By PETER JOHN JABAN
COMMENT: I would like to urge SUPP (Sarawak United Peoples Party) and PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) to seriously consider their future in Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
This is in response to reports that Parti Sarawak Bersatu, currently allied to GPS, is taking in former leaders from PRS who are likely to challenge existing coalition members for seat allocation in the next state election.
SUPP and PRS should draw a line under this long-running saga by forming a genuine Sarawak-based opposition party. In this way, they can both pursue a new land policy that will put an end to the suffering of the rural people struggling to reclaim their ancestral lands and equally fulfill their party promises of fighting for Sarawak rights.
This debate about the admission of splinter groups from SUPP and PRS has been carrying on since before the last state election. PBB (Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu Sarawak), the party linked to current governor Taib Mahmud, holds the vast majority of seats in the State Government and so dominate their coalition partners.
PRS, at least, was represented through the appointment of James Masing as one of the Deputy Chief Ministers, but SUPP was overlooked once again. Now they want to bring in these former members of both parties to potentially challenge them for seats? Why wait and stay in GPS when you are being fooled?’
ITS ABOUT TIME TO LEAVE
These two parties, one Chinese-based and one purely Dayak, have both become very vocal on the subject of Sarawak rights and autonomy, despite decades of silence when Barisan Nasional was in power in the Federal Government.
If they are sincere about this goal, then they should challenge PBB, both on a platform of the restitution of our rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and on the preservation of Sarawak culture and Adat through a new land policy that will uphold native rights. Give the people of Sarawak a genuine choice that can put an end to the struggle for land rights and also uphold the fight for Sarawak rights within Malaysia.’
So far, GPS has continued to pursue a policy of land development put in place during Taib Mahmud’s tenure as head of PBB which has seen the natives divested of their lands and plantation giants like Tabung Haji and FELDA profiting from huge tracts of land in Sarawak which once belonged to the indigenous people.
CAUGHT BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE
This has caused untold misery to the rural people of Sarawak and tarnished the state’s good name as well as the name of Sarawak oil palm internationally.
A Sarawak-based coalition between PRS and SUPP can provide a good alternative to this appalling land policy while still maintaining an independent voice in the fight for restitution of our rights under MA63.
SUPP and PRS have nothing to lose at this stage. With no more funding from UMNO, they might as well stand together and follow their own political destiny. Sarawakian voters are caught between a rock and a hard place currently.
On the one side is a coalition that promises greater autonomy but a terrible land rights record, on the other is the hope of a restitution of land rights but silence on the autonomy issue.
They should give Sarawakian voters a real choice.
* Peter John Jaban is Sarawak-based Human Rights Activist, as well as a leader of Solidarity Anak Sarawak