The future does not look good for SUPP, Sarawak’s political oldest party.

Whether Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP)) will continue to be relevant in future will be vigorously tested in the coming Sarawak state election.
Once the second biggest party in Sarawak, behind Parti Pesaka Bumpiutra Bersatu(PBB), in term of  number of elected representatives, SUPP is now reduced to having two state assemblymen and one member of parliament.
Looking at the current political scenario, I can foresee that SUPP is in danger of losing the two state seats. And I am inclined to believe that SUPP has little hope to win in other seats as well. Only the results of the 2016 state election can prove me wrong.
It cannot be denied that SUPP just managed to survive in the 2011 state election and the 2013 parliamentary election solely due to the support of the native voters in the rural and semi-urban areas.
Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh (Bawang Assan) and Datuk Lee Kim Shin (Senadin) won with a small number of votes because they lost the majority support of the Chinese but retained the loyalty of the Dayak and Malay voters to the Barisan Nasional.
The party won with reduced majorities in Bengoh, Opar, Simanggang and Engkilili, again with the support of the Dayak voters.
It is safe to assume that the Dayaks did not actually vote for SUPP candidates per se in these four seats but rather they voted for the Barisan Nasional’s “Dacing” symbol.
In the urban constituencies, the party was totally rejected by the Chinese community, the very reason why the party was formed in the first place, in 1959.
SUPP was further weakened when four of the six SUPP state assemblymen who won on SUPP-BN’s ticket in 2011 left to form United People’s Party (UPP), led by Wong Soon Koh, in 2014.
SUPP was established in 1959 mainly by leftists and working class Chinese, many of whom were members of the underground communist movement in Sarawak.
SUPP’s influence among the Chinese declined when it was under Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam as president from 1997 to 2011.  He himself was defeated in Piasau in 2011 election to a DAP political novice.
The decline continued when Tan Sri Peter Chin Fah Kui was its fifth president from 2012-2014. In the 2013 general election, SUPP managed to win one out of six parliamentary seats it contested. Had Chin defended his Miri seat, he would have lost to PKR’s Dr Michael Teo.
The fall of SUPP can be attributed to the ineffectiveness of Chan’s political leadership. He was seen more as an administrator than a persuasive political leader. He was not seen to have answered the calls of the complaining Chinese business community which wanted a fair shares of government contracts that were worth billions of ringgit. Instead, the contracts were awarded to crony companies.
The opposition also accused him of neglecting Chinese independent schools and failing to solve the Muara Tebas land issue.
In the run-up to the 2011 election, the opposition accused Chan of kowtowing to the wishes of the then former Chief Minister Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud on matters affecting the Chinese community.
In a state-wide survey assigned by SUPP to a public relations firm after the 2006 election, the feedback was damning. It warned of a serious consequences if problems within the party were not rectified before the next election.
Some SUPP leaders who spoke about the survey said that the party needed to be more vocal on issues affecting the Chinese community, even to the extent of being critical of the Taib administration.
Sadly, none of the SUPP leaders then dared to speak out.
The decline of SUPP was also attributed to the unwillingness of the ageing leaders to give way to the young leaders to takeover key posts in the party. Some of the leaders were already in their late 60s or 70s and had been members of the powerful central working committee for years, depriving the young and progressive talents to take over and introduce changes.
Hence, many educated Chinese youth found DAP an attractive party to join and where they could contribute their ideas to.
The results of the 2011 election knocked some sense into the heads of the ageing leaders who grudgingly gave way to the young members to take over important posts in the party.
Therefore, the coming state election is very crucial to SUPP’s survival and its relevancy to the Chinese community. We can only ask whether SUPP, led by cardiologist Dr Sim Kui Hian, with the support of a team of young, semi-tested members of his central working committee, revive and strengthen SUPP to its former glory days.
The election will be the toughest test for the leadership of Dr Sim. It is also his first election as the party president. The hardest and most difficult part of the test for his leadership is to convince the Chinese community to return to the party.
Dr Sim’s high standing in society, especially among the Chinese community, may not be enough to persuade the Chinese. It has to be more than that.
In the coming election, SUPP will be facing two rivals for the Chinese support. First, its offspring UPP and secondly, its traditional political rival,  DAP.
While the pro-Barisan UPP is expected to use the Barisan’s symbol in the election, its supporters may not necessary be giving their support to SUPP in areas it will be contesting. This is natural and to be expected.
I am inclined to believe that the opposition parties, especially DAP, will be the main rival for SUPP and UPP for the Chinese votes. I am also inclined to believe that the opposition will give a knock-out blow to SUPP (as well as UPP) in Chinese-majority constituencies.
The future, therefore, does not look good for SUPP. –