Chief Minister Taib Mahmud recently met with 1,200 members of a new Chinese federation, rumoured to be a political party in the making.
The Federation of Seven Clan Associations, which is associated with partyless Larry Sng, has caused a row among the Chinese with one angry clan leader saying that the whole idea was aimed at ‘splitting’ the community further.
On the other hand, the federation has also generated much interest in the community as many believe that it will eventually be turned into another Chinese political party.
The fact that its pro-tem leaders and members met Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud has further fuelled speculations of a new party being formed.
Rumours of a new Chinese grouping have been circulating since the state election in April following Sarawak United Peoples Party’s (SUPP) dismal performance.
SUPP, which is a key Barisan Nasional coalition partner, lost 13 out of the 19 seats it contested. All of its Chinese incumbents and candidates fielded in the April 16 polls lost their seats.
Only two leaders – deputy secretary general Wong Soon Koh (Bawang Assan) and supreme council member Lee Kim Shin (Senadin) – managed to retain their seats.
In the forefront of the rumours of the new federation for the Chinese, is partyless Larry Sng, who incidentally has been described as Taib’s ‘blue-eyed’ boy and behind the huge delegation’s visit to Taib during the Raya festivities.
Despite not being fielded in the recent state polls, Taib recently appointed Sng as the youth advisor, a post equivalent to a minister, in the CM’s department.
Sng is rumoured to the financier and the prime mover of the new federation of Chinese groups.
Following his ‘inability’ to defend his seat in Pelagus, the family quickly convinced his uncle George Lagong to stand as independent.
Lagong went on to win Pelagus and whilst initially appeared to be a stand-alone, he has since declared that he is ‘BN friendly’.
Sng meanwhile has flatly denied being behind the new federation or that he is setting up a new political party.
However few believed this to be true as Sng has been in ‘limbo’ since 2006 when he was sacked by Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president James Masing after he tried to topple Masing in a power struggle.
At the time a number of Sng’s supporters, including the PRS founding secretary general Sidi Munan, were also sacked from the party.
Since then Sng has been hawking himself with various parties within the BN fold but Masing has thwarted his every move.
Recently however Masing said that if BN-partner Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) wanted Sng, it could have him.
Not for politics
Meanwhile the Sng-linked new federation continues to stir curiosity.
At Taib’s recent Hari Raya open house, the pro-tem president of the federation, Chai Then Sian who led a 1,200-member strong delegation spoke to reporters and denied any ‘political intentions’.
“It is ridiculous to suggest that the federation would eventually be turned into a political party.
“There is no such thing. We have no intention to turn it into a political party,” he said.
However, he refused to disclose the federation’s objectives and the reasons for its formation. In the same event, Taib also dismissed any plans to set up another pro-BN Chinese-based political party.
After all, there is already in existence the United Chinese Associations (UCA).
The new federation comprises seven associations in Sibu – the Foochow, Kwong Wai Siew, Hainam, Hakka, Chiang Chuan, Heng Hua and Teochew.
Sng has also remained tight-lipped over the formation of the federation.
Meanwhile, a leader of six dialectical sub-clans of the Foochows, Joseph Tang has questioned the motives and objectives of the new federation.
He questioned how different the federation would be from the existing umbrella body of Chinese associations in Sibu – the United Chinese Associations.
“Is there any need to form a new federation, if its objectives are similar to the objectives of the existing federation?” he asked.
He pointed out that the Sibu UCA which was formed several decades ago by seven clans associations also catered to the needs of the people.
“It is also the unifying factor and the pooling of the Chinese resources,” added Tang, who represented Sarawak Kutien Association.
He believed that the formation of the new federation would certainly split the unity of the Chinese community.
Too early for politics
Taib, meanwhile has advised the new federation not to think about politics immediately.
He said there would be time enough to fill the void left behind by SUPP after its debacle in the last state election.
“You don’t think of trying to be adventurous and far-fetched when you have suffered some kind of weakness,” he told the leaders of the new organisation.
He admitted that the present BN government might not be that perfect in its politics, but added that it was possible to accommodate the community’s ideals.
“But we have to be practical about the way we want to achieve those ideals.
“To me it is very sad, just for the sake of politics, if we ever forget the solidarity and nation building that we have been able to achieve since Merdeka and before Merdeka,” Taib added.
Several other Chinese associations in the state, when contacted, have refused to comment saying that they are not in the picture.
“We do not know the purpose and the objectives of the new federation.
“We will wait and see as we did not receive any invitation,” said Wong Tiong Hook, president of Kuching Foochow Association.
Tan Kit Leng, who is the president of Kuching Teochew Association, also expressed similar views.