It’s back to 70’s politics all over again for the opposition in Sarawak, to the glee of BN

umar mukhtar

Umar Mukhtar

Vote for your favourite opposition party in the Sarawak polls, by all means. But cut out the talk about reforms, transparent and honest government, and building a unified opposition front against Barisan Nasional. All those are in the realm of fiction and pipedreams of myopic politicians wanting a piece of the action but not knowing what it takes to get there.

Nobody is expecting the opposition to win the state. The polls are just going to be a barometer of the progress towards an opposition front, perhaps by threatening BN’s two-thirds majority. But in the worst scenario, observers are not counting the number of opposition seats won as proof of inroads made in the voters’ electoral thinking; they want to gauge the opposition leaders’ state of mind; whether the crab has what it takes to teach its young to walk straight.

You cannot forge unity without sacrifices. What would scare BN is if they see a concerted effort by Pakatan Harapan to unite by sacrificing small battles to win the war against BN. But no, the myopic Pakatan Harapan parochial leaders are more turned on by petty fights among themselves. Just like the old times, broad-based politics are alien to politicians brought up and nurtured by sectarian, religious and racial sentiments.

Their kicks come from defining themselves into exclusive small groups where they are first among equals in a coalition. They are the leaders, no compromise; the other partner parties who may even be the majority community are but mere followers of their self-acclaimed wisdom. How else can you explain DAP’s approach in this Sarawak polls and the disaster they never learn from in the opposition front in the peninsula? Minorities don’t lead. Get it? Not in Malaysia, DAP!

Having failed with the crafty PAS in the peninsula, they see the Dayaks of Sarawak as their next target to lead the naive and the blind. Everybody knows that DAP had maxed out with the Chinese voters of Sarawak. The Dayak majority constituencies are the only places for DAP to expand into. Starting with non-Muslim Dayaks, DAP spews the religious and racial hatred that they are known for, in order to win a foothold. PKR is watching. DAP is encroaching on their turf.

PKR has always considered the Dayak-majority constituencies as traditionally its turf, rightly or wrongly, even though till today it still does no know what to do with them. So it appoints a Dayak to lead PKR in Sarawak. Doesn’t matter if he is an Orang Ulu or an Iban, no difference to the peninsula Malays who lead PKR. Big difference to Sarawakians. Orang Ulu is one of the tiniest indigenous communities in Sarawak. The Ibans are by far the largest.

So he won a seat in 2011 in a highly concentrated Orang Ulu constituency, and does that qualify him to lead state-wide? A customary law specialist known for his native customary land cases, Baru Bian is also a lay Christian preacher with much stronger affiliation with his religious organisation than with multi-religious PKR. Let it be, as long as there is an acceptable PKR Sarawak platform that all Sarawakians can identify with. None. Come elections, out come the boring manifestos!

PKR did nothing of significance all these years. It has three state seats; one urban seat won with the compliments of DAP’s Chinese voters, and one won by a BN-style candidate waiting to jump ship at the appropriate time. So what has PKR got to show in Sarawak after umpteen years? Zilch!

DAP is annoyed but its brand of diplomacy does not include gentle urgings and frank discussion with its partner. It just fook the drowsy PKR in the ass on nomination day. And the democratisation of Sarawak takes three steps backwards irrespective of what the KETUM says.

The Chong father and son team of DAP Sarawak is not beholden to the Lim father and son team of DAP peninsula. The Chongs fight tooth and nail for every inch of their independence from the Limas, using their ironic corruption-fed arsenal from the BN-enriched towkays of the Taib Mahmud decades. That free spirit bred ambitions at the expense of PKR.

So Baru Bian reacted like he has no choice but to fight back. What we now see is the regression of opposition front politics and the resurfacing of one-upmanship of small-town nobilities of the James Brooke era of old Sarawak. Maybe Sarawakians miss Lord Jim, and now that the white-haired pretender is also gone, they are anxious for a replacement benevolent autocrat to be subservient to.

DAP may at best win fifteen seats and PKR another five. That totals twenty; eight short of the one-third Pakatan Harapan dream of. At this rate, it will be another ten years to achieve that target, and we’ll have to wait till the next century to take over the state. Such pedestrian politics is all the opposition has in store for Sarawakians because racial superiority matters more to some than others.

No more Sarawak National Party (SNAP) of Stephen Kalong Ningkan days. Replaced by the more subdued Temenggong Jugahs. The Daniel Tajems have lost to the Leo Moggies and the James Masings of the succeeding Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak towards a more accommodative federal politics. The result is akin to the breaking up of Parti Bersatu Sabah of Sabah. No more homogeneous Dayak party, only the homogeneous Chinese DAP for Kuala Lumpur to contend with. UMNO learned well from the British.

The Dayaks still haven’t recovered from the Ming Court Hotel political drama of deep implications. They still need a very accommodative platform for indigenous issues. Credit to BN Chief Minister Adenan Satem, a new self-pride can be created from within BN without destructive tendencies, at KL’s expense, of course. KL has to pay if it wants to keep its fixed deposit.

Unless PKR has someone with Adenan’s insight, it will remain an also-ran. And DAP’s racial politics will prevail as the only avenue for dissent, but never the ruler. Will DAP penetrate the Dayaks? No chance. Dayaks’ traditional suspicion of the Chinese is far greater than their reluctant tribute to the Malay/Melanaus, who is a very powerful tiny minority by KL design.

Perhaps that’s the example the Chongs are aiming for. But you need to win Putrajaya for that to happen. And you need partners to win Putrajaya, Chong! Grow up, guys!