PETALING JAYA: Like many other Barisan Nasional (BN) politicians, Nancy Shukri watched in horror as the results trickled in during the wee hours of May 10, marking the end of the coalition’s decades-old stranglehold on power.
The three-term Batang Sadong MP from Sarawak used the word “scary” to describe that fateful day, but as an incorrigible optimist, she has decided to see the glass as half full.
“It was hard, but the first thing that came to mind was the coming state election, which must be held by 2021,” Nancy, a former minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, told FMT in a recent interview.
Unlike other states, Sarawak holds its elections separately, so it was spared from the tsunami that caused almost all BN-held states in the peninsula, as well as neighbouring Sabah, to switch governments.
Although national issues such as 1MDB are said to have played a central role in BN’s downfall, Nancy feels the losses in Sarawak had more to do with state issues.
“It was internal issues which let us down,” said the PBB Wanita vice-chief.
In the aftermath of the May 9 polls, PBB joined hands with three other Sarawak BN parties to form a new alliance outside the coalition, called Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
GPS now holds 72 out of 82 states seats, which were won in 2016 in a state election that saw the opposition almost wiped out.
“But with the new political landscape, we might lose some seats due to several factors.
“For one, the number of young voters who are social media savvy has increased dramatically and most of them want change,” she said.
Nancy replies to questions from FMT.
How is GPS doing after it replaced Sarawak BN?
On the ground, the GPS MPs and assemblymen work very well with each other, like how we used to when we were in BN.
As a coalition, however, we need to work closely on how we position ourselves for the next state election, strategise and work as one.
Presently, we are working in silos, as individual parties, and this isn’t very convincing as a coalition. There needs to be a collective invocation of GPS initiatives among party members, which I see is lacking.
What is your prediction for the next state election?
With the new political landscape, we might lose some seats due to several factors.
Apart from the increase in the number of young voters, there is the opposition which is very capable of manipulating and politicising issues to stir hatred among them and even older voters.
Only now when they are in the federal government do they realise how difficult it is to deal with real issues. Only now do they realise it requires strong administrative and political will to resolve them.
Will PBB suffer the same fate as Umno?
No. PBB has seen it all. No doubt there are some PBB members who have jumped to other parties. (But) I believe PBB is and will still be GPS’ backbone.
What is important is for all members to work hard and speak for the people. As long as we do that, as long as we know what is close to the peoples’ hearts and fight for that, PBB will be the party for all.
So what is close to the people’s hearts?
The people in Sarawak want to see change in the rural areas and at a faster pace. They want clean water, electricity and roads. These are basic human rights. Sarawak has the capability to provide all of this.
It’s very important that we work hard to generate revenue to raise the peoples’ standard of living, in both rural and urban areas.
Do you foresee GPS working in a coalition with a peninsula-based party?
Perhaps GPS will stay on as a local-based political coalition, but I would not be surprised if GPS forms firmer cooperation with a peninsula-based party.
But I cannot foresee GPS having a relationship like what we used to have with BN.
Maybe it’s better this way so that we can work independently, from enforcing local laws to generate revenue to pushing for a return of Sarawak’s rights as enshrined under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
Where do you see GPS in six months’ time?
A lot depends on the stability of the peninsula-based parties. As a state that has been focusing on the politics of development all along, leaders in the state have to realign their political compass without compromising their main agenda, particularly the politics of development.
Currently, the political tsunami from the peninsula is hitting Sarawak hard. Suddenly people see the opportunity to play a role in politics, hence the increased political awareness.
That itself is a good thing, when Sarawakians become more politically aware.
What are the possible problems?
There are politicians who don’t understand the philosophy in politics. There needs to be philosophical knowledge in environmental behaviour, health, economy, culture, religion, engineering, agriculture, international relations, and many more.
Politics isn’t just about standing in an election and the winning parties forming the government.
We are already witnessing U-turns in policy-making, inconsistent statements, and many more that prove politics is about more than just winning.
How do you plan to mobilise support before the next state election?
Our leaders must assure Sarawakians of the “Sarawak First” policy. More town halls with the rakyat will be a good platform for two-way communication between the leaders and the people so that we can better understand each other and create a stronger bond with the people.
Any message to Sarawak politicians?
We all know that real politics is in the peninsula. Politicians there just grab the opportunity to work with their Sarawakian counterparts. And that’s my personal concern.
We have a big agenda to pursue as Sarawakians. We should focus on this big agenda and not fall into the trap of narrow politics disguised as national politics.