‘High-powered line-up gave Chin’s camp full control of SUPP election machinery’


However, in an apparent about-turn, Dr Chan gave the then organising secretary Tan Sri Peter Chin the nod to lead another team to contest the branch general meetings where delegates were elected to the TDC.

In Chin’s camp then were Dr Chan, the president; Datuk Sim Kheng Hui, the secretary-general; Teng, the treasurer; Datuk Alfred Yap, the publicity secretary; and Chin himself as organising secretary. The high-powered line-up gave Chin’s camp full control of the election machinery at branch and central levels.

Protests were subsequently lodged with the Registrar of Societies, revealing complaints of irregularities in the election of the branch delegates.

The complaints included alleged outright rejection of delegates aligned with the Wong faction. Delegates from Bintulu were at the airport for a flight to Kuching when they were reportedly told their right to attend the TDC had been annulled by the secretary general. There were also allegations of ballot boxes being placed in a public park to collect votes from members and ballot papers being printed only in Mandarin although there were Bumiputra voters.

The Wong faction with six YBs decided to boycott the TDC and brought their complaints to the ROS. They felt any appeal to the quarters whom they alleged were responsible for the irregularities would be an exercise in futility.

After a lengthy investigation, the ROS initially de-registered two branches and gave SUPP notice to showcause why it should not be de-registered for the voting irregularities. However, the Minister of Home Affairs later reversed the ROS’ decision and gave SUPP the all clear.

Just as quickly, the Minister approved the formation of the United People’s Party (UPP) which was immediately launched with great fanfare in July 2014.

In the first UPP TDC, attended by PBB deputy president Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg as the guest of honour, Wong was elected the inaugural president.

UPP quickly set up 26 branches throughout Sarawak. Wong and his deputy Datuk Dr Jerip Susil remain in the State Cabinet under new Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem. All four UPP YBs retain their seats on the BN side of the Dewan Undangan Negeri — a tacit indication that they remain within the BN fold despite UPP’s status as a non-BN component party.

When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak came to town, he declared UPP and Teras, an offshoot of the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP), were part of the ruling coalition under the BN Plus formula. This was echoed by Adenan on several occasions. The Chief Minister was reported in the August 5, 2014, edition of The Borneo Post as urging voters to back UPP and Teras candidates as he considered them as part of the BN Plus Government.

With the State elections due by June 2016 the latest, Adenan has been widely reported as having convened a meeting on October 19, 2015, between SUPP and UPP leaders with express instructions for them to immediately form a five-men committee to sort out the division of seats between the two parties.

According to inside sources, Adenan told the leaders of the two parties if they could not mutually agree on the sharing of the 19 seats, he would make the decision himself.

The Chief Minister made it “very clear” the only criterion would be the winnability of candidates – those who stand the best chance of winning — because he wants ensure victory for BN by the biggest margin.

According to news reports, UPP had recently written twice to SUPP to arrange for a meeting in accordance with Adenan’s directive but there was no response.

In the just-concluded SUPP annual delegates’ conference, the delegates passed a resolution, rejecting the Chief Minister’s directive and insisting on contesting all 19 seats.

Informed sources said SUPP leaders had taken such a stand because of pledges of support from Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing, president of Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, the new acting president of the Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP). Such triumvirate link-up stemmed from their so-called “merger of minds.”

If Adenan makes good his word to pick candidates from SUPP and UPP based on winnability, then SUPP will definitely not get to keep all its 19 seats. What then will the party do? There is speculation SUPP may withdraw from BN at state level, backed by Masing and Tiong.

It is easy to see why Tiong will back SUPP. All the State YBs from his party (SPDP) have defected to form Teras. His back is against the proverbial wall. If Adenan were to pick all the incumbents, observers believed SPDP would be a spent force.

It is less obvious why Masing will throw his support behind SUPP and SPDP. Sources close to the PRS president say he sees himself as the new paramount leader of the State BN component parties — other than PBB. A strong UPP and Teras would see Masing sharing the non-PBB leadership with Wong and Teras President Tan Sri William Mawan, the sources opined.

Masing also knows SUPP and SPDP will have little chance of surviving the next State election with UPP and Teras outside BN. SUPP and SPDP candidates will be involved in three-cornered fights with the opposition and the BN Plus parties. That will leave PRS as the next biggest State BN component party and will open the door to what some political analysts surmise to be his ultimate ambition — to become the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak.

The ‘merger of minds’ is, therefore, an alliance of convenience and an alliance of convenience will be rendered asunder when it becomes inconvenient.

The Chief Minister must now look into SUPP’s recent track record at the state polls – loss of eight seats in 2006, rising to 13 losses in 2011 and is now left with only two YBs in 2015.

The SUPP new president lost by a 2 to 1 margin in 2011. Its secretary general also lost.

In Simanggang state constituency, the Chinese are said to be lobbying hard for Francis Harden to be replaced and, without their support, he may well lose, given that his winning margin in 2006 was 4,258 votes, reducing to a margin of 2,447 votes in 2011. If that trend continues, SUPP’s only State bumi YB may not be around after next year’s polls.

Lee won by a wafer-thin margin of 58 votes. His seat is reported to be a black seat.

In any of the 19 seats, it is hard to see SUPP come up with a credible winnable candidate. Political analysts say SUPP seem unprepared to face the onslaught of the opposition in the coming State election. Rumours abound the Party is still driven by factions. Insiders say the old guards never really left SUPP and retain control through their nominees.

If Adenan gives all 19 seats to SUPP, there is every likelihood BN will lose 18 to 19 seats because SUPP is unlikely to even win the Bumiputra safe seats of Engkilili, Bengoh or Opar. Take Engkilili where Johnical Rayong contested and won as an independent against SUPP BN. He is now a two-term YB with rock solid support. If SUPP could not beat him when he was a novice, what chance does it has now?

If Adenan takes a calculated risk on UPP, a new party on the rise, its four incumbent seats will be assured of the possibility of picking up a few others like Dudong, Pelawan, Piasau, Batu Kawa and Repok. UPP recently also raised RM33 million for an Education Fund for the needy and underprivileged within a month, with contributions across the board from the giants of the corporate sector in Sarawak.

In the final analysis, the choice that looms before the Chief Minister is to take the old and much travelled route, knowing it leads to the edge of an abyss, or to take the new and untried route in the belief that it will change the fortunes of BN for the better.

As Robert Frost concluded in his famous poem “The Road Not Taken”

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference

-Borneo Post

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