At a recent press conference after launching a PBB Youth election machinery in Santubong, Chief Minister Adenan Satem told reporters he might consider picking direct Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates to contest in the state election.
The practice had once been tested during a parliamentary, but never in the past state elections.
The practice of picking direct BN candidate was mooted by former Chief Minister Taib Mahmud in deciding the candidates for the Mambong and Ulu Rajang parliamentary constituencies in the 1999 general election.
The BN decided to field a direct candidate for Mambong as both PBB and SUPP were staking claims since this was a new constituency.
James Dawos Mamit, then a senior government servant, was picked as the direct candidate for Mambong. He was not a member of any party. After his election in 1999, he opted to join PBB.
Billy Abit Joo had won Ulu Rajang as an Independent backed by PBDS, then an opposition at the State level and a BN component party member at the federal level, against Justine Jinggut of SNAP, a BN component party, in 1990.
He retained the seat in 1995 again as an Independent, also supported by PBDS, which later rejoined the State BN in 1996. Abit, however, was treated as an opposition member parliament, but friendly to the BN.
In the 1999 general election, Abit was fielded as a direct BN candidate. Upon his election, he officially became a PBDS member.
Therefore, it is too premature to claim that the practice is proven success in solving disputes over seat allocation among the BN parties. When it was used, there were only two BN parties interested in Mambong and in Ulu Rajang, it was only PBDS.
So, there was not much of a problem then.
Now, the problems are huge and involved all the four parties making their claims over many seats. So, we will see whether this practice of fielding direct candidates will be successful in the coming election, and if it is successful, only then we say it is a proven practice.
Adenan has to set out how he wants to execute the practice which all the BN and pro-BN parties must comply with.
The chief minister cannot and should not fully use the methods employed in the Mambong and Ulu Rajang elections.
He has to come up with his own plan and how he wants to execute it so that every party involved has little to complain about.
On the surface, fielding direct candidate to contest in disputed seats is the easiest way out to solve seat allocation when component BN parties are unable to find better solution. The BN leadership has to find a way to resolve the impasse.
And the candidates picked by the BN leadership to contest in those disputed seats ought to be those who are not affiliated to any party, to avoid any suspicion of favouritism.
If he wins in the election, he will be given an the opportunity to choose one of the component parties of the BN as a member.
If indeed the BN chairman Adenan decides to field direct candidates, it is in those seats claimed by Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and its splinter group United People’s Party (UPP) and the seats eyed by Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) and its breakaway group Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak (Teras).
Both UPP and Teras are not BN component parties, but they are part of the government courtesy of the chief minister.
Adenan would have to pick candidates from the four parties to contest as direct candidates.
This is where complication would come in. But it is for him to decide on how he is going to carry out his plan to field direct candidates.
One thing is certain. It will be too messy if SUPP and UPP and SPDP and Teras are allowed to have free fights in those seats they are claiming. It will be too big for the BN to handle if there are free fights for SUPP and UPP in 19 seats and SPDP and Teras in eight seats.
The State BN will be torn apart if there are free fights for the four parties.
There is already a precedence set to settle dispute over seats between a BN party and a pro-BN party when SNAP and PBDS had free rights in seats formerly held by SNAP in the 1983 election.
PBDS was not a BN component party then, but as a “BN Plus” to describe its unique position as being part of the government while not being a component party of the ruling BN.
The State BN leadership then allowed SNAP and PBDS to have free fights to settle their dispute over seats.
PBDS was later admitted as a BN component, with SNAP being pressured to give its support.
Or will Adenan field the direct candidates in some of the new seats which the grassroots leaders want their respective parties to take?
The new seats like Serembu, Bukit Semuja, Batu Kitang and Mulu have yet to be allocated to any component parties.
In accordance with a formula already formulated by Adenan, PBB would get five out of 11 new seats while PRS, SUPP and SPDP would get two each.
There is no decision yet which two seats will be allocated to SUPP and two seats to SPDP.
PRS, however, has been given Murum and Samalaju. That leaves Serembu, Bukit Semuja, Batu Kitang and Mulu.
PBB grassroots leaders have insisted that the party also takes Serembu, Bukit Semuja and Mulu, despite the fact that PBB has already taken five seats.
Will Adenan answer the calls from these PBB grassroots leaders?
PBB, if it is to maintain a healthy and cordial relationship with other component parties, should not be too greedy and agree to the demands from the grassroots.
Adenan should not bow to the demands of his party’s grassroots leaders, but must be willing to let SUPP and SPDP have their shares of the seats.
In the event that Serembu, Bukit Semuja and Mulu seats be settled by way of putting direct candidates, will Adenan pick people who are closer to PBB?
After their election, they could choose to join PBB or they become members of other parties.
Or will Adenan choose people who are not members or supporters of any party?
In this situation, upon their election, they have better freedom to join the parties of their choice.
As Adenan had pointed out, there would be “pleasant and unpleasant surprises” in the BN’s line-up of candidates who would go to the polls. – SARAWAKVOICE.COM