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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Malayan Agenda: PPBM to spread its wings to Sarawak

KUCHING - Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) is looking to spread its wings to Sarawak, Bersatu chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced yesterday.

Bernama quoted him as saying the move is to fulfil the wishes of the people in Sarawak.

Dr Mahathir, who is the Prime Minister, said the proposed move was also in line with the current situation in Sarawak as the political parties in Pakatan Harapan (PH), such as Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), had ventured there, besides Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS).

“We might go to Sarawak. We have yet to decide but we were thinking because the other Pakatan Harapan parties are already in Sarawak but we are not.”

“At this moment, the situation in Sarawak is that all the Sarawak parties are forming their own coalition. So, since PKR is there, Amanah is there, even PAS is there, so we think that it is proper for us to go there,” he said at a press conference after chairing a meeting of the Bersatu supreme leadership council in Petaling Jaya.

Dr Mahathir said Bersatu would not venture into Sabah because Parti Warisan Sabah, which was regarded as an ally of Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan, was already there.

“We will not go to Sabah because we see Warisan as our ally,” Dr Mahathir said.

Meanwhile, political analyst Prof James Chin said if Bersatu comes in to Sarawak, its audience will be the Malay and Melanau communities.

“Am I surprised? Not really, as Bersatu needs to expand. You have to understand that Umno’s dream was to be a nationwide political party.

This dream could not be achieved as they could not enter Sarawak when Sarawak was under PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu) and (former chief minister Tun Pehin Sri Abdul) Taib (Mahmud),“ said Chin, who is director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania in Australia.

He said now that Sarawak is under Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), there is no reason for Bersatu not to come to Sarawak.

“So now it’s the reverse. Umno was in Sabah but not in Sarawak. Now Bersatu is coming to Sarawak but cannot go to Sabah.

“Will Bersatu be a real threat to PBB? It depends on the sort of leaders they can attract from the Malay and Muslim communities in Sarawak. If they could attract some big names and build a momentum for 2021, which is only two years away, then they might be able to win some seats,” he added.

He believes that besides PBB, the other big loser if Bersatu comes in is PAS as it has ‘no market share’ in Sarawak and Bersatu will likely attract PAS Sarawak supporters.

“At the end of the day, we can say this is consistent – since the rest of PH is here already, Bersatu might as well come in. The practical side is that all PH parties will use the common logo in 2021, unlike the recent GE (general election) when they used their own logo,” he said.

Chin pointed out that Sarawak nationalists would be another lot who would be unhappy because they had been fighting to keep Malayan parties out of Sarawak.

“And by the way, the defeated Umno (United Malays National Organisation) is also planning to move into Sarawak soon after the Umno party elections. If things go to plan, by next year, you will probably see Umno, Bersatu and PBB all fighting for Sarawak Muslim votes. And this is a very good thing. I believe in choices, not monopoly,” he added.

Separately, a senior journalist here, in an immediate response, said: “This time around, the state government may consider Bersatu’s overtures to spread its wings into Sarawak.

“The present scenario is different from the BN-Umno years.

“A GPS-Bersatu tie-up cannot be entirely ruled out, possibly at the expense of PKR and DAP (Democratic Action Party) in Sarawak. The two peninsula-based parties may get sidelined as a result.”

On the other hand, PBB information chief Datuk Idris Buang said: “It’s democracy and it is up to them to spread their wings or otherwise.”

He said eventually it would be up to the wisdom of the people of Sarawak whether Bersatu or any other Semenanjung-based parties would appeal to the hearts and bosoms of Sarawakians.

“But most importantly, we have to accept the fact that the people of Sarawak are presently upbeat about getting back their infringed rights from the federal government.

“In this regard, it would be unnatural or inapt for any non-Sarawak-based party to speak wholeheartedly for Sarawak unlike what PBB, PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak), SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party) and PDP (Progressive Democratic Party) who are members of GPS are doing in that they ‘truly embrace the spirit of Sarawak’ in that struggle,” he added.

Senior lecturer in Universiti Malaysia Sabah Lee Kuok Tiung concurred that Sarawak cannot stop the intention of Bersatu entering Sarawak.

“Bersatu will not only become competitor to GPS but also to PH component parties, especially PKR.

“It is a move driven by the coming up of Sarawak state election in less than three years’ time,” Lee said.

On Sunday, Dr Mahathir invited Sarawak and Sabah leaders for a gathering at Seri Perdana.

Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg was quoted as saying the Prime Minister’s willingness to invite him and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal would foster cooperation and ties with the federal government and have a positive effect on the nation.

During the gathering, the leaders expressed their support for Dr Mahathir.

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