Dayak leaders delivered 100%

Philip Golingai

Philip Golingai, The Star

THE epochal photograph to emerge after Barisan Nasional’s thumping win in the 11th Sarawak polls does not tell the full story.

The photograph used by most newspapers on their front page the morning after the elections was that of Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and SUPP president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian.

They raised their hands in a gesture of victory after the result was announced at the Old State Legislative Assembly building in Kuching.

In many photographs, a significant politician was missing. In others, his image was half cropped. On the Borneo Post front page, he was in the photograph.

The politician is Tan Sri Dr James Masing, the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president.

“My boys were asking, ‘Where is my president?’ You have Zahid, Najib, Hisham … in the photograph.

“We are the second biggest party (in Sarawak Barisan). And they asked why a Dayak leader was ignored despite us delivering 100% in the Sarawak polls,” said Masing in an interview on Monday at his party’s headquarters in Kuching.

“We contested in 11 seats and we delivered 11 seats (despite internal Sarawak Barisan problems). It was the same with GE13; we contested in six MP seats and we delivered six seats. That’s 100% delivery.”

Masing continued: “I’m quite disappointed that Dayak leaders have been ignored despite our contribution to ensure Barisan’s landslide victory in Sarawak.

“They seem to highlight people who won lost seats instead of those who kept safe seats for Barisan,” he said.

“SUPP only delivered 54% whereas we delivered 100%. SUPP received more glamour for recovering lost seats … I can’t understand.

“I’m disappointed and my boys on the ground are furious,” he added.

(Sim, the SUPP president, did the near impossible. He won the Batu Kawah seat which his party lost to DAP in the previous state election.)

“How did PRS manage 100% delivery?” I asked Masing.

“We did it because we are constantly on the ground. Our eight incumbents had five years to do their (constituency) work.

“We lost Pelagus (in the previous state election) and we have been on the ground to win it back,” he said.

“For the new seats of Samalaju and Murum, we’ve been on the ground in Murum as it was part of the Belaga state seat (which belongs to PRS),” he said.

“For Samalaju, we did not field a parachute candidate. Our candidate was a local boy from the area. He was the political secretary to Adenan and he had been serving the area for four years.”

The other secret to PRS’ 100% performance, according to Masing, is that it was a united party.

“Our YBs are very united. There are no internal clashes and we work as a team,” said the Baleh assemblyman.

“How about Baleh? I heard you were only at your constituency for nomination day and polling?” I asked.

“I was there for nomination day and the next day I went to all 10 constituencies that were allocated to my party. I only came back for polling,” Masing said.

“I can do this because I have been the YB for the area for 33 years. I don’t need to burn the midnight oil (last-minute campaigning) to get elected. The voters know me and I know them.”

For 33 years, according to the politician who was born and bred in Rumah Lugat longhouse in Baleh, he has been constantly moving around in his constituency.

He travels by longboat and four-wheel drive to visit 170 longhouses spread over a remote area the size of Kelantan.

“Once a year, I visit the long­houses to meet the tuai rumah (longhouse chief).

“I usually spend one sleepless night so that I not only know the names of the people but also their faces,” Masing said.

Ten years ago, I followed the Iban politician to his 100% Iban constituency along the Malaysia-Indonesia border. And I saw how he was awake from dusk to dawn, drinking and listening to his people.

Here’s advice for non-Sarawakian politicians who think they know how to win the Iban votes.

“When dealing with the Iban voters, there must be constant engagement and comradeship. I have never lost in Baleh. And my majority has never gone down.

“Usually after eight terms, a politician’s majority would go down,” Masing said.

“But readers will ask, why must your voters vote for you, as there is little infrastructure development in your area?” I asked.

“Because road accessibility to Kapit has not arrived yet. Kapit is still an island (in the middle of the jungle),” he said, referring to Kapit town, a two-hour boat ride from Sibu town.

“But now it is different. The RM87mil Baleh bridge over Baleh river, which split my area into half, was completed in November last year. Now my two halves are connected.”

The Iban leader used several maps to show how remote Baleh was. Masing also said his voters were clever as they voted for development.

He had fought to get a RM1.4bil 73km road built in his constituency. With the completion of the road, about 80% of the longhouses will be connected to Kapit town.

“They (opposition supporters in Peninsular Malaysia) call us bodoh (stupid). Rural voters are smart; they know that DAP can only talk and after the election they will disappear. That’s why the DAP candidate lost his deposit,” he said.

Masing ended the interview with: “Barisan leaders must understand that there will be a general election; they should not ignore PRS’ contributions.

“We should be given due recognition for what we have contributed to the landslide victory.”