`Battlegrounds will be in Dayak areas’


(The Sun Daily) – The battlegrounds in Sarawak in the upcoming 13th general election are the Dayak-majority seats, both Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) leaders agreed today.

The Dayaks are forming the majority voters in 13 out of 31 parliamentary constituencies.

PRS president and Minister of Land Development Tan Sri Dr James Masing agreed that the battlegrounds in Sarawak will be the Dayak majority areas.

“There are 13 Dayak majority seats which are up for grabs,” he said, adding that the Dayak areas are perceived to be “grey areas” for both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

“This means that both BN and PR can win the Dayak seats,” he said, adding that there is no clear indication where the Dayak votes will go to in the GE13.

“Thus, the Dayak seats will be the focus of fight between BN and PR,” he said, adding that the BN component parties, PRS, PBB, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) must unite to repel the Opposition parties in whatever guise they appear.

Masing, however, expressed his confidence that PRS will retain all its six Dayak-majority seats – Sri Aman, Lubok Antu, Kanowit, Ulu Rajang, Selangau and Julau – in the GE13.

See Chee How, Sarawak PKR vice chairman, admitted that PBB is still the dominance force in the Mala/Melanau areas due to Taib’s strong grip on them.

“The battlegrounds are the Dayak seats,” the Batu Lintang state assemblyman concurred with Masing.

He said PR is gaining grounds in these seats because of the BN’s policies on land.

“The blatant grabs on the native customary rights (NCR) land by the BN government have remained unabated, despite the numerous court cases in favour of the NCR landowners, ” See, who represented the landowners in many of these cases, added.

He said the London-based Radio Free Sarawak (RFS) has been effective in disseminating information on the “unfair” land polices of the government.

PR, especially PKR, has distributed thousands of China-made radio sets to the longhouses and villages so the rural population can hear the “message” conveyed by RFS, he added.

“Now the landowners, who are mostly the Dayaks, have awakened up and they are rethinking their support for the BN,” commented See, who as a human rights activist and lawyer, has helping the landowners over the last 15 years.

He also claimed the Dayaks have been marginalised by the government in terms of allocation of development funds, thus a high percentage of them are living well below the poverty line.

He said that the Dayaks can change the political landscape in Sarawak and even Malaysia, given that they are the largest ethnic group in Sarawak.

An analysis of the 2011 state election results showed that the Chinese or urban voters were more towards PR while the Malay/Melanau voters, on the other hand, were strong supporters of the BN parties, particularly Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu (PBB) led by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

If the 2011 state election results are anything to go by, it is very clear where the urban votes will go to PR in the GE13, and it is almost certain that the majority of the Malay/Melanau votes will go to the BN, particularly PBB.

There are six seats where the Chinese form the majority while the Malay/Melanau form the majority in seven seats. Another four seats are considered mixed where the racial compositions of the voters are almost equal.

An analysis by the Election Commission showed that the BN in Sarawak suffered a decline in popularity votes from 64.2 % in the 2008 general election to 55.4 % in the 2011 state election.

On the other hand, PR’s popularity votes increased from 29.2 % in 2008 to 38.9 % in 2011.

According to analysis by the DAP, there was a general decline in support among the Dayaks to the BN, with the Iban dropped by 14.1 % and the Bidayuh by 13 %.

The DAP said that there was a major shift in support among the non-Chinese, especially the Dayaks towards the Opposition in 2011. It is obvious that the party won in six out of 12 seats in 2011 due to the shift in support of the non-Chinese from BN to PR. The party received increased support from non-Chinese voters in Kidurong (48 %), Kota Sentosa (35 %), Repok (30 %), Piasau (39%), Pujut (35%) and Batu Kawah (30%).

If the decline in popularity votes is again registered in the GE13, the BN will lose at least 10 seats to the Opposition.

BN leaders like Taib and Masing have both felt that the BN could win two-thirds of the 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak.