Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu says the constituency must remain a BN stronghold.
SARIKEI: Just before 10.30am yesterday, three seven-seater Eurocopter helicopters from Hornbill Skyways, a Kuching-based aviation company, landed on a spacious field opposite Wilfred Ullie’s longhouse in Ulu Wak, about an hour’s drive from Pakan town here.
After the swirling dust stirred by the powerful rotors had cleared, their passengers – no ordinary visitors arriving for a very ordinary visit – disembarked.
They included Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu, who is also deputy president of Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the state Barisan Nasional (BN) anchor party, and Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) president William Mawan Ikom. The duo are among the greatly respected Iban political leaders.
Others were Sarawak BN secretary-general Stephen Rundi, a rising Iban leader, and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) supreme council member Liwan Lagang, an upcoming Orang Ulu leader.
Julau MP Joseph Salang and longhouse chief Wilfred Ullie anak Silla and 53 longhouse chiefs in the area played the gracious hosts.
The Julau constituency has very much been in the focus of the state press.
It all began when Meluan state assemblyman Wong anak Judat from the SPDP announced with much gung-ho, that he would take on Salang in the coming parliamentary election.
He had a fallout with Salang over his misinterpretation of the latter’s move to transfer a RM3 million fund allocated to a non-existent road, the now famous Nanga Entabai-Rantau Limau Road (still under consultant study) to improve another road in nearby Merurun areas.
Salang had done so with a suggestion from the Sarikei Division Public Works Department office. If the fund was not ultilised, it would be returned to Putrajaya.
Salang had also agreed on condition that the Nanga Entabai/Rantau Limau road project would be pursued with even greater zest and more adequate funds would be made available.
In May, Rural and Regional Development Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal announced a RM43 million fund for the project during a visit to Nanga Merurun in Julau.
Despite a barrage of explanations, Wong, for reasons best known to him, is still sceptical. He goes further to accuse Salang of hijacking the fund to his longhouse in Bintangor. Not content with this, he claims the people of Julau now want their own to represent them, as Salang is an outsider.
The maverick Wong is beginning to flirt with newly-formed state opposition party, Sarawak Workers Party (SWP). He attended many of its functions to run down Salang. He even announced publicly that he would leave SPDP to join SWP to contest.
His move earned him much wrath, including from among the 8,000-strong SPDP members in the two seats. He is long known for his mercurial temperament and quick temper. The more impatient among his non-fans see his wanting to contest, a godsend opportunity to get rid of him, once and for all.
Julau, the size of Negeri Sembilan, with 20,761 registered voters, has seen much progress in the form of roads. Power supply from the state grid is slowly reaching many interior longhouses. Efforts are being made to beef up water supplies, as well.
Nevertheless, Salang’s best contributions must be in the communications field where 10 new communication towers are being erected. The Julau diaspora coming home for the recent Gawai Dayak festival was a very grateful lot when they could call their friends from afar, on their handphones, from deep in the constituency.
Secondary school students and community leaders are similarly grateful as most of them have the 1Malaysia netbooks. A number of longhouses are also WiFi villages and there are the community broadband centres in Julau and Pakan towns.
Simple and precise
Salang said, when all the towers were ready by year-end, at least, 60% of Julau would be covered.
The state BN is obviously fed up with Wong’s antics.
Jabu and his entourage and Salang also flew to another longhouse, Rh.Sumbang, in Merurun, Julau, to meet 50 more longhouse chiefs.
Jabu and Mawan’s messages at the two venues were simple and precise. The BN should not be allowed to lose the Julau seat.
Julau voters must deliver the seat to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is the BN supremo. Najib has not forgotten them, and on June 3, had greatly honoured them with his Gawai Dayak visits in Mawan and Tr. Mathew Jana’s longhouses in Pakan and Julau, respectively.
Mawan, the state social development and urbanisation minister, said that following the visit, the two areas were expected to receive about RM60 million in new development funds.
Since the Wong saga, the debonair Mawan had been closely watched by many, especially, Julau folks and the state political circles on how he would make his next move. He has, so far, been rather non-committal.
But his very presence that day, speaks volume of the state BN spirit, solidarity and unity.
“I know Joe (Salang) very, very well since our childhood days. He is very hardworking and is always on the ground.
“I am ready to lead in the hunt for votes for him in the coming election. We in the BN do not believe in sabotaging or backstabbing one another as we are all after the one and only objective of continuing with the BN leadership and government, and in transforming the country into an industrialised powerhouse by 2020,” said Mawan.
Jabu, in drumming support for Salang, said the Julau folks were lucky as their representative was a member of the federal cabinet.
“If you choose to reject Salang, you are rejecting your ‘tuah’ [good fortune]. Do not be the ‘manok sabong’ (fighting cock) of those seeking to disunite us, destroy our political stability or want to see us remain in rural poverty,” he said.
He said opposition parties like PKR or PAS did not understand the Ibans, their needs, aspirations and problems.
Based on Jabu and Mawan’s messages at both functions, the opposition in the Julau seat, likely from the PKR and SWP, will know there is one tough fight on the horizon from the BN, come the 13th general election.