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10 APRIL 2024

Saturday, December 30, 2023

PDP-PSB merger irritates GPS


One is a Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) component party while the other is an opposition party in Sarawak.

The opposition party is prepared to close shop and its entire membership base of 80,000 will be joining the GPS coalition en masse next February.

This is the story of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), a GPS partner and Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB), an opposition party born a decade ago as a result of a factional tussle in the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP).

The PDP/PSB courtship started last August when PSB president Wong Soon Koh and his PDP counterpart Tiong King Sing announced a merger of their two parties. The impending dissolution of PSB is not a surprise as it is just a small entity with only three state assemblypersons.

The PDP/PSB tie-up is really no big deal in Sarawak but it is nonetheless irritating to GPS as the state seats won by PSB are expected to create some tension within the governing coalition come the next state election due in 2026.

The three PSB seats are Bawan Assan (Wong), Engkilili (Johnichal Rayong) and Ba’kelalan (Baru Bian). The first two are traditional SUPP seats while Ba’kelalan used to be contested by PDP.

PSB president Wong Soon Koh

What must be highlighted is that GPS won an overwhelming 76 of the 81 legislative assembly seats in the December 2021 polls. The coalition is not desperate for the three additional PSB seats.

The PSB seats are considered “irrelevant” to GPS and this is why the entry of PSB into GPS, via PDP, is somewhat irritating to the coalition.

GPS chair and Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Openg did not hide his uneasiness over the development when he stated on Christmas Day in Kuching that the “green light” for PSB to join PDP did not come from GPS.

“This is between them, not with GPS. In fact, we (GPS) have yet to meet on the matter, so this ‘green light’ did not come from GPS,” the coalition chief clarified.

Apparently, the premier was not even impressed when PSB declared its support for him and GPS earlier. Abang Johari is no greenhorn in Sarawak politics; he can smell a rat from afar.

PDP president and federal Tourism Minister Tiong King Sing

Holding grudges

The suspicion and lack of trust in the PDP-PSB merger have more to do with PSB leaders than PDP. Wong is not known to be an easy personality to deal with and it is believed that he has never been able to forgive SUPP for sidelining him 10 years ago.

What the PSB leader has conveniently forgotten is that without SUPP, he would never have it so good in politics. For some three decades, Wong represented SUPP in various capacities and also as a senior minister in the Sarawak cabinet. Talk of being ungrateful, this is an example.

What I find most surprising in Wong’s manoeuvres was his declaration going into the state polls in 2021 that PSB would topple GPS. As a political veteran, he should know better, or did Wong choose to dream the impossible dream?

In GE15 in November last year, PSB was wiped out totally. It failed to win a single parliamentary seat, signalling the start of its demise.

When you are down and out, the next move is probably to choose the easy way out – surrender and join forces with the government. That says something about PSB and its leaders.

SUPP has also reacted swiftly to the PDP-PSB merger, and rightly so, with a reminder that the established norms and rules of the ruling GPS coalition are sacrosanct and must be respected.

SUPP secretary-general Sebastian Ting

“SUPP wishes to let it be known to those eager to join the coalition for whatever reasons that there is an expectation that individuals, including new members or citizens, have to respect the established norms, rules, and processes of the GPS government,” its secretary-general Sebastian Ting said in a statement in Miri yesterday.

I find Ting’s caution appropriate and timely when he stated that while SUPP respects the rights of individuals to join any political party or partake in the political causes of their choice, it maintains there are limitations imposed, especially if activities of a group threaten the stability and harmonious workings in the government.

Ting and SUPP were correct to wise up to its former party members’ attempt to rejoin the government. They should know who they are dealing with on the other side.

Somehow, it is not difficult to notice the changes in a politician’s stance on important issues without clear explanations. That can be seen as insincere or opportunistic. SUPP cannot be blamed if PSB leaders are perceived as such.

The key question is: Why didn’t PSB fold up and its members rejoin SUPP? That would have been the most acceptable solution but it didn’t happen that way.

This is the irony of it all. Even a positive development which should benefit the GPS government has left its leaders irritated. - Mkini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH is a veteran Sarawak editor and heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS). He can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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