Dr M A Liability To Pakatan Harapan In Sarawak

Anwar Ibrahim was in Kuching on Feb 1 for the Sarawak Pakatan Harapan Chinese New Year celebration
As expected, the premier-in-waiting declared that Harapan’s top priority was to win the coming Sarawak election due in 2021 and urged Harapan partners to gear themselves towards the attainment of that goal
Whether that will remain an elusive dream or not for Harapan is left to be seen
Although GE14 saw the historic toppling of the Barisan Nasional government, the Sarawak administration has not changed hands since the BN days

The current Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government, led by PBB president and Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg (photo, below), only went through a name-change. In essence, it is still the BN government which won the 2016 election, then led by the late Adenan Satem
Anwar’s optimism and confidence will, no doubt, be a morale booster for Sarawak Harapan going into the elections
But the more important question is whether Anwar will be the prime minister when the Sarawak polls are held. Or will it still be Dr Mahathir Mohamad in charge
Last week, a Kuching journalist asked me to comment on the timing of the coming elections. I respectfully declined to speculate on a date because I’m done with unnecessary speculations of election dates
What we all know is that the next Sarawak election must be held by July 2021. A few months or so earlier makes no difference, to me at least
However, what is interesting is when the reporter asked me whether Abang Johari should call for the elections this year since Harapan is at its lowest ebb now
Instead, I posed this question to my journalist friend: “Why do you think so?”His reply, “because Mahathir is still the PM, and he is a liability to Harapan in Sarawak”, became my subject of this article
According to him, ordinary Sarawakians share the same resentment for Mahathir as many Malayans
“We are aware that the prime minister has reverted to his old, dictatorial style, showing little or no respect for his Harapan partners and refusing to step down after his interim two-year premiership
“Sarawakians have no love for Umno and Mahathir is now behaving like the typical Umno racist which we all detest”, he added
I agree with my friend on all counts. I also believe Mahathir is a liability to Harapan. Twenty months in, it is clear the general consensus is that the old maverick has little or no credibility left to continue as the prime minister
An unpopular leader at the helm of Harapan will be no help to its Sarawak chapter going into the state election
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng was able to read the warning signs for the coalition and noted that the Sarawak election will be an uphill challenge for the DAP
However, he made no mention of Mahathir but blamed it on the regionalism sentiments in Sarawak
The Sarawak DAP currently has seven seats in the 82-member Sarawak Legislative Assembly, and Lim has valid reasons to worry whether his party is still able to hold on to them after the elections when DAP’s popularity at the national level has also taken a deep plunge
Interestingly, Sarawak DAP chairman Chong Chieng Jen (photo) openly declared his support for Anwar to succeed Mahathir as prime minister at the Feb 1 event, stating that “our main agenda is for Anwar to be the country’s next prime minister”
This is perhaps an indication that the Sarawak DAP prefers Anwar at the helm of Harapan when the state elections are called
It must also be noted that anger has been building up again in Sabah and Sarawak over Mahathir’s recent statement on the oil royalties
The prime minister had said that the government is considering selling stakes in Petronas to states where the company’s oil and gas fields are located
To Sabah and Sarawak which are oil-producing states, it seems rather odd that they are now offered stakes in Petronas to help a debt-ridden federal government
Sarawakians are irked by Mahathir’s change of stance on oil royalties; his incoherent response is perhaps an indication that the prime minister has run out of ideas on how to deal with the sticky issue
Anwar has not stated his stand on the matter, but Sarawak Harapan is concerned that Mahathir’s flip-flop on oil royalties might cost the coalition a huge chunk of votes – support which they could not afford to lose
So, will Abang Johari take advantage of Mahathir’s poor rating among Sarawakians which also denotes Harapan’s unpopularity today and call for elections this year
The chief minister probably has his team of advisers to weigh the pros and cons but ultimately, it will be his decision to make
This is also Abang Johari’s first time in leading the Sarawak government to seek a fresh mandate and surely, he could not afford to falter. A misstep could spell the end of his long political career
When the elections would be held is of no business of mine really, and I would not bother to strain my brain trying to read Abang Johari’s mind
I am not a politician and when the polls are called, I will dutifully make my way to the polling station and cast my vote
My dilemma is that in the present scenario, both GPS and Harapan are undeserving of my vote
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at [email protected] - Mkini

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