Sim vs Chong showdown on the cards?

Sim (left) and Chong.

By Emma Victoria

SARAWAK’S capital is set to see several high-profile face-offs in the upcoming state election, including a possible battle royale between state DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen and the SUPP president Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian for the Batu Kawah seat.

Other seats to watch in larger Kuching include Padungan, which recently saw DAP’s representative quit the party, and Batu Kitang, where the opposition lost in 2016 due to internal bickering.

Talk is now rife that Chong, currently the Stampin MP and Kota Sentosa assemblyman, may move to Batu Kawah where Dr Sim is the incumbent.

If it does happen, this will not be the first Sim vs Chong contest. In the last 14th General Election in 2018, Chong moved from Bandar Kuching to Stampin where he beat Dr Sim with a majority of 14,221 votes.

Despite the handsome majority two years ago, Batu Kawah is not a “sure win” seat for Chong if he decides to move there in the 12th Sarawak election.

Dr Sim, the state Local Government and Housing Minister, has been working actively on the ground and resolving his constituents’ woes there. He has also been credited for doing a pretty good job in Sarawak’s battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Pundits rate Chong’s chances of victory at 50:50, barring independent candidates who could split the votes and tilt the outcome.

Dr Sim wrested the seat from the DAP in 2016 when he defeated Christina Chiew and an independent candidate Liu Thian Leong. He polled 6,414 votes against Chiew’s 4,329 and Liu’s 1,109, to win with a majority of 2,085.

The cardiologist-turned-politician was later appointed to the state cabinet.

Meanwhile, Padungan, one of the biggest Chinese majority seats in the state and a DAP traditional stronghold, could also see some excitement.

Its incumbent Wong King Wei left the DAP recently over disillusionment with the party leadership.

Wong, who was also the state DAP vice-chairman had confirmed that he would not join other parties or stand in the seat again in the coming state polls despite having a strong support base there.

In 2016, SUPP’s Peter Pau failed to win Padungan but was able to slash DAP’s majority from 7,884 (in 2011) to 4,270 voters.

Another seat worth watching is Batu Kitang, a semi-urban created in 2016 and carved out of Batu Kawah and Kota Sentosa – both DAP’s stronghold.

However back then, PKR and the DAP failed to reach a consensus at the eleventh hour, resulting in a three-corner contest which benefited the eventual victor, SUPP’s Lo Khere Chiang.

Lo polled 6,466 votes, against DAP’s Abdul Aziz Isa (4,626 votes), PKR Voon Shiak Ni (883 votes) and Independent candidates Datuk Seri Othman Bojeng (54 votes) and Sulaiman Kadir (61 votes).

Batu Kitang is one of the seats where the DAP and PKR are ironing out to avoid overlapping contests.