Standing up for SNAP – and to Taib

Paul Kadang explains why SNAP has re-entered Sarawak’s political scene and is determined to make waves.

(Free Malaysia Today) – The Sarawak National Party (SNAP) has come under severe hammering over the past week following a seat tussle with PKR ahead of the Sarawak polls as well as allegations of secret funding from Barisan Nasional.

One man in particular has borne the brunt of this political bludgeoning and has now risen to the defence of his party. In a statement today SNAP’s director of operations, Paul Kadang, clarified the party’s stand as it re-emerges in the Sarawak political arena.

SNAP was founded in 1971 with the intention of being a multiracial party with an eye on the Dayak community which formed its inner core. Unable to withstand attacks from political opponents, SNAP eventually crumbled and the Dayak community experienced its first split in unity.

Kadang observed that over the past eight years the natives turned to various other political parties in search of one that would fight for their rights but were failed by all.

“By 2008, the natives, particularly those from the Dayak communities, were totally marginalised politically,” he said. “A new generation of native intellectuals then decided that the time had come for natives to fight their own battles.”

“These Dayak intellectuals began to look at PKR as the platform from which to fight their battles. Some became PKR members, while some others watched with keen interest and gave their support from the fringes.”

“But two years later, they slowly drifted away from PKR for reasons which in total had shown to these intellectuals that native problems are of a low priority to PKR.”

One of the reasons behind this shift was the Batang Ai by-election during which PKR bypassed Sarawak PKR native leaders to field a candidate chosen by a “Chinese towkay who evidently held a major sway in the personal considerations of PKR’s de facto leader (Anwar Ibrahim)”.

The chosen candidate lost the seat and Kandang attributed the defeat to the lack of support and confidence by the Dayak intellectuals.

“This group has since kept its distance from the party,” he said. “PKR remains in their mind as a party that will perpetuate neo-colonial intentions in Sarawak. SNAP’s re-registration was then ordered by the courts and it naturally became a magnet to these partyless native opposition leaders.”

Electoral pact

Moving on to the upcoming Sarawak election, Kandang emphasised that SNAP is still very much in favour of an opposition electoral pact but raised concern over the manner in which negotations have taken place.

He pointed out that PKR had decided to contest in 53 seats and that SNAP would only be granted three as though “the seats were for PKR to distribute”.

“Negotiations commenced in a haphazard manner and much later than ideally possible,” he said. “SNAP underscored its seriousness and capacity to compete by naming 16 candidates for 16 constituencies.”

“A startled PKR came back to ‘offer’ four seats, instead of three. SNAP responded to this infantile insult by announcing 11 more candidates for 11 more constituencies.”

Kadang also said that there was no negotiation agenda and things were done at PKR’s convenience. He added that the session wasn’t even attended by decision-makers and that PKR insisted that KL be allowed to make the final call.

“It was clear that DAP would run in Chinese-majority areas, PAS in a few Muslim-majority areas and PKR in Malay-Melanau areas while SNAP would contest in the native-majority areas,” he explained. “It was only in the mixed areas that overlapping claims will have to be resolved through negotiations.”

“But PKR having suddenly realised that native issues could be the determining issues in the coming elections thought that by placing its candidates in these native constituencies, PKR can be the beneficiary of a Sarawak tsunami.”

“The intellectuals who had fled to SNAP therefore fear that Sarawak’s native problems, under PKR, will remain secondary to a grander federal plan of PKR’s national leaders. At worst, SNAP will never be able to get back those constituencies from PKR.”

The dispute over the seats still hangs in the air despite nomination day looming next Wednesday.

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has called the seat tussle an indication of the opposition’s inability to work for the people.