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Saturday, November 30, 2013

A focused strategy needed for Sabah, Sarawak


Today, in the last of my six-part series, I present the final four areas of my 12-point strategy that I believe can serve as a blueprint for Pakatan Rakyat to capture federal power in Putrajaya in the 14th general election.

Here, I call for emphasis on capturing the hearts of the people of Sabah and Sarawak, and on the inter-generational leadership.

9. Have a focused Sabah and Sarawak strategy

The BN and Pakatan marginal seats that I stated yesterday (under Point No 4), are for Peninsular Malaysia only. Pakatan faces different challenges in Sabah and Sarawak and therefore, a different approach is required in both these states.

Pakatan cannot take its new-found support in the urban areas of Sabah and Sarawak for granted.

Four out of the nine parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak that Pakatan won in GE13 are marginal seats - Sarikei (majority of 505 votes), Sibu (2,841 majority) and Miri (1,992 majority) in Sarawak and Sandakan (1,008 majority) in Sabah. These seats need to be aggressively defended.

Pakatan also needs to target BN marginal seats. Four parliamentary seats in Sarawak were won by the BN with less than 55 percent of the popular support.

NONEOne of them, Baram, was only won with a 194-vote majority. In Sabah, BN won 10 parliament seats with less than 55 percent popular support, including Beaufort (672-vote majority) and Kota Marudu (842 majority).

However, unlike in Peninsular Malaysia, Pakatan in Sabah and Sarawak has to manage the additional challenge from the local parties.

While a majority of voters have shown that they think that Pakatan is more credible as an alternative to BN than the local parties, these parties can still act as ‘spoilers' and take away enough votes to prevent Pakatan from wining some of the parliamentary seats.

Pakatan will have to find a better way to cooperate with some of these local parties in order to, at the very least, avoid three-cornered fights, especially in the marginal BN areas.

In terms of rural outreach, the recently launched Impian Sarawak and Impian Sabah programmes to bring in small development projects to the rural areas can provide the template for Pakatan's rural outreach strategy. If successful, this should be rolled out to as many areas as possible, especially in the marginal BN seats/areas.

The forthcoming 11th Sarawak state elections will provide an excellent opportunity to put the Sarawak-focused strategy to the test.

The 10th Sarawak state election in 2011 broke new ground for Pakatan, especially in the urban areas, and allowed Pakatan to convert these results into Parliament seats in GE13.

The same can take place in the next Sarawak state election. If Pakatan manages to make significant inroads into the rural areas during the state election, this will put more pressure on the BN and on Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and give Pakatan the advantage leading up to GE14.

10. Enhance Pakatan cooperation at all levels

Pakatan has come a long way in terms of inter-party cooperation since 2008. At the national level, the Pakatan Presidential Council has regular meetings, at which issues of strategic and national importance are discussed.

hadi awang, anwar ibrahim, lim kit siang, pakatan leadersPakatan has now passed three alternative budgets and presented its joint manifesto prior to GE13. We have also fought in the trenches together in the many by-elections before and after GE13.

This cooperation needs to be enhanced at all levels, but especially in the frontline states of Johor, Sabah and Sarawak, where inter-party cooperation has not had a long history.

Joint statements can be made by Pakatan state leaders on national issues and issues that are important to the particular state. More activities should be conducted on a cross-party platform. Each party can leverage on its strengths to open doors for leaders of the other component parties.

At the same time, Pakatan needs to manage the internal disagreements among the component parties at the national as well as the state levels.

Mechanisms should be identified at the national and state levels to address some of these disagreements and manage them internally before they are blown out of proportion by the mass media, especially the BN-controlled media channels.

11. Emphasise inter-generational leadership

One of the great strengths of Pakatan is its mixture of experienced leaders and younger leaders, both at the state and national levels. This stands in sharp contrast to the leaders in BN, most of whom are from the older generation and thus, more used to a politics-as-usual approach.
NONEPakatan needs to make full use of this mixture of leaders - both young and old - to enhance the credibility of the coalition. The experienced leaders provide the assurance of a certain amount of continuity and stability, while the younger leaders provide and represent the ideas and idealism, and dynamism, of the younger generation.

If done well, this will be a very potent mixture that the BN will find hard to combat.

12. Counter the lies and propaganda of BN

One of the most effective weapons used by the BN leading up to GE13 was the ‘fear' propaganda that Malays in the country would, somehow, lose their rights under a Pakatan government.

DAP was used as a bogeyman and its leaders were accused of all sorts of things - from being communists to wanting to create a Christian state in Malaysia to being anti-Islam and anti-Malay.

This propaganda was more obvious in the Malay mainstream media, largely Utusan Malaysia, as well as in broadcast television, notably TV3 and RTM.

Pakatan has already begun to fight back against these lies and propaganda spread by the BN, especially through social and online media. But more needs to be done.

More creative messages and channels are needed in order to assuage the fears of at least a majority of Malays that their rights and livelihood will not decrease under Pakatan, but that their lives would actually be better under a Pakatan government.

In conclusion, I am confident that if Pakatan can address each of the main challenges I have outlined, we will be in a good position to capture Putrajaya in GE14, with each party pulling its weight and enhancing the appeal of Pakatan as a whole.


LIM KIT SIANG is the DAP parliamentary leader and MP for Gelang Patah.

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