Sarawak gearing up for polls


THE difference between Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia, even when compared to Sabah, is quite apparent.

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The racial and religious harmony present in the Land of Hornbills since time immemorial is sacrosanct to Sarawakians. Moreover, the political environment as well as the political leaders in the state are far different than Peninsular Malaysia’s.

The Ibans are the largest ethnic group in Sarawak, followed by the Chinese, the Malays, the Bidayuhs, the Melanaus and other minorities.

The current Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem is a Sarawak Malay while the former Chief Minister and current Head of State Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud is Melanau.

This particular phenomenon is due to historical factors and special reasons, and cannot be replicated by any other state.

Indeed, the various communities in Bumi Kenyalang, irrespective of race and religion, have always been living side by side in a peaceful and harmonious setting where the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims is drastically less prominent. This is truly rare, considering Malaysia is a country deeply rooted in racial politics.

Sarawak has been buzzing with news and speculation of imminent polls after Adenan proposed that the state election be held on April 30 – with Nomination Day on April 18. In other words, the State Legislative Assembly may be dissolved in the first week of April – slightly more than two months ahead of schedule — and a new state government possibly formed by Labour Day (May 1).

However, Adenan has clarified it was only a proposal since the Constitution states only the Election Commission (EC) is allowed to determine the dates of election and it does not come under the state government’s purview to give any instructions.

The way I see it, it doesn’t really matter if it’s “declaring” or “proposing”. These two dates have definitely fueled speculation on when the 11th state election will actually be held.

One may also ponder over the real meaning behind these high-profile and “out of the ordinary” pronouncements regarding the ballot which is due by June 30.

As a lawyer and experienced leader, Adenan is absolutely clear about his boundaries. He will not rush into mistakes. Apparently, behind the proposal of these two dates – April 18 (nomination) and April 30 (polling) — lies his strategic as well as tactical considerations.

There are, of course, precedents for such pre-emptive action. In November 2014, Parliament approved Adenan’s State Assembly (Composition of Members) Bill 2014 to increase the number of Sarawak state seats by 11 – from 71 to 82. But the EC only announced the proposal for Sarawak’s re-delineation on Jan 5, 2015.

To put it plainly, everyone knows that actual political operations, including electoral matters, often involve communications with the power that be, and a degree of consensus may subsequently emerge from among the parties involved on the suitable election date. What usually follows is the announcement of mutually acceptable dates for dissolution of Parliament and state legislatures after the meeting of EC. Frankly, this is an advantage to those in power.

Adenan is honest, putting it as straightforward as he could. The state election must be held soonest as he needs a new and clear mandate to administer the state for the next five years.

After taking office on Feb 28, 2014, he has repeatedly taken “out of the ordinary” steps in facing and resolving contentious issues such as curbing illegal logging, recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC), making English the second official language in Sarawak and many more.

Can his honesty and “out of the ordinary” actions translate into votes? Perhaps, but at least, he has won the attention of his audience and made a profound impression on the electorate.

He has also conveyed a clear warning to both pro-BN and BN parties to resolve their internal problems, particularly between SUPP and UPP as well as SPDP and Teras. If not handled properly, the imbroglio among the aforementioned parties will affect BN’s prospects at the polls.

After two years in office, Adenan has successfully created a good personal image and reputation.

Even if his proposed dates for the state election in April are declined, it doesn’t really matter since the state legislature will have to be dissolved not later than June 30 – just a little more than two months difference.

The state election dates may not be ready as yet to be formally announced but Adenan sure is ready.

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