Five term Stampin MP Yong Khoon Seng is disappointed with the internal bickering in SUPP and will not defend his seat in the coming polls.
KUCHING: Deputy Federal Works Minister Yong Khoon Seng’s decision not to defend his Stampin seat in the coming general election is unlikely to change even if his party, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), ropes in Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s help to persuade him.
Yong’s decision is worrying SUPP and state Barisan Nasional leaders because it simply means another seat lost for BN.
But even if Yong relented on his decision, defending his Stampin constituency would be an uphill battle for the coalition, observers here claim.
Many are of the view that “only Yong has a fighting chance” at retaining the seat against DAP which is likely to field its state secretary Chong Chieng Jen. Chong, who is a lawyer, is currently the Bandar Kuching MP and Kota Sentosa assemblyman.
They feel that if Najib cannot convince Yong, a 71-year-old grandfather who is well-liked by his constituents, then nobody can.
According to Yong, who is a five-term MP, he made his decision to retire three years ago.
“My decision stays. At the moment, I’ll stick to my decision, even if the prime minister approaches me”, he said.
Several quarters including the SUPP Sibu chairman Wong Soon Koh have tried persuading Yong to stay on and defend the Stampin seat as they considered him the most “winnable” candidate.
Wong, who is state Second Finance Minister, said he had recommended to Najib for Yong to be retained as the candidate in order to defend the seat.
“I went to see the prime minister two weeks ago. He discussed with me some of the winnable candidates for the Kuching area. To me, Yong is still winnable. That’s why I told the prime minister that perhaps he can persuade Yong to stay on.
“I also told Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud the same thing,” Wong said, who is hopeful that they can convince Yong to rescind his decision.
Both SUPP and BN leaders are increasingly worried about Stampin.
Their fear is based on the fact that the Chinese voters, who comprise 52,417 voters (based on the 2011 electoral roll) out of the 85,798-strong electorate, have already made up their minds.
Like Chinese in other constituencies in the state, the majority of the voters in Stampin (as indicated in the last state election) are leaning towards the opposition.
These voters want to “ubah” (change) after they allegedly suffered under the BN rule for the past 50 years or so.
They claimed that they have been marginalised and suppressed in terms of business opportunities, government contracts, scholarships, places in universities, Chinese education, land, and so on.
The second reason is that the three state seats – Batu Lintang, Kota Sentosa and Batu Kawah – which form Stampin parliamentary constituency are under opposition control. BN lost all these seats to PKR and DAP in last April’s state election.
The combined majorities obtained by the opposition in the three state seats were 13,748 votes, and the number of votes secured by them in the three seats was 33,268 votes (out of 85,798 votes).
Yong is popular
Meanwhile, a number of names have been tossed about by SUPP as possible candidates to contest the Stampin seat. They include SUPP assistant publicity and information secretary, Sih Hua Tong, criminal lawyer Lim Lian Kee and former Batu Kawah assemblyman, Tan Joo Phoi.
But none of them is as popular as Yong, who is a down-to-earth personality and approachable.
The locals can see him without any appointment, and the Ibans who comprise about 8,000 voters in the constituency really like him.
Every Gawai Dayak, Yong has never missed visiting them.
Born 71 years ago in Betong, Sri Aman, Yong speaks fluent Iban, English, Bahasa Malaysia, Bidayuh, Mandarin and other Chinese dialects.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy from the University of Queensland in 1966 and after his graduation, he had been involved in politics until today.
In a recent interview with FMT, he said that he had enough of politics and wanted to spend his life with his grandchildren and family.
“I have spent little time with them as I spend most of my time with my constituents,” he said.
He described the present crisis in SUPP as his biggest disappointment in his political career and saw that SUPP would face bigger problems in the years to come if the current leaders continued to bicker.
Although he declines to reveal his main reason for refusing to defend his seat, it is understood that Yong knows his limitation, and finds out that this time around it is not easy for him to retain the seat given the disunity that has set into the party.
As he had won with big majorities in the past elections, it is understood that he does not want to leave a “legacy of defeat” in the coming election.
He does not want his reputation to be tarnished.