The emergence of the Sarawak Workers' Party on the state political scene seems to have rattled parties on both side of the divide.
KUCHING: While Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has welcomed the registration of the Sarawak Workers’ Party (SWP), which is linked to “buddy” Sng Chee Hua, insiders in both the state Barisan Nasional and the opposition are wary.
Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian urged the people to examine SWP’s policies and gauge for themselves which way the party will lean towards.
“Is SWP inclined to support BN or is it inclined to support Pakatan Rakyat policies for Sarawak?
“The people must examine whether this party is built on the basis of fighting or defending the rights of Sarawakians such as the native customary rights land, employment and the 18- and 20-point agreements.
“This are the things we want SWP to answer,” said Bian, who is the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman.
“To me it is obvious that SWP is inclined towards being BN-friendly. So it is clear that it is not with us.
“These things can assist voters in the villages to make a good judgment, and I know they are fully aware of the party’s policies.
“I am confident they will make a wise decision. This coming election is crucial to Sarawakians who want change. And this is our bigger mission,” he said.
SWP aiming for PRS seats
Santubong MP Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar, who is the Deputy Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat, questioned the motive of the party to contest in the coming election.
“It risks becoming a mosquito party. It will only appear during the election season, but disappear when the election is over. This would only confuse the people.
“If the party really fights for the people, it must make sure that it continues to work for the interests of the people before and after the election,” Wan Junaidi said.
Sng had said that SWP would target only six constituencies which are allocated to PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak), a member of the BN coalition.
The constituencies are Julau, Selangau, Kanowit, Hulu Rajang, Lubok Antu and Sri Aman.
Lately Sng, who was the former Julau MP, has been seen mobilising support for the party in Julau, Selangau, Kanowit and Hulu Rajang.
PRS vice-president and Tamin assemblyman Joseph Mauh said that his party is not perturbed by the emergence of SWP, describing it as an “old wine in a new bottle”.
‘Old wine, new bottle’ “We are not worried about the new party because it is old wine in a new bottle, and those who had drunk the wine would know its taste,” he said, referring to Sng’s previous records as Julau MP and assemblyman for Pelagus in the days of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS).
“SWP may be a new party but certainly it is no stranger to us. I don’t think it can win any seat,” he said.
But what puzzled him is that the party, while claiming to be BN-friendly, is fighting PRS, a member of the BN.
“It is very funny and there is no logic,” he said.
“Why is it targeting PRS? What does this mean?” Mauh asked.
State BN secretary-general, Stephen Rundi, who is also PBB secretary-general, regarded SWP as the BN’s opponent.
“We will treat every opponent in the same way. Similarly if the new party wishes to oppose us, we will fight back,” Rundi reportedly said.
But his boss, Taib seems to have a different view. He has welcomed SWP into the political scene with gusto, saying “the more the merrier” as the state practised democracy.
‘Hidden hand’ theory
Taib said the new party created “a fresh setting” for politics in the state and that its existence would give the electorate another option to consider come the 13th general election.
“Well, it is part of the political scene of Sarawak. We have embraced democracy. One more party joins in, why not? It is up to the people to choose,” Taib was quoted as saying.
But PRS president James Masing felt uneasy over the registration of the new party as it targeted constituencies to be contested by his party.
What puzzled him was why only SWP, out of six applications to register new parties, was approved and endorsed.
“Now PRS members are uneasy on this and are asking about the rationale of such a decision,” he said.
Masing hinted that a “hidden hand” was behind the approval of the party. However, PRS is prepared to face SWP and will take the challenge posed by the latter seriously.
SWP was recently registered by the Home Ministry. Its pro tem president is Ong Lark Sai, and its deputy is George Lagong, who defeated Masing’s man in last April’s state election to wrest the Pelagus seat. Lagong contested as an independent.
Lagong is Sng’s cousin and former Pelagus assemblyman Larry Sng’s uncle. Larry is Sng’s son and Taib’s blue-eyed boy.
Despite Larry having been expelled from PRS in 2009, Taib still retained him as assistant minister, giving him three important portfolios until the state election in April last year.
After the election, Taib appointed Larry as Youth adviser, which is equivalent in status as assistant minister, although Larry was unable to contest any seats as a BN candidate because Masing thwarted his every effort. Larry was adamant that he would only contest as a BN candidate.