A farce called Sarawak elections

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Adenan Satem - Photograph: tv14.my

BN, there will be no pride or honour in your victory, says P Ramakrishnan.

The Sarawak State Assembly has been dissolved. The date has been set for the elections.

But what kind of elections is this? It is a farce called Sarawak elections.

When opposition parties are not allowed to contest on an equal footing, it cannot be a democratic election.

It is said that “the most practical kind of politics is the politics of decency”. This decency is lacking in the Sarawak elections.

Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem had projected himself as a liberal and a tolerant and compassionate leader.

His views on state rights found common ground with the people; his stand on the use of English won him praise; his position on issues affecting the Christians was heralded as a new era; his compassion won a lot of goodwill when the state picked up the tab for the medical bills of the Sarawak DAP leader who was dying of brain tumour.

His blunt declaration that certain civil forestry officers were corrupt took many by surprise. To appease the Chinese and please them, he recognised the United Examination Certificates (UEC) and offered jobs in the civil service, statutory bodies and GLCs.

In spite of all this, Adenan Satem is no democrat. He has crippled the Opposition by selectively banning their leaders from West Malaysia. MPs, social activists, and members of NGOs were prevented from entering Sarawak to stamp out their influence and prevent the tide from going against the BN.

So far, the following have been barred from Sarawak to weaken the Opposition:

  1. PKR vice-president Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin;
  2. PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar;
  3. PKR vice-president Tian Chua;
  4. PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli;
  5. PKR wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin;
  6. PKR election director Saifuddin Nasution Ismail;
  7. PKR’s Subang MP R Sivarasa;
  8. PKR’s Penang state exco member Abdul Malik Abul Kassim;
  9. PKR’s Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin;
  10. DAP’s Petaling Jaya MP Tony Pua Sarawak;
  11. DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok;
  12. DAP assistant national publicity secretary Teo Nie Ching;
  13. DAP’s Ooi Leng Hang, creator of the Ubah DAP mascot and key member of the party’s campaign machinery; and,
  14. Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) president Mohamad Sabu
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There is no indication whether others from the peninsula will also suffer a similar fate during the campaigning period in Sarawak.

Why they were banned has not been revealed or justified. They were just banned – simple as that. The decision is very arbitrary. These political personalities are not subversives. They are not known terrorists. They are not a threat to national security. They are legitimate citizens with democratic rights.

So why were they banned? They are not unsavoury characters, as Adenan Satem has now described them to be. What is so unsavoury about them? What may be unsavoury would be the outcome of the elections for Adenen if these politicians are allowed to campaign freely in the best democratic traditions of a mature society.

It would imply that when these banned party leaders hit the campaign trail in Sarawak, they would be very effective in influencing the trend of voting in certain crucial constituencies. They might even help the opposition win a few more extra seats.

It is this fear that propelled Adenan to act very undemocratically.

He had confidently predicted that the Barisan Nasional (BN) could win 60 to 70 seats out of the 82 that are being contested. He even boasted that the BN would win back some of the Opposition seats. But this confidence is not reflected in his undemocratic action.

If he is so cock-sure of such a big victory, why does he prevent free and fair elections in Sarawak? Why does he deny the Opposition their fundamental right to contest without any let and hindrance from the state?

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He needs an impressive win to claim that the voters are overwhelmingly with him. He knows that his victory will not be all that spectacular if there was equal opportunity for the Opposition in the Sarawak elections.

If he is unable or unwilling to contest in the elections on an equal footing, there will be no pride or honour for him in the BN’s victory.

Adenan will finally come to realise the truth in the saying, “Don’t blow off another’s candle for it won’t make yours shine brighter.”

P Ramakrishnan
Aliran executive committee member
14 April 2016

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