Uphill battle for opposition in Batang Sadong

Bukit Sadong MP Nancy Shukri is expected to go for a third term in the constituency although there is talk that she might be transferred to Santubong.

SADONG JAYA: For many, the mere mention of Sadong immediately brings to mind the name of Rentap, Sarawak’s most famous Iban warrior.

Rentap, the Iban chief of Bukit Sadong fame, led a rebellion against James Brook which later became an important chapter in Sarawak’s history.

His name in Iban means “world shaker”. Although he may not have shaken the world, he certainly shook up his beloved homeland, with the Brooke family later describing him as their “most worth adversary”.

Today, Sadong is miles from its tumultuous past. It is seen as a sleepy district where little happens. The Malay majority are involved in agriculture, and the Chinese are mostly shopkeepers running sundry outlets and coffee shops.

Perhaps the biggest news of late involving Sadong was the grand opening of the 1.48km Batang Sadong bridge in December 2016.

The new bridge, costing RM231 million, was Sadong’s biggest project in years.

Another bridge, costing RM1 billion, is being planned across Sungai Batang Lupar to complete the coastal route alignment linking areas bypassed by the Pan-Borneo Highway. Construction is expected to start this year.

When completed, the 5km bridge to be built on a 50-50 share between the state and federal governments, will replace the Batang Sadong bridge as the longest bridge in Sarawak.

The Batang Sadong parliamentary constituency has been a PBB stronghold since it was first contested in the 1990 general election.

Since then, it has been successfully defended by four PBB candidates: Wahab Sulaihi (1990-1995), Sukinam Domo (1995-2004), Adenan Satem (2004-2008) and Nancy Shukri (2008-present).

When the late Adenan held the seat, he was the federal minister for natural resources and environment.

Nancy, the Batang Sadong incumbent, is a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. She was appointed to the federal cabinet following the 13th general election (GE13).

On the opposition front, PKR and PAS have rotated fielding candidates, with PAS contesting in 2004, PKR in 2008 and PAS again in 2013. All of them failed miserably.

In GE13, PAS’ Mohamad Jolhi only managed 2,017 votes against Nancy’s haul of 13,277.

The 14th general election (GE14) will likely see a repeat result regardless of whether the opposition candidate is from PAS or PKR, as it will be an uphill task for any candidate to overturn such a large deficit.

For 10 years, Nancy has built a strong grassroots following in Batang Sadong. Her constituents have grown accustomed to her frequent visits and programmes.

She also has strong rapport with the three state representatives in Sadong Jaya, Simunjan and Gedong, all of whom are PBB colleagues.

The cooperation between the four, as well as their teamwork with government agencies and NGOs, has enabled better planning and implementation of projects and programmes focusing on human capital and socio-economic activities.

But whether Nancy will go for a third term in Batang Sadong remains to be seen, as there is talk that she might be transferred to Santubong at the request of her party members, to replace Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.