Cracks in Sarawak PH ahead of state elections

Cracks are starting to appear within Sarawak Pakatan Harapan as the jostling for positions and seats begins ahead of the next elections.

Add in the monetary rewards for those aligned with the coalition in power and one can expect the infighting to be nasty and brutal.

The first sign that all is not well within the coalition occurred on Friday with Sarawak Amanah Youth voicing their dissatisfaction over the appointment of 19 parliamentary coordinators.

Sarawak PH deputy chairman Baru Bian had earlier announced the list of coordinators for the 19 constituencies, none of whom were from Amanah.

Baru is Sarawak PKR chairman while PH is the opposition coalition in Sarawak, now governed by Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

According to Baru, each parliamentary coordinator would receive the prime minister’s special allocation of RM500,000 annually, subject to the approval of the director-general of the Implementation Coordination Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department and the state development director.

The allocation could possibly have given Sarawak Amanah more reasons to hit back at Baru as he had appointed mainly members from his own party.

It is no secret that politicians will divert a portion of such funds for political purposes, particularly by those eyeing to be electoral candidates. Check and balance of such allocations is another matter altogether as long as no discrepancies are detected.

In rejecting Baru’s list, Amanah Youth chief Abu Tariq said the appointment had disregarded the consensus among PH Sarawak since no prior discussion or decision was made among the state PH leadership.

He said the appointment announced by Baru had deprived representatives of Amanah Sarawak the opportunity of being appointed as parliamentary coordinators in those constituencies which Amanah had contested in the 2018 general election.

If that is not enough dissension within Sarawak PH, matters took a turn for the worse when Baru came face-to-face with another major hurdle, this time from within his own PKR.

On Saturday, PKR Batang Sadong division committee members announced their rejection of Jamilah Baharuddin’s appointment as the parliamentary coordinator for Batang Sadong. They pointed out that Jamilah was from the Petra Jaya division in Kuching and hence, an outsider.

“Her nomination was never referred to the division and without consulting the division chief and committee members. Jamilah does not come from Batang Sadong, and her appointment is taking away the opportunity from locals who are more suitable and capable for the post”, the group said in a statement.

They want her to be replaced with a local from Batang Sadong, stressing that they had in fact in a meeting in October 2018 proposed PKR Batang Sadong chief Piee Ling for the post.

This contentious issue can expect to see more rumblings within Sarawak PH as Baru has been accused of practising favoritism in appointing his supporters as parliamentary coordinators.

At the national level, Baru who is also works minister is aligned to the Azmin Ali faction.

Meanwhile, Sarawak DAP secretary Alan Ling warned PH components last week not to attempt staking claims for seats which do not traditionally belong to them.

His warning seemed to be directed at PKR whose members had fought DAP previously in some overlapping seats, mostly in the urban areas.

As is always the case prior to any election, do not expect seat negotiations among coalition partners to be smooth sailing.

There will be more tussles and rumblings ahead. Include back-stabbing when the elections are on.

Francis Paul Siah heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak.

The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.