Dayak leaders joining PSB poses problems for Sarawak’s ruling coalition

Gabungan Parti Sarawak leaders at the launch of the coalition early this year. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The entry of Dayak leaders to a party allied with the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) could complicate matters for the coalition at the next polls, due in two years.

It is understood that their decision to join Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) is not sitting well with SUPP and PRS, which are part of the GPS coalition formed in the aftermath of the general election last year, due to matters related to seat allocations.

PSB has its origins in the United People’s Party (UPP), a splinter party of SUPP which is predominantly Chinese.

“SUPP and PRS leaders will not be happy because of seats. SUPP has a history with UPP and those taken in by PSB include former PRS leaders who are strong in their areas and will want to contest there,” a senior member of the ruling coalition told FMT, referring to Dayak-controlled PRS.

Yesterday, Sri Aman MP Masir Kujat, a PRS vice-president, quit the party to join PSB alongside former MPs and assemblymen Joseph Entulu, William Nyallau, Sylvester Entri and Banyi Beriak. Joseph and William were sacked from PRS last year.

Speaking to FMT, the Sarawak politician said the new members were “strong in their areas”.

“They will likely want to contest there in the next election, but their former parties will not like that,” he added.

In the last state election, there was a dispute over distribution of seats between SUPP and UPP.

Sarawak analyst Jeniri Amir said PSB was trying to strengthen its position by taking in influential Dayak leaders.

But he said this would further split the community politically as it was represented by too many Dayak-based parties.

“I believe PSB president Wong Soon Koh is reading the situation correctly by strengthening the party with Dayak leaders. He has to do so if PSB is to remain relevant,” said the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak lecturer.

Jeniri said building strength in Dayak-majority areas was crucial to countering the growing influence of PKR as seen in the results of last year’s general election.

PKR had won the federal seats of Puncak Borneo, Selangau and Lubok Antu.

“If PSB is to remain relevant, he has to bring in Dayak leaders,” Jeniri added.

When contacted, PRS deputy president Joseph Salang Gandum questioned PSB’s claim of being friendly to the state ruling coalition.

“When we were in Barisan Nasional, we did not take in members from other components,” he told FMT.

He said although PSB is not a full member of the coalition, its president is a state minister.

But Joseph is confident that Masir’s exit from PRS will not affect support for the party.

“No one is indispensable,” he said.

Meanwhile, Banyi, who headed Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras), said he decided to join PSB because it is multiracial.

“We chose PSB because Teras was not accepted to join GPS. In fact, they stole our representatives,” he told FMT.