Will SUPP’s Sebastian Ting unseat PKR’s Michael Teo this time in Miri?

miri-4

MIRI: Miri is the second largest city in Sarawak, with a population of 358,020 as of 2016. The city is also the capital of Miri district in the Miri Division.

Miri is also the birthplace of the Malaysian petroleum industry. Other major industries in the city include timber, oil palm and tourism.

The city is the main tourist gateway to several national parks, including the famous Gunung Mulu National Park. The Gunung Mulu National Park, with its Sarawak Chamber, is one of the favourite ecotourism destinations.

Miri was formerly administered by the Miri Municipal Council for 24 years. It was upgraded to Miri City Council on May 20, 2005, with Adam Yii Siew Sang as its current mayor.

Adam Yii is a SUPP man as all major city and municipal councils are controlled by the Chinese-based party.

Dr Michael Teo
Dr Michael Teo

Although the Miri parliamentary seat is currently held by PKR’s Dr Michael Teo, SUPP still controls the city council as it is a BN component party.

The Miri seat has one of the largest electorates in Sarawak with a total of 71,170 voters, comprising 57% Chinese, 26% Malay and 17% Dayak.

Miri had always been a SUPP seat. Among its early representatives was a colourful personality, Chia Chin Shin. A Hakka businessman, Chia used to carry a broad grin wherever he went.

Because he also had a stout figure, he was affectionately nicknamed “The Smiling Buddha” by Miri locals. Chia has since passed on.

SUPP’s fifth president Peter Chin Fah Kui was Miri’s longest-serving MP. He won the seat for five consecutive terms from 1990-2013 until he decided to retire from politics before GE13.

To everyone’s surprise, Chin even won the seat unopposed in 2004. No one expected an urban seat like Miri to be uncontested but it seemed then that even DAP was not interested.

Chin also served as deputy minister and minister at federal level for more than 20 years during his tenure as Miri MP.

Miri was Chin’s and SUPP’s fortress at that time and he used to beat his opponents by double-digit figures.

Sebastian Ting.
Sebastian Ting.

But not any more. In GE13, Miri fell into the hands of PKR’s Dr Michael Teo, who defeated SUPP’s first-timer, Sebastian Ting, by 1,992 votes. Teo is the sole PKR MP in Sarawak.

The PKR legislator has recently expressed his wish to retire but it looks like he might have to defend Miri again.

It is said that Teo became greatly handicapped following the brutal murder of his loyal and capable assistant, Bill Kayong, in 2016. Kayong was a well-known social activist in Sarawak.

According to Pakatan Harapan sources in Sarawak, PKR intends to swap Miri for Stampin with DAP.

Besides Teo, PKR has no suitable candidate for Miri while Miri DAP chairman Alan Ling is said to be interested.

However, it seems that of late, Sarawak DAP is not too keen on the swapping idea.

Barring any last-minute changes, Teo is the most likely candidate for PKR again in GE14.

But there is no certainty that the opposition will successfully defend Miri because SUPP’s Sebastian Ting looks set to contest in Miri again.

Ting is now SUPP secretary-general and the state assemblyman for Piasau, one of the three state seats within the Miri parliamentary constituency.

He defeated Piasau incumbent Alan Ling in the 2016 state election. Ting is known as a hard-working politician with a warm personality and is very popular with Miri residents.

If Teo and Ting clash again in a repeat of GE13, it is anyone’s guess who will win this famous oil town seat of Miri.