Thursday, March 10, 2016

Local issues, not 1MDB or Najib, to dominate Sarawak polls campaign

The Sarawak state election this time around will be largely devoid of national issues usually taken up by Pakatan Harapan to draw the votes, say observers. "They (the opposition) had Taib in past elections as their punching bag to draw the votes," said political analyst Prof James Chin, who heads the Asia Institute of the University of Tasmania, referring to former chief minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud. "Now that he's gone, they have lost a key issue," Chin (pic, right) said of Taib, the state's chief minister of 33 years often accused of corruption and nepotism. Taib, who stepped down in February 2014, is now the Sarawak governor. Chin said the opposition would find it hard trying to chip away the enormous popularity of Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem. "The opposition have nothing dirty on him. PKR and DAP have suddenly found themselves on their back foot." PKR state chief, Baru Bian, recently admitted that the opposition had lost another key issue when Adenan swept popular nationalist issues from right under them. "It's now tough for the opposition to win the election," he recently told The Malaysian Insider. "Fighting for the rights of the Sarawakians under the MA63 (Malaysia Agreement of 1963), these are our issues. "These are opposition issues we raised a long time ago," Baru said of issues such as the demand to increase oil royalty and regain state autonomy, which are being aggressively fought for by Adenan. "These issues were raised in the last state election (in 2011) and in the 13th general election. "Adenan became chief minister, talked about it and had a go at it. "Now it is the problem for us as we have nothing (anymore) and people are singing praises of him. People seemed to have forgotten that we raised these issues," the Ba Kelalan assemblyman said. It's the "local issues" that would dominate, Adenan's chief political secretary, Abdullah Saidol, told The Malaysian Insider. "It will be bread-and-butter issues, particularly in the rural areas where two-thirds of the seats are. "They will be asking; 'where is my road, where is my electricity, why I still don't have piped fresh water'. "In the urban areas, they would probably be asking other things," said Abdullah. What about national issues, such as the RM2.6 billion "donation" involving Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the 1MDB fiasco, and the Umno turmoil? "Yea, they talked about them and even discussed the issues but I think they couldn't care less what happens to Najib or Mahathir is trying to do to Najib," added Abdullah, also the assemblyman for Semop, referring to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's campaign to oust Najib. "Nobody in the rural areas particularly cares about all the politics going on in the peninsula. These people would be more keen on how to lead better lives, have better basic infrastructure, better schools, better health services," he added, giving examples of issues close to the heart of Sarawakians such as the native customary rights (NCR) land. But he said the NCR land issue could probably dominate only in Iban-majority constituencies and not elsewhere. Baru said the issue of religion would not be widespread as it was thought to be, and would be confined to conservative areas like the Kelabit Highlands, in his constituency. Chin said it was probably too early to tell what major issues would be at the coming campaign. "Wait as we get close (to the election). The Chinese areas will be interesting." – March 11, 2016.]]>

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