GPS risks losing more Chinese seats in Sarawak elections

Sarawak GPS leaders (Sarawak Voice Pic)

By Emma Victoria

GABUNGAN Parti Sarawak (GPS) risk losing more Chinese-majority seats including the Batu Kawah which is currently held by the Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian, in the next Sarawak state elections.

Political analyst Associate Professor Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said GPS, especially its component party Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), will be facing an uphill battle in the polls.

“They are not just facing challenges from DAP but also from Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB), which is all geared up for the next state polls, as well as possible independent candidates.

“Although there are no major issues in Batu Kawah, voters have a tendency for checks and balances. So, I would say even Dr Sim won’t be totally safe and it’s not a “sure win” seat anymore,” he said.

Batu Kawah is Chinese majority seat (60.1 per cent) with 16,892 voters.

In 2016, Dr Sim won the seat by defeating DAP incumbent Christina Chiew in a three-cornered fight that also involved independent candidate Liu Thian Leong.

Dr Sim polled 6,414 votes against Chiew’s 4,329 and Liu’s 1,109, to win by a majority of 2,085 votes.

“Although it is a Chinese-majority seat, Dr Sim wrested the seat from DAP with strong support from the Bumiputera voters, which was about 36 per cent of the total voters there,” he added.

Therefore GPS may lost Batu Kawah if DAP or PSB are able to field a winnable candidate or if there is a swing among Bumiputera voters against the incumbent.

Apart from that, Awang Azman said other Chinese majority seats will also be categorised as grey areas this time around.

One of the main factors that contributed to the Barisan Nasional’s landslide victory in the last state elections was the popularity of the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem.

Back then, Sarawak was hit by the “Adenan fever” as the late Chief Minister was regarded as people-oriented and his populist policies had attracted the support of Chinese voters.

Besides, there was also the “feel good” factor after Tun Taib Mahmud had stepped down as Chief Minister after 33 years.

“The sentiments of the people having a new Chief Minister after been ruled by Taib for decades greatly impacted Chinese voters, who looked forward for to the new leader,” said the political analyst from University Malaya.

The late Adenan also managed to come out with policies that benefited the Chinese, including the allocation of annual grants to Chinese schools and recognised the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) in Sarawak, which contributed to the return of Chinese voters.

“People were also attracted by Adenan’s no nonsense style while the current Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Abang Openg only seem to continue the mandate or Adenan’s legacy.

“So, there will be no “Adenan Fever” in the next state polls, hence, it is another factor that GPS needs to take into consideration.

“The Chinese voters are now more concerned about good governance and want to be a watchdog for checks and balances in the state,” said Awang Azman.

SUPP has seven state assemblymen who are Dr Sim (Batu Kawah), Lo Khere Chiang (Batu Kitang), Datuk Francis Harden Hollis (Simanggang), Datuk Seri Huang Tiong Sii (Repok), Datuk Ding Kuong Hiing (Meradong), Datuk Sebastian Ting (Piasau), and Datuk Lee Kim Shin (Senadin).