Survival of Sarawak’s oldest party rests with the Chinese

VIEWPOINT: The end of the Chinese lunar calendar is near and the community is besieged by one perennial question. Can they put their trust back in SUPP?

The Sarawak political landscape has dramatically changed with CM Adenan Satem's over 45 people-friendly policies. The government of the day is as popular as can be the state election approaches.

The Chinese community has been impressed time and time again with the performance of the new administration. His statements like “cina bukan pendatang”, “Allah can be used by Christians”, “restrict racial and religious bigots”, and the recognition of Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) are all very popular among the Chinese but will this translate into votes come polling day?

It would mean entrusting their votes to SUPP, Sarawak's oldest political party.

SUPP has been through a sort of renaissance; the new leadership is made of young and experienced professionals. Party chief Professor Dr Sim Kui Hian is not a newcomer to the art of team-building, having set up the Sarawak Heart Centre from a staff of six to now a Specialist centre with over 250 members.

His professional and no-drama approach has yielded positive results within the party as well. A people-centric leader, his ethics have been infectious and now we see a totally different SUPP.

No doubt in his own right Sim is popular within the Chinese community and his clean image helps that along as well. However, will it be enough to regain the trust lost in the 2011 state and 2013 national polls.

In 2011, Sim himself was thrust right into action somewhat as a greenhorn. He has grown from strength to strength taking the mantle of the secretary general and securing the party’s legality and infusing many young professionals into his team.

In 2014, he became president and has grown from strength to strength in his first term in office as well.

Perhaps the right question is not weather to trust SUPP but will Adenan and his government continue to be close to the Chinese as he is now?

We have seen the same thing before when PM Najib Razak was serenading the Chinese community and said “…you scratch my back I scratch yours.”

The result of the ensuing GE13 was an exodus of Chinese support putting all their eggs in the Opposition’s Putrajaya bid. The community realised that they miscalculated.

The PM has since been under siege by the ultra Malays who pointed out that his trust in the Chinese community was misplaced. He has now taken the path of aggressive bumiputera empowerment to appease his powerbase.

In Sarawak, if the Chinese do the same and snub Adenan then his people will pressure him as well. He will be forced to also concentrate on his powerbase, the bumiputera and rural voters.

Development will be concentrated in the powerbase zones. So the question is not whether they can trust SUPP but whether they can afford not to!

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. In Sarawak, PBB is the dominant party, and only SUPP is big enough and old enough to stand up to PBB if the need arises, an internal check and balance if you will.

SUPP is the only party left that was present at the negotiations for independence in London. The party also has a pact with PBB dating back to 1970, which as long SUPP exists, the agreement must be abided to.

With no SUPP, PBB will answer to no one. Should SUPP face a shut out as they did in 2011, PBB will become all-powerful and will do as they please just as Umno is doing at the national level. SUPP may even have to call it a day.

The Chinese don’t have to give all their votes to SUPP but perhaps give them back 12 seats, that is six additional seats to the ones won in 2011. This will keep everyone on their toes.

SUPP will have their place restored somewhat and Adenan will have the extra bargaining power to continue his policies and fight for greater autonomy. It’s a win-win solution for the Chinese community.

So the Chinese community may want to use the Year of the Monkey to jump out of their self-imposed exile and become part of the mainstream.

The community doesn’t have to wait long to punish SUPP or Adenan should they not deliver. The federal elections slated for 2018 is barely two years away. -The Ant Daily

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