Forum heard diversity of views on Sibu election: Long road ahead for PR to make inroads in Sarawak

The forum last night heard a diversity of views on the just concluded Sibu by-election, ranging from the most optimistic to the pessimistic! While MP Liew Chin Tong hope that the magnitude of vote swing in Sibu election at 7% will continue to the general elections to bring another 7-8 MPs to PR from Sarawak.

He however don’t think that the swing is enough to carry them to take over the state government. He calculated that any swing of 10% will have devastating effect on the side hit. He said that he look forward to a scenario where the BN and PR will maintain the current standoff in Penisular and look forward to expanding influence in East Malaysia as the way to win power in Putrajaya.

PAS speaker Kapten Zambri who was the election director for PAS in Sibu agreed with Liew that West Malaysians don’t know enough of the problems in the East so that it will hamper their campaign in Sarawak. He suggested that if DAP can campaign to the interiors and to the long houses they can brighten their prospect in Sarawak since they will play leadership role in Sarawak’s PR coalition. he acknowledged that the long house conditions are worse than many he had encountered in West Malaysia.

As the 3rd speaker I relooked at the election result to show that the Malay/Melanau and Dayak votes both didn’t go up-but actually went down for PR-if the rural Chinese votes are taken out of calculations used to show increase in Malay/Melau support for PR. I raised the concern of racial voting trend-where 70% of Chinese voted PR while 80%+ Malay/Melanau/Dayak voted BN. However for the future the Sibu example of how DAP win by pumping up Chinese votes will have linited prosepct since there are no more than 6 cities in Sarawak with similar ethnic profile. DAP either expand their rural exposure or have to rely on their weaker PR partners to do the admittedly hard work.

I also put up an issue which was missed out by the Sibu by-election ie the Bakun Dam issue. A Sarawak Road Show member Mr Chou was sacked for trying to put on air a 10-part series he made about the Sg Asap residents who were resettled from the Bakum Dam site 10 years ago. The dam will start to be filled by end of this year and all of downstream residents along Rejang River, including Sibu residents, will be affected!

But not all are gloom and doom-I suggested that the Sarawak Road Show which started in Sept 2009 is a way to expose West Malaysians to the Eastern situations-we welcome more participation from the West and East Malaysians!

After this Cheah Kah Seng spoke about the numerous ways the EC failed the citizens in compiling a competent electoral roll. he suggested that automatic registration of voters above 21 years old as a more systematic solution to the numerous weaknesses of the current manually compiled electoral roll.

Joseph Sipalan gave a valuable perspective from the media. Apart of saying that the mainstream media played a bias role in the election he said that the effect was worst in the rural areas where the residents cannot access internet or even mobile network to receive countervailing views and news.

He also said that the alternative media also suffer handicap as the reporters are limited to 2-3 persons while the mainstream media has double to triple their strength.

There were some interests from the floor to join in the future Sarawak Road Show -hopefully we can see more participants from Penang soon!

About 50 persons attended the forum, which is not too bad considering that it came after a well attended forum by DAP on last Tuesday. A few media representatives were in the crowd-so we look forward to some more reports of the forum later.

Ong BK

Sarawak Indigenous Community News

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