Five things we learned in Sarawak

The Malaysia Insider
Apr 16, 2011

APRIL 16 — There are five things to be learned from today’s Sarawak election.

* The Najib factor

Even Pakatan Rakyat (PR) campaigners concede this fact grudgingly: till Datuk Seri Najib Razak camped in Sarawak, the Barisan Nasional (BN) machinery was rudderless and dispirited.

He cajoled, persuaded, pressed flesh and turned on the pipe of incentives and gifts when it appeared that the BN team was going to collapse under the incessant attacks on Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.

PR basically got a taste of what it means to come up against a prime minister who will do pretty much anything to win an election. It is going to be pretty much the same at the next general election. Umno and BN will ride on the Najib brand.

There is no one else in Umno or BN with the pull of the prime minister. Definitely not Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. Or Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. Or Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek. Or Datuk G. Palanivel. Even Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad can’t work the ground effectively.

The main question in Kuala Lumpur at the onset of campaign was this: why is Najib spending so much time in Sarawak? The answer: without him, BN is just like a piece of driftwood.

* It only takes a spark

Remember the Opposition. Yes, the motley group of individuals who sometimes remember that they are PR. The same people who were imploding over the lottery issue, distracted by the video scandal and constantly painted as failures by the mainstream media.

They are alive and kicking. The lesson here is that given the fluid state of politics in Malaysia post-2008, it only takes one issue to get the Opposition going. In this case, PR had a bogeyman in Taib Mahmud and the Alkitab issue.

PAS, PKR and DAP also came together in the wake of the sordid videotape, widely perceived by the public to have been engineered by Umno or its supporters.

So despite having a leader facing all sorts of problems, PR did well. BN and its agents would do well to understand that many Malaysians are not as skittish about voting Opposition.

* Taib Mahmud

At one point in the campaign, it appeared that Najib and gang were more upset with Taib Mahmud than with the Opposition. He seemed more interested in his young wife and refused to accept an early exit from politics.

BN leaders wanted him to go six months after polls but he placed himself on a three-year term. To be sure, the man is damaged goods. But with a two-thirds majority in the bag and Sarawak still under his control, he is likely to resist any move towards an early retirement.

And his resistance is going to complicate Najib’s desire to have polls this year. Some Umno/BN leaders believe that Najib should use the heavy stick approach to force Taib out of office. This includes looking into allegations of excessive wealth. The problem with that approach is that Taib has been around for 30 years and has enough leverage on most people, including Federal leaders.

* Chinese still with Opposition

Malaysia is a land divided, these days. BN have got the Malay vote and the Indian vote but the Chinese in East and West Malaysia are firmly with the Opposition.

Is this because they want checks and balances against the arrogance of Umno? Is this because they are tired of Chinese-based BN parties being second-class citizens? Is it because the community is weary of playing second fiddle?

* The power of incumbency

Conservative estimates suggest that the BN spent more than RM500 million on these hotly contested elections. Last night, the going rate in Miri was RM1,000 per identity card and apparently RM7,000 in Ba’Kelalan.

In addition to cold cash, the BN election machinery was supported by the impressive government machinery, from Kemas officials watching over longhouses to education officials working the ground.

Even the government-linked companies were out in full force in Sarawak, doling out gifts and opening bank branches, etc.

The point is that when PR go to battle, they are up against Umno, MCA, SUPP, PBB, Maybank, Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times, PDRM, EC, Pos Malaysia, AirAsia, etc.

This is the power of incumbency which Anwar and others are up against.

  1. #1 by mishmash on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 3:09 am

    As a Sarawakian, I followed this election very closely but while the result is pleasing enough, I and many of my peers are still disappointed.
    What would the result have been like if BN had played a fair game?
    Following news of the dirty tricks and tactics, it leaves a bad taste and hopefully more and more people would be better informed so as to make a more educated choice in future. There is and always still hope. We applaud your efforts in this tiring journey for the betterment of our country and pray that PR would never falter.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 3:56 am

    Anwar will never give up.
    The more difficult it is..the more he will fight free Malaysians.
    That is his devine job to do..not many in the world are given such prveledges.

  3. #3 by monsterball on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 4:01 am

    Lim Kit Siang have fullfilled almost all he promised to Malaysians..and he is still
    planning to slay more hypocrites and corrupted lot.

  4. #4 by limkamput on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 7:19 am

    This article talked as if the PM is fantastic and the sole person who turned around BN’s campaign. I don’t think so. As PM and head of the party, of course he has to do more than others by providing the necessary leadership and impetus. But the reality is money politics, unfair means of reaching the voters and the ignorance of voters themselves. Many would say the Chinese are anti BN given the vote pattern and trend. Again, this is not correct. Chinese are not ipso facto anti BN. The Chinese are more aware of the transgression and incompetent of BN governance. When the Chinese voted against the BN, the message was more than just wanting PR to replace BN. The message was also to pressure BN to change – to be more accountable, inclusive and less corrupt. The Chinese know also the weaknesses of PR. Right now we would be satisfied with a coalition that has less weaknesses.

    With regard the overstaying of present CM, I think the fault is not solely his. His overwhelming power and influence at the state is also due to the tacit approval of UMNO and the federal government. So long as vested interests and parochial policies are adhered to, the present CM was allowed to continue despite the gross abuse of power and mismanagement. The present CM is not as invincible as most would think. Ask the federal government how many chief ministers or Menteri Besar it has removed in the past. Don’t just blame the CM- he is the creation of UMNO and the federal government.

  5. #5 by hiro on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 7:47 am

    Did all the youngters in Sarawak come out and vote? Why didn’t they? We all know that since BN ++ is difficult to beat, Pakatan always needs to double its votes just to have a fighting chance. The youngsters should stop being complacent. If you don’t vote, you’re giving BN agents a chance to defraud using your vote. If you don’t vote, by default you are handing a win to BN. You think your votes don’t matter, but they do. Just look at Baru Bian’s state seat – it only has about 800 people. Every single vote counts there because every single vote costs BN an extra RM7K. At some point, BN will run out of money and they can’t bribe everyone. Sarawak shows that Malaysia can change its leaders. And come GE, it is change we can believe in.

  6. #6 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 8:04 am

    There is one more lesson to be learn from this election. NAJIB is a screw-up – through and through. Everything he managed to crawl back since 308, just got lost again. If he goes for GE now, BN will NOT do better as a whole. Sarawak and like Sabah means that in total, BN will not gain more seats. If he cannot get back Selangor, he is gone and the only way he can get back Selangor is by massive cheating and its a bad idea because its TOO concentrated in one area NOT to be discovered and be the rakyat focus. The cheating if revealed, will turn us into a Egypt and Libya.

    There is one thing that PR can rely on after this election: The issues WON’T GO AWAY. Firstly Taib gets to choose his departure, which means its not going to be anytime soon. Secondly, the whole Al-Kitab issue is not going away not with the ‘Allah’ in Bahasa issue still pending. Those who think PR gains does not have legs is wrong.

    But its imperative now to work on Federal issues and Sabah issues to keep the momentum going. Sarawak gain, while its strong, making more inroads is going to be even tougher. Only by being able to claim that BN checks are no good can Sarawak momentum be kept going.

  7. #7 by buy election on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 8:06 am

    Mandarin version here:-

    Sarawak United People Party (SUPP) turned into Sarawak United BUBBLE Party (SUBP).

    You always hold Taib’s balls, and even said that you may get out of BN, but you did not have gut to do it. At the end, you were trashed and became a BUBBLE PARTY.

    If we look at the old goodies such as George Chan, David Teng, and others, they were wrong by not realising that it was time to retire and not sticking to power. There were lots of kantao, but the retirement was long overdue. The people decided to send you all off.

    Dr Soon must be very grateful to SUPP for selecting Tiong Tai King to stand. In other words, to become the ‘replacement ghost’ for Dr Soon. Dr Soon escaped the nightmare of facing a miserable defeat by retiring gracefully.

  8. #8 by hallo on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 8:08 am

    All Malaysians should feel a SHAME

    Malaysians knew there were website attacked, people barred entry, cabinet

    Malaysians knew there were VOTE buying and cheating corruption

    Malaysians can’t do a thing to practice laws to them

    Even the EC was closed one eye as a EC of Injustice

    All Malaysians should feel a SHAME in principle of democratic and JUSTICE

    Malaysians have to call those dishonour people the honorable and praise them vvip

    Malaysians should feel a SHAME as a human being

  9. #9 by yhsiew on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 8:18 am

    ///* Chinese still with Opposition///

    Chinese are with the Opposition because they want a fair deal in government university education, government employment and government contracts.

    They know full well that the Opposition is their only hope because only the Opposition can bargain on their behalf, not MCA or any other party in BN.

  10. #10 by MayaRae on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 10:40 am

    Good morning YB Lim,

    First let me congratulate you on the good fight Pakatan has put out there in Sarawak. After a period of dry spell, I gladly found myself resurrected & inspired again by Sarawak’s enthusiasm & determination for change in the past week. It was great to see so many on the same page again, echoing the same objective since the last GE. Just to feel hopeful… Unfortunately the end results was not what most of us had hoped it would be. Yet it should not surprise us either, given Pakatan is really deprived of all the support of “Real & Honest” Govt Machinery (i.e.Law enforcers & SPR etc…). From the update reports of MalaysiaKini, it appears they have failed again to exact impartiality during the course of this election.

    It’s interesting that you have the impression of the following, which I quote, “Malaysia is a land divided, these days. BN have got the Malay vote and the Indian vote but the Chinese in East and West Malaysia are firmly with the Opposition.” Are they?

    How true is that? I am only asking, because after analyzing the results with the ethicity breakdowns (based on MalaysiaKini reports) in some specific areas last night , the result does not seem to reflect the sentiments you seem to believe.

    Bawang Assan is a Chinese-majority seat, with approximately 65% Chinese, 30% Iban and 5% Malay-Melanau voters. PR LOST by a majority of 1977 votes.

    Repok is a majority Chinese area with 77% Chinese, and 17% Iban and 5.5% Malay Melanau voters. The last two state elections saw the Teng’s (ruling party) majority votes sliced from 5,769 votes to 576 votes. Yesterday PR WON but by a majority of 22 VOTES ONLY.

    Pelawan (Sibu) is basically a Chinese-majority urban area with 89% Chinese,7% Malay and 4% Iban. Three term BN-SUPP Pelawan candidate Vincent Goh Chung Siong won with a convincing majority of 8445 votes in 2001, but this plunged to 263 in 2006. During the Sibu by-election last year, the BN-SUPP candidate lost by 5,600 votes.Yet DAP only managed to garner a majority of only 232 VOTES?

    It does not really take a genius to make the obvious deduction here. It’s either PR has gotten its market intelligence all wrong or it was never a fair game to begin with.

    Either way we have to accept the results and hopeful move forward smartly. If the reason is indeed the latter, should we be incessantly relying on the electoral system for change? It seem like one vicious cycle that leads us nowhere?

    Is there a better way to mobilize change for the people? Am only asking because we seem to be hitting a wall each time if we rely on the voting system.

    Have a good Sunday YB.

  11. #11 by k1980 on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 11:27 am

    BN obtained 372,379 votes atau 54.5% of the votes

    PR obtained 38% of the votes–
    DAP with 134,847 votes (19.7%)
    Parti Keadilan Rakyat with 117,100 votes (17.1%)
    PAS with 9,719 votes (1.4 %)

  12. #12 by hallo on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 11:57 am

    Don’t INSULT human being bought by RM50-300 for VOTE like an animal or dog feed by the RM50-300 in 4-5 years a time.

    Put human being ashame.

    Oh come here…do you want daddy feed RM50


    Good Dog

  13. #13 by hallo on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 11:58 am

    Don’t INSULT human being bought by RM50-300 for VOTE like an animal or dog feed by the RM50-300 in 4-5 years a time.

    Put human being ashame.

    Oh come here…do you want daddy feed you RM50


    Good Dog

  14. #14 by Richardqed on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 12:02 pm

    YB Kit, please ensure your reps in Sarawak server the rakyat well, and make sure the rakyat in DAP’s newly-won constituencies have more free or at leased sponsored internet access, so that the people there can on a daily basis be more educated and reminded every day on BN’s ills. Make sure whatever ground that BN has lost this time around, they will never get it back.

  15. #15 by cseng on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 12:39 pm

    There is a small sub-factor that influences the urban voters i.e Penang factor. Few of my Kuching friends are excited with what LGE shared with them on the governance of penang, the differences DAP could bring to the state, they called to check the facts.

    Prior to 2008, DAP has nothing more than BN’s faults to talk about. After 2008, DAP has to live with higher expectation, rakyat want a party that could lead as model governance, penang is the chance given to showcase that. I think LGE is doing great in penang, that results translate into votes in Kuching/Miri/Sibu. More importantly, show to M’sian, there still political party that Malaysian can trust, when they were given power they don’t corrupt, and that is DAP…

  16. #16 by lee wee tak_ on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 2:18 pm

    YB Lim, Pakatan has not entered into “Blue Ocean” i.e. new territory yet while Najib has spoke about it a few weeks ago with regards to BN’s strategy.

    No point focusing on urban areas only. Gerrymanderring has reduced Malaysia into a kampung elect administration.

    Would there be more exclusive policies and implementation governing? BN’s fixed deposits in kampungs will ensure urban folks be forever under the thumb of an administration they reject.

    Time to think of a way to penetrate the thick skull of these kampung folks. I hold them as responsible as the elected officers who abuse the people’s trust and making Malayia a regressive nation

  17. #17 by Winston on Sunday, 17 April 2011 - 3:26 pm

    What Najib factor?
    It’s purely the money factor plus a very strong dose of gerrymandering!
    If the PR have these factors in their favour, they’ll have 100% victory!
    The BN has no factors whatsoever!!
    That’s the bald truth!!
    In fact, man for man, woman for woman, the PR beats them hands down!!

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