Political analysts say Sarawak PKR in dire need of strong leader to bring party together

PKR may stand a chance to penetrate the Sarawak iron fortress long controlled by GPS’ main party PBB if it has the 'right' leader, Jayum said. ― Picture by Razak Ghazali
PKR may stand a chance to penetrate the Sarawak iron fortress long controlled by GPS’ main party PBB if it has the ‘right’ leader, Jayum said. ― Picture by Razak Ghazali

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KUCHING, March 3 — Sarawak PKR’s immediate political future looks very grim even as uncertainty dogs the state election due this year.

Three political analysts who spoke to Malay Mail unanimously agreed that Sarawak PKR is in dire need of a strong and influential leader who can bring the party together, and that none of the current crop of leaders is up to the mark to be the state chairman, a position currently vacant following the departure of Larry Sng.

They said that without a strong leader, the state PKR will not have much of a future. They even predicted that the party will be wiped out in the coming Sarawak state election.

James Chin, the director of the Asia Institute of Tasmania in the University of Tasmania, said Sarawak PKR needs “a consensus builder because if you look at the personalities in the state PKR all over the places, you really need someone who can get the machinery up and running because state election is very near now”.

He said the state PKR has quite a number of talented professionals, but the problem is that everybody wants to be the leader.

“Everyone wants to be chief. That is why they need a strong leader. Someone they want to look up to. Right now, there is nobody like that on the horizon,” he told Malay Mail.

To Chin, PKR is currently the weakest link in the Opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in the run-up to the Sarawak election.

“So I think if PKR doesn’t get its team together, I think there might be a possibility that it might be wiped out in the state election,” he said.

Chin said Julau MP Sng had not been very effective in preparing Sarawak PKR for the state election or even bringing the party together, adding that there had been quite a number of members who believe that the state chapter should be led by a Dayak.

In that vein, he said Sng’s resignation as Sarawak PKR chairman two days ago has limited impact on the party.

Senior Fellow with the National Professors Council Jeniri Amir said Sarawak PKR is having a big problem finding a leader who is really influential.

“Now, I think the best person to lead the state PKR, being a Bumiputera-based party in Sarawak, is either a Dayak or a Malay. It cannot be its Kuching branch chief Dominique Ng or Miri MP Dr Michael Teo.

“It has to be an influential Dayak or Malay. Not just any Tom, Dick, or Harry. Now, with the latest development in PKR, it is even more challenging and critical for PKR to garner support and put the grassroots machinery into proper place,” he said.

Jeniri went as far as saying that without such a leader, Sarawak PKR will be hard pressed to win a single seat in the coming state election.

“It really is an uphill battle for them. There is no influential and charismatic leadership in Sarawak to put the party in place, it is not easy in a short span of time.

“If I can say this, it is very difficult for them to win even one seat.”

Jeniri said the coming state election will essentially be a battle between Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) and the DAP against the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition.

He added that Parti Amanah Negara — the third component in the PH coalition — and PKR “can be counted out against the GPS”.

Jeniri also said PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim calculated wrong when he picked Sng to be the party’s Sarawak chief when the Julau MP had a track record as a party hopper even before joining PKR after the 2018 general election.

He added that many PKR members in Sarawak had questioned Sng’s appointment.

Political scientist Jayum Jawan of Universiti Putra Malaysia shared the same sentiment.

He noted that the appointment of the state chief is the prerogative of the PKR president and said Anwar has to bear the responsibility.

“Yes, the sole responsibility of choosing a wrong leader falls on its president. And the search for a correct and acceptable one to take over and lead Sarawak PKR to its election role in the coming state election rests on the president’s shoulder too,” he said.

Jayum said PKR may still have a chance to penetrate the Sarawak iron fortress long controlled by GPS’ main party PBB if it has the “right” leader.

“Choose a wrong one, it is as good as burying the party in the coming state elections,” he stressed.

But he also said there were none in the Sarawak PKR leadership line-up, past or present, as a suitable candidate — not the current secretary Joshua Jabeng or Miri MP Dr Michael Teo or even former state chief Dominique Ng Kim Ho.

“What are they known for? What leadership qualities and accomplishments do they bring into PKR? I don’t think the public knows who they are in Sarawak and more so in Malaysia,” he said.

Jayum said Selangau MP Baru Bian who was also a former leader may have appeared “larger than life” but did not leave a vacuum in Sarawak PKR when he quit the party.

“He is made to appear larger than life. He is not that formidable a politician he is projected to be. There isn’t much difference between Baru and Sng,” he said.

Jayum was just as scathing in weighing Sng’s political value, saying the Julau MP’s departure from Sarawak PKR “won’t create even a ripple”.

“He is insignificant in Sarawak and Malaysian politics,” he said.

To Jayum, Sng does not have any clear objective to offer the people of Sarawak nor the people of Julau as their MP.

He added that it is uncertain what Sng has done for the people of Pelagus that he once represented.

“He can’t even get his community to back him and it’s a bit way off to run to other’s community to help him sustain his plummeting political career,” Jayum said.

Sng who left PKR two days ago after consulting his supporters in Julau, was appointed to replace Baru.

He won the Julau parliamentary seat in the 2018 general election as an independent candidate, defeating incumbent and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) deputy president Datuk Joseph Salang.