Monday, November 17, 2008

'Political castration' new buzzword in Sarawak

Senior Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) leaders have dismissed charges of being solely responsible for the ‘political castration of the majority Dayak community’ as alleged by Ngemeh state assemblyman Gabriel Adit who joined opposition party PKR on Saturday.
“The Dayak leaders themselves are to blame for their (the community’s) political castration. They are disunited out of personal greed and lack discipline,” said one senior Melanau party activist from the Bumiputera wing of PBB in a text message from Kuching.

“They would rather see their political parties break up and deregistered.”

Over the weekend, Adit (left) announced that 12,000 of his supporters have joined PKR and they were welcomed with open arms in Sibu by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.

But the ruling PPB in Sarawak is not particularly perturbed by Adit’s action, which has boosted PKR strength to two in the 71-seat state assembly.

“PKR is not going to solve their mistrust of each other and their self-destructive nature. At best, PKR is a temporary transit house for them,” added the PBB leader.

The PBB leader was responding to the following SMS text and query from Malaysiakini to a selection of leaders, activists and members from BN component parties, PKR, SNAP and the yet-to-be-registered Malaysian Dayak Congress (MDC).

“12,000 new members led by Adit joined PKR in Sibu tonight (Nov 15). He handed over the application forms at a dinner attended by nearly 4,000 people. Adit said that PKR is the best vehicle to solve the problem of the political castration of the Dayaks. What do you think?”

Another respondent, PKR Sabah chief Jeffrey Gimpoi Kitingan, had this to say in a longish text message at 1am on Nov 16 from Sibu where he attended a 4,000-strong dinner hosted by the ‘Friends of PKR’ where Adit headed the organising committee.

“I could see and feel the desire for change and the excitement over Anwar’s speech and that of others who spoke, including Adit,” said Jeffrey.

“I think the Dayak/Iban have no better alternative than PKR/PR (Pakatan Rakyat) to overcome their castration. Their problems involve injustices that can only be solved by an alternative national government. Local parties wouldn’t be in a position to take on the (Abdul) Taib (Mahmud)-led BN state government.

“The Dayaks need a good sympathetic national leader to get them out of the situation - one who is also interested in bringing about national political change. I believe that man is DSAI (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim)...

“Anwar will make sure that the next generation of Dayak leaders will look after the interest of the people rather than their selfish interest.”

How Dayak parties were neutralised

Jeffrey witnessed the handover of the 12,000 application forms by Gabriel Adit, a nephew of Leo Moggie Irok - the first and last president of PBDS (Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak) which went defunct after moneybags in PBB openly backed James Masing to take on party founder Daniel Tajem, a long-time nemesis of Taib Mahmud.

It has been alleged that Taib wanted PBDS deregistered and “finished off for good”.

One respondent to Malaysiakini’s SMS query wanted to know the meaning of castration, while others were of the view that Kuala Lumpur was behind the disunity of the Dayaks.

Many have also pinned the blame on ‘unclean’ leaders parachuted in and thrust on the Dayak community so that they (the leaders) could be easily manipulated by the powers-that-be.

Some suggested that Abdul Rahman Yaakub and his nephew, Taib Mahmud, could not have stayed in power for almost four decades without federal government backing and see them as proxies for the real rulers in Kuala Lumpur.

Poverty, money politics and timber politics have also been cited as among the reasons for the political castration of the Dayak community.

“The coming of PKR to Sarawak is just like the entry of Umno to Sabah. PKR can do for Dayak politics what Umno did for Muslim politics in Sabah,” said one text message from a member of the pro-tem committee of the Malaysian Dayak Congress.

“Most of these Dayak leaders at the moment are satisfied with their regular ‘angpow’ packets from the powers-that-be. The money from the spoils of office keeps them in line. They couldn’t care less about their people.

“Besides, many of them have skeletons in their closets and can be easily manipulated. For example, one state minister is a gambling addict and has so many bank loans to take care of. Is he going to worry about himself or the Dayaks?”

The response from a senior Snap leader was telling.

He suggested taking another look at the history of how the present power equation in Sarawak came about and resulted in the political castration of the Dayak community.

According to him, Snap provided the first and second chief ministers - Stephen Kalong Ningkan and Tawi Sli respectively - until the Special Branch and the federal government entered the picture to break up the party’s dominance and bring about a re-alignment of the power structure which worked against the interests of the Dayak community.

“All the good Dayak leaders were either chased out, sidelined or hounded out of political existence as timber politics under Rahman Yaakub and the politics of development under Taib entered the picture,” said the Snap leader.

The rise of Muslim parties

The present power equation apparently began with two small Muslim parties, Barjasa and Panas, merging to form Parti Bumiputera in the late 1960s.

Parti Bumiputera in turn merged with Pesaka, an Iban party, led by Temenggong Jugah, the paramount chief of the Ibans.

The merger in January 1973 was allegedly “forced” on Pesaka by Kuala Lumpur which hinted that any opposition would be met with detention under the Internal Security Act - a fate suffered by several Sarawak United People’s Party (Supp) leaders at that time.

Bumiputera and Pesaka still remain separate but within PBB, with bumiputera having a 2:1 majority over Pesaka, thus effectively preventing the Pesaka leader emerging as the leader of PBB.

With the entry of Supp and Snap into the coalition government, the Dayak seats outside the Pesaka fold were further divided between Supp and Snap, with the latter having the lion’s share in the ratio of 3:1.

Within the Chinese-based Supp itself, the Dayaks formed a third of the membership and the seats.

Dayak Supp members, like Pesaka, helped dilute the political strength of the Dayak community while adding political strength to Supp and PBB with nothing in return for their community.

By the time Taib became chief minister in 1981, replacing his maternal uncle Abdul Rahman, he was still not happy with Snap having such a large number of Dayak seats.

Apparently, he bankrolled Moggie and Tajem to take on James Wong, the Snap president.

The result was the formation of PBDS in mid-1983 after Taib had indicated that Moggie and his supporters were not welcome in PBB since their entry would tip the power balance in favour of the Dayaks.

Earlier, during their open rebellion against Wong’s politics of money power, Moggie (right) had been led to believe that they would be accepted as members of PBB if they were expelled from Snap by the Limbang-based timber tycoon and former deputy chief minister, who ran the party like one of his family businesses and treated members like his workers.

Wong himself had spent some time under ISA detention for “planning to sell Limbang” to Brunei which had longed claimed the territory which almost completely separates Brunei into two halves.

The authorities never explained how Wong could on his own sell Limbang to Brunei. Wong was only released after Moggie and Tajem persuaded him to take Snap into coalition with the state BN.

Takeover of PBDS and eventual split

Tajem’s takeover of PBDS was opposed by Taib through James Masing’s challenge and the ultimate result was the deregistration of PBDS and the formation of the breakaway PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) which has suffered the fate of two presidents with assistant state minister Larry Sng claiming to be the real president in defiance of Masing.

Taib retains Larry Sng in the state cabinet despite Masing expelling him from PRS after the Registrar of Societies, on the directive of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, recognised him as the lawful president on the eve of the March 8 general elections.

Many of the Dayak state assemblymen and parliamentarians outside PBB and Supp are beholden to Alfred Jabu (right), the Pesaka leader, who has come up with a system of “loaning” his nominees as candidates to the other BN component parties.

These nominees are not even members of the political parties they are chosen to represent. This has led to charges of PBB bullying other BN component parties.

Meanwhile, Snap was deregistered and expelled from the BN but won a new lease of life through the courts. A Snap breakaway, SPDP (Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party), led by William Mawan, was accepted as a member of the Barisan Nasional.

Attempts by ex-PBDS members led by Tajem (left) to form the Malaysian Democratic Congress were rebuffed by the Registrar of Societies on “national security grounds”.

They are now turning to PKR as the only avenue for their political struggle although Tajem and Masing have since made up with each other.

Adit first won the Ngemeh seat on a PBDS ticket but was denied that seat in the 2006 state elections.

He stood as an independent and won and was refused entry into any BN component party on the grounds that he had “opposed the coalition and stolen a seat which belonged to PRS”.

Before Adit contested the election, he was a member of SPDP which had hoped to “swap” for the Ngemeh seat.

Adit had backed Tajem against Masing in the struggle for control of PBDS after Moggie suddenly resigned over “hurtful and ungrateful remarks” in public by Masing over his (Moggie’s) long stay in office.

No comments: