SUPP and UPP to be one again, but when?

Many were surprised by the announcement that UPP president Wong Soon Koh will retire after his current term as Bawang Assan state assemblyman ends.

KUCHING: The four-year-old United People’s Party (UPP) is expected to be unified with SUPP.

According to a top Sarawak BN source, UPP’s future will be discussed after the coming election.

He said it was the wish of Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg to see the two Chinese-based parties, UPP and SUPP, united as one to strengthen support for BN.

What caught many by surprise was the announcement by Abang Johari earlier this week that UPP president Wong Soon Koh will retire after his current term as the state assemblyman for Bawang Assan ends.

The chief minister also said that Soon Koh’s son, Andrew, had joined SUPP and would be the BN candidate for Bandar Sibu.

Soon Koh, 75, is a state minister and a four-term representative for Bawang Assan, a semi-rural seat near Sibu. Andrew is a political newcomer.

With the impending retirement of the party president and his son joining a rival party, the writing is on the wall for UPP.

UPP deputy president is Dr Jerip Susil, an assistant minister and a Bidayuh. But no one expects a non-Chinese to be the president of UPP.

UPP was formed in 2014 following an internal squabble within SUPP. Soon Koh wanted to take over the party in 2011 but his plan was thwarted by the surprise entry of Peter Chin, a federal minister, who also wanted to contest the SUPP presidency.

Soon Koh then left with his faction to form UPP.

Dr Sim Kui Hian took over as SUPP president following the retirement of Chin in 2014.

At the chief minister’s request, SUPP and UPP signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) pledging to work together for GE14.

On the outside, it seems to have worked for GE14 with SUPP’s willingness to accommodate UPP candidates as well. However, undercurrents are still felt between leaders of the two parties.

According to the source, that is understandable as the two parties have been slugging it out with each other for more than four years.

“It takes time to heal but with Abang Johari’s commitment to unite the Chinese community, the rift will be over soon”, he said.

The plan is for UPP to be disbanded and the younger leaders of UPP accommodated in key positions in SUPP.

The only factor now is the timing for UPP to call it a day. It could be soon or it could be just before the next state election due in 2021 when the UPP president is set to retire.