GE15: Local political parties shine brighter than national parties in Sarawak

KUCHING – It’s always a conundrum to choose between a local brand and an imported label when it comes to choosing a product.

That is the case with Sarawak politics.

To choose a local party that is seen as a ‘hero’ fighting for Sarawak’s rights over a national party that is attached to it a ‘peninsular’ label has become the political topic in the Land of the Hornbills this coming 15th General Election (GE15).

The political landscape in Sarawak currently features many political parties that carry local identities like Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) besides other local parties among them Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSD), Parti Bumi Kenyalang (PBK) and Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS).

GPS is a coalition comprising the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Parti Rakyat Bersatu Sarawak (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Parti Demokratik Progresif (PDP) which were former component parties of Barisan Nasional (BN). They announced their exit from the coalition in June 2018.

Joining the fray in Sarawak politics are national political parties like the DAP, PKR and Amanah under Pakatan Harapan (PH) and other political parties like PAS and Bersatu under Perikatan Nasional (PN) while BN opted not to contest in the state.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) political analyst Prof Datuk Dr Jayum Jawan said the identity narrative is indeed important in Sarawak’s political landscape but track record in advocating for Sarawak’s rights will be a big determinant for voters to make their choice.

“Local political parties in Sarawak are seen as the defender of rights of Sarawakians because they are very passionate about them while national political parties from the peninsula are not seen that way,” he told Bernama recently.

Jayum also noted that the achievements of political parties from Peninsular Malaysia like DAP and PKR have not been impressive even though they have already established themselves in Sarawak over the years.

“Despite PKR appointing several locals to lead the party at the state and national levels, it has not managed to lift PKR to a level that is much better in terms of penetrating Sarawak.

“DAP indeed had the support previously but after the state election in December last year, support among the Chinese had shifted to Parti Rakyat Bersatu Sarawak (SUPP), but they are seen as still able to present challenges in the major urban areas of Sarawak,” he said.

Meanwhile, senior fellow of the National Professors Council, Datuk Dr Jeniri Amir said, apart from identity, the ideology brought by the contesting parties is also a matter of concern for Sarawak voters.

“Take PAS for example, they have tried contesting in Sarawak but the ideology that they promote was incompatible with the culture and religious practices in the state. That factor should also be taken into account by the national parties that want to come to Sarawak,” he added. – Bernama