Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the seat allocation for the Sarawak 2016 state elections on the 26th of April 2016
I know that many opposition supporters are disappointed with DAP and PKR for not being able to avoid clashing in 6 out of 82 state seats in the upcoming Sarawak state elections. This disappointment and frustration is understandable. I too wish that it could have been avoided. But in order to explain to our supporters why this situation came about, I feel that it is necessary to provide a historical as well as a more recent context.
Let’s go back to just after the 2011 Sarawak state elections when PKR was accused of being too greedy when it contested in 49 out of the then 71 state seats at stake. When Sarawak PKR state chairman, Baru Bian, was asked about PKR’s relatively poor performance in those elections and the decision to contest in 49 seats, he had this to say:
Baru admits that this strategy came with a heavy cost. The party was severely stretched because the rural campaign was resource-intensive. “The burden was more on us (to deliver) while DAP won more seats because their resources could be concentrated (in a few cities). But this is okay because we are all part of Pakatan,” he said.
In a subsequent interview in 2011, Baru Bian said the following:
Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian said the party will focus only on a few winnable seats in the coming parliamentary election, rather than contest all the remaining seats in the state that the other Pakatan member parties won’t take on. He was responding to criticism that the multi-racial party had been “too greedy” by contesting as many as 49 seats in the recent state election, in which it won only three seats.
“In (the next) parliamentary election, we will use a different method,” Baru (left) said in an interview with selected media at the PKR headquarters in Petaling Jaya this morning. “Because of restrictions in resources, in particular financial resources, we will focus on certain areas (which are winnable), based on the state election results.” He also said PKR hoped PAS dan DAP would “share the responsibility” of contesting the remaining seats “If they are prepared to be seen as multiracial – you all know reports said that DAP is a Chinese chauvinist party – it will be a good time now (for them) to take on the remaining Dayak and Melanau areas. “I do hope they will bear this responsibility.”
In the aftermath of the 2011 state elections, DAP was responsive to the call to shoulder a greater burden of contesting in the rural areas. In fact, in the 2013 general elections, DAP fielded Dayak candidates in 5 rural parliament seats – Mas Gading, Serian, Mukah, Kapit and Lawas – and also a Dayak candidate in the semi-rural parliament seat of Bintulu. (In comparison, DAP fielded candidates in 5 urban parliament seats in 2013)
The willingness of PKR to relinquish some of the rural seats was repeated by Azmin Ali in 2013.
Sekarang DAP sudah mula masuk ke kawasan pedalaman dan membina kekuatan. Kita sedia berunding kerana akhirnya yang menang ialah PR. Kalau DAP dan PAS ada kekuatan, KEADILAN akan sedia melepaskan kerusi terbabit. Kami pun tak mampu nak pegang terlalu banyak kerusi kerana ia memakan kos yang tinggi.
DAP’s commitment to going into the rural areas in Sarawak was demonstrated by the more than 50 projects done under the Impian Sarawak banner since 2013. From providing water supply to rebuilding broken jetties, from upgrading roads to medical and education camps, DAP’s track record in the rural areas is there for all to see. In fact, you can buy the Impian Sabah and Sarawak coffee table book for a full list and photos of these projects!
Of course, whether or not these projects will enable the opposition, specifically the DAP, to win any of these rural seats is still not known. But to answer the question of whether DAP or PKR is the better party to contest in some of the rural seats claimed by both parties, a more objective measure needed to be used. Which is why DAP and PKR commissioned a survey to evaluate the popularity of both parties in six seats claimed by both parties.
The results are summarized in Table 1 below (and provided in Appendix 1 below).
DAP had significantly higher favourability ratings compared to PKR in 5 out of the 6 seats surveyed – N2 Tasik Biru, N13 Batu Kitang, N23 Bukit Semuja, N32 Simanggang and N75 Senadin. DAP and PKR were about even in the remaining seat of N19 Mambong.
If going purely by these survey results, which both parties had agreed to abide by, DAP would have contested in 5 out of these 6 seats. But DAP choose to give up N13 Batu Kitang, arguably the most winnable seat out of these six seats, for the right to contest in rural and less winnable seats in other parts of Sarawak. The explanation of the negotiation process on the part of the DAP has been done by Anthony Loke, DAP National Organizing Secretary. What I would like to highlight here are the survey results which are not widely known yet.
To those who accuse the DAP of being greedy and for not wanting to contest in unwinnable seats, let me offer two counter examples. There are 8 state seats in the mostly Iban majority areas of Sri Aman, Betong and Lubok Antu (Figure 1 below). After the conclusion of the seat negotiation (or what DAP thought was the final negotiation) on the 7th of April, 2016, DAP asked to contest in one of these eight state seats – N32 Simanggang. DAP had conceded the state seat of N36 Layar to PKR even though there was a potential candidate who had been stationed in this seat and working the ground for the past one year. DAP’s candidate for N32 Simanggang, Leon Donald, lives in the Sri Aman area, contested in this seat in 2011 and had been working the ground for the past 5 years. The survey results also showed the DAP candidate being more popular and well known compared to the PKR candidate. Is the DAP greedy for wanting to contest in only one out of eight state seats in this area? And where the survey result had shown DAP being the more favoured party with the stronger candidate compared to PKR? I think not…
Figure 1: Eight state seats in the Sri Aman, Betong and Lubok Antu areas, PKR contesting in all eight seats, DAP is contesting only in N32 Simanggang
At the same time, DAP is contesting in all three state seats in the parliamentary seat of Kapit – N61 Pelagus, N62 Katibas and N63 Bukit Goram. These seats are in areas with far flung longhouses, many of which can only be accessible via longboat. The BN candidate won 78% of the popular vote in this seat in the 2013 general elections. While the Pelagus state seat was won by a then independent candidate – George Lagong – in 2011 who later joined the Sarawak Worker’s Party (SWP), this seat, along with Bukit Goram (a new state seat), are uphill tasks for DAP, without the backing of local influential leader and former BN state assemblyman, Sng Chee Wah and his son, Larry Sng.
Figure 2: DAP contesting in all three state seats in Kapit – N61 Pelagus, N62 Katibas and N63 Bukit Goram
I do believe that Pakatan Harapan will be able to find a way to emerge from this disagreement between DAP and PKR after the Sarawak state elections. But in the meantime, even as we are focused on fighting the BN in the other 74 state seats, it is important to set the record straight on the background behind these seat disagreements.
Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang
Appendix 1: Party Favourability in 6 state seats where surveys were conducted
N2 Tasik Biru
N13 Batu Kitang
N23 Bukit Semuja