Will SPDP go the way of SNAP?

The fate of SPDP president William Mawan and the party hang in limbo as it strides into the 13th general election against a fortified opposition

Joseph Tawei, Free Malaysia Today 

KUCHING: The 13th general election will be a crucial test for Barisan Nasional component party leader William Mawan and his Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP). The polls will decide on Mawan’s future as a BN leader and the party’s relevance in the state’s now fluid politics.

Squaring off with the party’s choice candidates will be its former elected but now rebel leaders – five to be exact – who’ve formed a ‘BN Club’ with the blessings of Chief Minister Taib Mahmud. The five were sacked from the party but Taib, snubbing Mawan, has embraced them.

For either group it will be a do or die scenario.

SPDP is expecting serious challenges to their candidacies in the parliamentary seats of Mas Gading, Saratok, Baram and Bintulu by the five who hold sway over voters in these constituencies.

Except for Tiki Lafe who is Mas Gading MP, the remaining four are state elected representatives Peter Nansian (Tasik Biru), Sylvester Entri (Marudi), Rosey Yunus (Bekenu) and Paulus Gumbang (Batu Danau).

The five, who were former senior leaders in the party, were expelled from SPDP last year for gross insubordination against the leadership. They have indicated that they would put up candidates of their own against SPDP in the four seats.

“It will be a contest of popularity and strength between SPDP and the group formerly known as ‘SPDP 5’ in the four constituencies,” said a political analyst.

For the moment, SPDP appears to be intact after the expulsion of the five as evident by the successful holding of its triennial general assembly (TGA) last month in Bintulu when more than 3,000 delegates and observers expressed full support for the action taken by the Mawan against the five rebels.

Litmus test for Mawan

But the expelled leaders are no ordinary persons as they have ‘connections’ with leaders of Taib’s Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the dominant party in the state government.

The fact that the three of them (Nansian, Entri and Yunus) have been retained as Assistant Ministers despite having been expelled from the party and the appointment of Gumbang as chairman of Miri Port authority is a clear indication of Taib’s support for the ‘rebel’ group.

Because of the ‘hidden hands’ and the increase in the number of votes secured by them in the 2011 state election indicating strong grassroots support, the ex-SPDP leaders dare to challenge its former party.

In one or two instances the group had even showed their ‘power’ when they tried stopping Mawan from visiting areas controlled by them.

“This is a direct challenge to Mawan who believes the party has come out stronger than ever after the expulsion of the rebelled leaders,” said the political analyst.

He reminded Mawan not to underestimate the group’s influence, citing his deputy Peter Nyarok’s defeat in the Krian and Ba Kelalan state seats last April to opposition PKR’s Ali Biju and Baru Bian.

Mawan was blamed for both loses.

“Thus, the next general election will see a litmus test of strength and popularity of both SPDP and for the group.

“Indeed it will be crucial for both groups,” said the analyst, who did not wish to be named.

Repeat of history

The analyst said if SPDP wins all the four seats then it would be proof enough that the party still had strong support from the people.

“A win in all four seats will earn Mawan and SPDP the respect of other BN leaders especially Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.

“It means Mawan will have a bigger say in BN,” he said.