By John Isaac
PAKATAN Harapan Sarawak has claimed that the people in the Borneo state resent Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his role in the collapse of previous administration during the Sheraton Move, its chairperson Chong Chieng Jen said.
Similarly, he said, many harboured ill-feelings against opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s attempt to oust the Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin administration but at the same time they also look forward to a change of the government.
Revisiting the political manoeuvre, which the opposition described as a betrayal of the people’s mandate and defied democratic norms, Chong said the people also harboured a negative perception toward Sarawak Harapan as they are tired of the endless political mess at the federal level.
“Many regret the (downfall of the Harapan administration in February),” he told Malaysiakini in an interview last week.
“Of course, there was a negative impression (from the people). We need time for our policies to work and before we could see the effect of the policies, we collapsed. The people felt sorry, but they also loathed Dr Mahathir,” he said.
“Of course we took the blame,” said Chong, who is the Stampin MP.
For the record, in 2018 general election, Sarawak Harapan won 10 parliamentary seats out of 31, while the balance of two parliamentary seats among the 12 it contested were won by independents. This is considered a huge improvement as Harapan only won six seats in the 2013 election.
The Sheraton Move was triggered by mistrust and political infighting in PKR, following up by Bersatu, BN and PAS forming the new federal government after Mahathir resigned.
Chong such negative perception still lingered in the people due to the endless political mess caused by various attempts to reclaim power in Putrajaya, and that this had also put Sarawak Harapan in a disadvantaged situation.
“They have mixed feelings. But the people also anticipated a change of the federal government as the administration performed badly. It cooperated with PAS and Umno,” he said when asked if the people harboured any ill-feelings toward Anwar.
Anwar failed to push through his promise to oust Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration, and this has somehow impacted his credibility, according to Chong.
In September, Anwar announced that he possessed a solid and majority support from the MPs to form the new government. It was then reported last month that Anwar was said to appeal to his allies in Harapan to give him time to prove that he commands the majority and that he would quit as Harapan chief if he fails to achieve this.
PN’s victory in having Budget 2021 passed in Dewan Rakyat showed Muhyiddin enjoyed the support of the Parliament and defeated Harapan’s attempt.
At this stage, Chong opined that Harapan should recognise the situation and unite the strength of the opposition in order to gain the support of the rakyat.
A possible DAP-Umno cooperation
He also spoke of a possible cooperation between DAP and Umno, following the recent political coup in Perak, which saw leaders from both parties extended an olive branch to each other and stated that they were willing to work under certain conditions.
He said DAP may risk a public backlash by working with Umno due to the corruption cases involving its leaders and the racial and religious issues harped on by the Malay-based party.
However, Chong said, DAP needs to explain to the public on the prerequisites for such cooperation and how could it keep Umno in check in case Umno and DAP cooperate with each other.
“We need to look at the future of our country. We cannot be so selfish and give up the possibility (political cooperation) for the sake of winning the state polls,” he said.
Citing the Perak political coup, Chong said DAP did not abandon its principle of equal treatment for all ethnic groups when it was in talks with Umno.
“This is the basic principle of DAP. If they agree (in the future), shouldn’t we accept it?” he said.
For the record, Umno had teamed up with Harapan to vote out Bersatu deputy president Ahmad Faizal Azumu as the state menteri besar. However, Umno later arrived at a consensus with PAS and Bersatu to form the state government.
If DAP indeed cooperates with Umno, Chong is confident that his party could play its role in keeping the ruling party in check as DAP is unlike MCA and SUPP.
He also noted it was unlikely for Umno-DAP cooperation to materialise in the near future due to the stereotype perception the two parties have against each other.
“It needs at least three to five years to prove that the cooperation can bring more benefits to the people,” he said.
Compared with Umno, he said Sarawakians have a worse impression of PAS, despite the Islamic party having pledged not to contest in the Sarawak state election.
He said, PAS, which is part of the PN government, is dominated by “religious fanatics” who constantly compete with Umno to be more Malay and more Islamic.
“Over 10 percent of the Sarawak population of three million, or 400,000 Sarawakians, are living and working in the peninsula. They are equally affected by the PAS policy,” added Chong.
“Although Sarawak enjoys autonomy in education, medicine, defence and security, but with PAS being part of the ruling coalition and competing with Umno to be a more Malay and more Islamic party, it will somehow affect the federal policy,” he said.
He added that the state ruling coalition, Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), should take the blame for allowing Umno and PAS to form the PN government together with Bersatu.