|The Muslims in Sarawak might be tempted as well to follow in the political footsteps of the Chinese.|
Speculation is rife that Umno is actively formenting a split within Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the main plank in the ruling Sarawak Barisan Nasional (BN), as a prelude to its entry into the state.
The story stems from the failure of PBB Youth leader Fadillah Yusuf to condemn Umno Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin and MCA vice-president Gan Ping Sieu over their calls to Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud to step down.
Fadillah’s silence has apparently riled Abdul Karim Hamzah, Taib’s chief political secretary. His father had once been incarcerated under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) by Abdul Rahman Ya’kub, Taib’s predecessor and maternal uncle.
There’s no doubt that Umno wants to replace PBB in Sarawak just as it replaced the United Sabah National Organisation (Usno) “to save Sabah from Christian rule”.
The reality is that Umno wanted to save itself at the expense of the Sabahans considering the anticipated loss of seats in Peninsular Malaysia.
Hence, likewise, the party’s proposed entry into Sarawak for the same reason “and not to save the Malays from Christian rule”.
The Dayaks in any case, discounting Taib’s Melanau Dayak credentials, continue to be marginalized and disenfranchised.
But that’s about as far as Sarawak Umno goes.
It’s unlikely that the Sabah script will ever work in Sarawak except with great difficulty. Umno in Sabah, to reiterate, was all about keeping the Muslim parliamentary seats away from the Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) and adding to its strength in parliament.
Usno was not in power when it made way for Umno. The party was subsequently deregistered when it had second thoughts and decided to stage a comeback.
In Sarawak, there’s a big difference in that PBB is in power. The only way that PBB can ever be ousted from power is if it loses the nine Dayak state seats it holds.
PBB’s fate will be further sealed if the Sarawak United People’s Party (Supp) loses its four Dayak state seats.
PBB’s humiliation will be complete if the BN, at the same time, continues to retain the nine and eight Dayak state seats respectively held by the Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP).
Umno’s “worry” in Sarawak is not the state seats but the parliamentary ones in the Malay and Dayak areas – 10 and 14 respectively — falling to PKR. It cannot prevent the DAP from taking all seven Chinese parliamentary seats in the state including one that it may give to PKR.
PBB holds 14 parliamentary seats i.e. 10 Malay and four Dayak. None of these seats or the six held by PRS and the four under SPDP are in any imminent danger of falling to PKR. But this will not prevent the party from trying.
All it needs is to get one morale-boosting Chinese seat from DAP to make its presence felt. The thinking of the opposition is that the four Dayak seats held by PBB are ripe for the taking and perhaps at least one or two Malay seats. It would be difficult for the opposition to take Dayak seats away from Dayak parties like PRS and SPDP.
PKR, unlike PBS in Sabah, generally does not appeal to the Malays in Sarawak at this juncture, and much less the Dayaks. The two Dayak seats – Ba’Kelalan and Krian — that PKR picked up last month in the state was due more to the personal influence and popularity of the candidates.
Batu Lintang, a Chinese seat, was a gift from the DAP. This means PKR was actually wiped out in Sarawak during the state election last month.
It would be a different scenario altogether if Pakatan Rakyat (PR), the opposition alliance, can stake claim to Putrajaya. In that case the Muslims in Sarawak, as in Sabah, might be more than tempted to cast their lot with PKR “and driven too if they are indoctrinated with a fear of Dayak rule”.
Also, the Muslims in both Sabah and Sarawak have noted with increasing anxiety that the Chinese in Malaysian Borneo have shed their traditional parochialism and are opting for political unity under the DAP and Lim Kit Siang and making common cause with their members of their community in Peninsular Malaysia.
The Muslims in Sarawak might be tempted as well to follow in the political footsteps of the Chinese.
Potential for PAS
Unlike the more emancipated Malays in Peninsular Malaysia who are spoilt for choice – Umno, PKR, PAS – the Muslims in Sabah and Sarawak, being more tribal-minded, still feel more comfortable with just one party to represent them in government.
There’s little difference between Umno and PKR to Muslims in Malaysian Borneo since both are seen as committed to the tribalistic ketuanan Melayu (Malay dominance and supremacy) mindset. The only difference is over which party can seize control of Putrajaya.
PAS is a variation in Malaysian Borneo since it’s committed to ketuanan Islam. The numbers in favour of PAS on the other side of the South China Sea are still very much in the lower ranges. Nevertheless, the potential is there for PAS to capture new territory.
If PBB eventually falls apart, and this is a big IF, the idea that Muslims in the state would opt for either Umno or PKR is too neat to be contemplated.
Since Umno is already in Putrajaya, the greater tendency is for the community to choose this party and reserve its options for PKR when the occasion warrants it. In that case, PKR will be left with the crumbs but perhaps sufficient to translate at best into two parliamentary seats. That would make for perhaps five state seats.
When – not if — Umno enters the local political theatre, the Dayaks in PBB may be co-opted into Umno very much like the Dusuns in Sabah. If the Dayaks don’t resist this political arrangement, they will continue to be divided by Umno as they were by PBB.
So, if it’s the Chinese in Sabah and Sarawak for the DAP and the Muslims for either Umno or PKR/PAS, the question that arises is what happens to the idea of political autonomy in the two states and a Third Force in the Malaysian parliament.
Patently, only the Dusuns in Sabah and Dayaks in Sarawak will eventually be left to carry the banner of autonomy and the rights of the two states under the 1963 Malaysia Agreement. They might at best attract a token representation of their fellow countrymen from among the Muslims and Chinese to strike a blow for Sabah and Sarawak.
Former PKR vice-president Jeffrey Kitingan has already discovered that his partyless Borneo Agenda has mainly struck a chord among the Dayaks and Dusuns in the kampungs and only a deafening silence from others.
Joe Fernandez TMI