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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sarawak village chiefs warned not to support opposition


A rattled Sarawak Barisan Nasional government fearing the looming threat of an empowered opposition is tightening its grip over state appointed community leaders, reminding them that they would be terminated instantly if found to be defiant.

All community and village chiefs were yesterday warned not to support the opposition in the Sarawak state elections scheduled anytime soon.

They were openly told that they would be stripped of their position and perks if they defied the government.

Infrastructure Development and Community Relations Minister Michael Manyin said as government agents the chiefs must realise that supporting the opposition is wrong and a serious breach of their terms of appointment to the job.

“Race leaders (Ketua Kaum) are government agents who help in localised community development.

“We will terminate immediately the services of leaders who support the opposition in the coming state election because it is a serious breach of understanding and an act of defiance against the government,” Manyin said.

He was speaking at a swearing in ceremony of two Temengongs in Samarahan who represent the Bidayuh and Malay communities.

In Sarawak, the title “Temengong” is the highest in the administrative hierarchy of community leaders.

Below the post of ‘Temengong” are “Pemanca” (district level chiefs), Pengulu (village chiefs) and Ketua Kaum (longhouse/ethnic community chiefs).

The government appointments are for fixed term and last four years.

Manyin also reminded all levels of community leaders that the state elections were imminent and that all were required to increase their inputs.

“We want all the chiefs to help the state government by spreading the word of the government’s successes especially in bringing infrastructural development into the interior and rural areas,” he said.

Just over 40% of Sarawak’s population are natives of Dayak descent.

BN under threat

The Sarawak BN is under tremendous pressure following itsshocking defeat in Sibu last month. Considered a solid fortress, the defeat to DAP reinforced simmering fears that Chief Minister Taib Mahmud was losing his grip on the state.

In the last state election in 2006, opposition captured more seats than ever - BN lost nine state assembly seats in the 2006 compared to only one in the 2001 polls.

The DAP and PKR won an unprecedented seven seats in Chinese-majority constituencies.

In some areas, the BN candidates lost to young and inexperienced opposition candidates.

Following that, the March 2008 political wave that swept through the peninsular denting BN’s previous two-thirds majority grip stoked renewed possibilities in Sarawak.

Since then the opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat has systematically made inroads into Sarawak’s political psyche.

In the Batang Ai by-election last year Pakatan were a whisker away from a win until the night before the election, when BN allegedly flushed the constituency with cash and sealed their win.

The strategy however did not work in Sibu last month despite Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s three visits to the parliamentary constituency and offer of millions in development funds by him and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and the barrage of other ministers.

DAP candidate Wong Ho Leng beat BN’s Robert Lau in a nail-biting finish by 398 vote majority.

courtesy of FMT

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