Support from Sarawak Chinese voters still a puzzle

KUCHING: While cruising along the picturesque Kuching Waterfront set against the Sarawak River and the State Legislative Council Building, a group of men were seen in deep discussion on issues regarding Sarawak’s 11th State Election in a gazebo.

Political issues are currently dominating the talk of the Land of the Hornbills, and it is not something that is peculiar as it is the election season.

The Election Commission (EC) had announced May 7 as polling day for the Sarawak Election where 82 seats will be contested.

Among the names most mentioned was the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Adenan Satem, fondly known to the locals as Tok Nan.

“Finally, we get to vote this May 7. This is the moment that we get to choose an active YB (Assemblyman),” said pensioner Then Shiang Qin, 65.

“Truly, I do hope the voters will not choose wrongly. I will personally select Tok Nan as he has contributed much. The Chinese schools have also received millions of state allocations. In addition, the recognition of the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) shows the determination of the state to improve the living standards of the Chinese people,” said Jonathan Kiu, a 55-year-old tailor.

Kiu’s opinion was also shared by Kho Ju Boon, 45, who pointed out that Adenan’s dedicated commitment in tackling illegal logging shows that he is a courageous leader and is ready to innovate.

“I like Adenan as he has given recognition to the Chinese community. He has repeatedly stressed that the Chinese are not immigrants. He is the Chief Minister for all (Sarawakians). The Chinese community should give Tan Sri Adenan a chance, as he had requested – another term is enough,” he said.

Adenan, 72, is a law graduate from the University of Adelaide and will lead the state election for the first time since he took over the leadership from Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud in 2014.

Abdul Taib, who was the Sarawak Chief Minister for 33 years, is now the Governor of Sarawak.

Among the Chinese community, many are receptive to Adenan’s assertion that he is the Chief Minister for all Sarawakians, regardless of race or background. This is proven by his growing support rating.

In a study conducted by the National Professors Council in October 2015, Adenan was found to have gained his popularity rating to 85 per cent, in comparison to 71 per cent, in January last year.

In the last two years in office, Adenan, who hails from Kampung Bandashah, has also introduced a variety of changes which includes the eradication of illegal logging; abolition of land tax and tolls; reduction in electricity tariffs; claims to the the rights and autonomy of the state, as well as establishing closer ties with other races, including the Chinese community.

In addition, he has also implemented various ‘community-friendly’ initiatives with the Chinese within the state, which includes the recognition of UEC and the increase in the number amount of allocations for Chinese Schools, with an increase from RM3 million in 2014 to RM4 million (2015), and RM5 million (this year).

Meanwhile, the head of the Chinese community in Kuching, Temenggong Lu Kim Yong emphasised the need for Chinese voters to give Adenan the opportunity to continue leading Sarawak in pursuing various reforms and development agenda, especially in the field of education and economy.

He said that the opposition’s perception of “not losing anything” and fishing for sympathy votes needs to be eradicated. This is because only Adenan’s leadership can steer future improvements to Sarawak and the Chinese community as a whole.

“We need a good team and strong state government. Team Adenan will fight for all communities in Sarawak. Thus, we need a strong mandate from the people. The state government will then have better bargaining power to negotiate with the Federal government for better empowerment and more allocation,” he said.

Commenting on the bond established between the Chinese community with Adenan’s leadership, political analyst Dr Suffian Mansor, believed that the Barisan Nasional (BN) needs to find a shortcut in gaining the support of the Chinese voters, especially in the focus areas so that the target group will be more inclined towards the party.

The Senior Lecturer of Modern Chinese History and History of Malaysia (Sarawak) at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia remarked that BN could probably see the possible avenues to be offered to the Chinese in terms of education and financial aid in the face of the rising cost of living.

“This needs to be done in gaining the interest and support of Chinese voters as well as divert their attention from what is offered by the opposition, particularly the DAP.

“Currently, what I see is that Adenan has succeeded in gaining the support of Chinese voters in terms of aid siphoned to Chinese schools and the recognition of UEC in the entrance to state government agencies and UNIMAS. Indeed, the efforts of the Chief Minister is much appreciated by the Chinese society,” he said.

The question is whether Adenan’s administration will be able regain the support and confidence of the Chinese voters back for Sarawak BN, and at the same time avert the tsunami that occurred in the previous election.

Many are wondering whether this positive sentiment will translate into votes, and whether the ‘Adenan factor’ will be touted as a means to win the hearts of Chinese voters.

The alarm siren from Adenan and Sarawak BN has been set, but now it is up to the Chinese community to make choices for their future. – Bernama