Thursday, August 27, 2009


In this open spate of verbal boxing between MCA president and Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat and Bintulu MP and BN Backbenchers Club chairman Tiong King Sing, Ong has alluded to the plan by a multiracial party from Sarawak to enter into the fray in West Malaysia.

Ong’s revelation must have alarmed more than a few MCA members. MCA has lost a great deal of electoral real estate to the Pakatan Rakyat coalition in the general election last year. A multi-racial party from Sarawak could serve as a sanctuary for disaffected leaders and members, thereby weakening the MCA even more.

This revelation was confirmed by Tiong himself the next day. A Sarawak party in Peninsular Malaysia would offer an alternative for BN supporters who are unhappy with existing component parties of the BN coalition, according to him.

How credible is this bizarre scheme to bring a Sarawak party to cross the South China Sea to West Malaysla.

Tiong is probably referring to his own party, the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), of which he serves as treasurer. This is a splinter party that was formed in the aftermath of the de-registration of the Sarawak National Party (SNAP) in 2002. The party has four members of parliament and eight seats in the 71-seat Sarawak state assembly.

The SPDP is now in talks with another equally rural and equally Dayak-based party the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) for a merger. The talks are not expected to yield concrete results any time soon because of internal politicking within both parties.

In the eyes of many members of the Dayak intellegentia, both the SPDP and the PRS with eight state seats are the tools used by Parti Persaka Bumiputra Sarawak (PBB) headed by the Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud to divide and rule the Sarawak Dayaks. PBB has 35 seats in the state assembly.

Tiong, a business tycoon who has been given the nickname “BN ATM”, has been known in Sarawak to be the man bankrolling the entire SPDP. In rural Sarawak, politics – especially during general elections – is a costly business beyond the reach of average Sarawakians. In the old days, SNAP used to depend heavily on another tycoon, James Wong Kim Min, for financial support. Ironically, Tiong was also said to have played a major role in the 'demise' of SNAP.

The Bintulu MP is also known to be interested in contesting the post of deputy president in the coming SPDP election in November, a position currently held by Peter Nyarok.

So far, not a single top leader from SPDP has openly given his support to Tiong over allegations that his company Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd has been involved in irregularities in the PKFZ scandal. None has come forth to lend credence to Tiong’s claim that the SPDP will attempt to make an entry into peninsular politics. It is the first time Sarawakians have heard of such an outlandish project.

But SPDP president William Mawan had since clarified that the party has no intention to go national and most of SPDP senior leaders are not in favour of Tiong's intention, some even telling him off. albeit behind his back.

Sarawak politicians within BN are usually quite low-keyed in their public statements. They also seem far more comfortable with political matters within the state territory of Sarawak. Their MPs do not speak out much in the Dewan Rakyat! It is hard to see how the SPDP leaders and members can operate in the very volatile contentious and often confrontational political atmosphere in Peninsular Malaysia.

SPDP is also hardly multiracial in substance. Tiong is their only Chinese wakil rakyat elected in the parliamentary constituency of Bintulu where there is an overwhelming Iban majority.

All things considered, the presence of a Sarawak political party in West Malaysia is hardly a viable proposition. It would be like asking a basketball team to go play football on a football field.


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