, Ivory Kedit, Mathew Dana Ujai, David Lawrence Usit, Nyipa Julin and Lionel Bediman Ketit.

Registered on April 10, 1961, Snap is one of the oldest parties in Sarawak and its founder, Ningkan, was Sarawak’s first Chief Minister.

It was the third political party to be formed in the state after Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Parti Negara Sarawak (Panas) opened the way for the active participation of the Dayaks in not only preparing for Sarawak’s independence, but also to be fully involved in political activities.

Although there were Dayaks in SUPP and Panas, they never gave any prominence to these two parties and their roles in them were minimal.

Thus the Dayaks, particularly the Ibans, feared they could be left behind in decision-making in Sarawak, which was then desirous of becoming independent of colonial rule. In 1963, Snap opened its doors to non-Dayaks , with James Wong becoming its first Chinese member.

The others, who joined later, were tycoons Wee Hood Teck, Wee Boon Ping and Ho Ah Chon. Abang Othman Abang Moasili was the first Malay to join the party, which today is attracting as many Chinese and Malays as Dayaks.

Snap in its heyday was the strongest party in Sarawak in terms of the number of elected representatives it had in the state assembly in 1974, when it won 18 out of 48 seats, with the other BN parties, Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB), Supp and Sarawak Chinese Association securing the remaining 30 seats.

In the 2006 state election, the party won only the Engkilili seat, but its candidate, Johnical Rayong, left Snap soon after.