Johor should take over the baton from Sarawak to be the vanguard for political change in Malaysia

At the mid-point of the 11th Sarawak state general election campaign on April 30, I warned that seven of the 13 seats carved out of the 12 State Assembly constituencies won by DAP in last general election were in “danger list” for the May 7 poll.

A week later, on Polling Day, I was proved right when DAP could only win seven of the 12 seats won five years ago.

DAP Sarawak fought the 11th Sarawak state general election with two objectives:

  1. to defend and win the 13 State Assembly seats carved out of the 12 DAP seats won in the last general elections; and
  2. to achieve a breakthrough in the Dayak-dominated seats to expand DAP support from the urban areas.

I had hoped that DAP candidate Modi Bimol could win the Tasik Biru state assembly seat, and that was why I was in Tasek Biru on Nomination Day.

But the combined artillery and firepower of the Barisan Nasional national and state “heavyweights” including the Sarawak Chief Minister and the Malaysian Prime Minister who led a long queue of State and Federal VIPS to descend on the constituency with monetary offers and other goodies, succeeded in foiling Modi from the DAP election breakthrough. In the event, Modi lost by 1,288 votes.

I had right from the beginning of the election campaign acknowledged that the 11th Sarawak state general election was not about deciding who would be the Sarawak Chief Minister and who would form the Sarawak State Government as both these questions had already been decided on Nomination Day – i.e. Adenan Satem as Sarawak Chief Minister and Sarawak Barisan Nasional as the Sarawak State Government.

I even said that the goal of denying Adenan two-thirds state assembly majority would be quite impossible, as it would mean the Opposition collectively electing at least 28 State Assembly seats in Sarawak.

What was achievable was to elect a strong, effective and principled Opposition team in the Sarawak state assembly to ensure that Adenan keeps his host of election promises and equally important, ensure that Adenan does abuse his powers as the Sarawak Chief Minister for the next five years.

DAP suffered a major defeat in the 11th Sarawak general election held last Saturday, reduced to seven state assembly seats from the 12 won five years ago in the 20111 Sarawak state general election.

It was unfortunate that Pakatan Harapan could not present a united team in the Sarawak state general elections, but the 11th Sarawak state general elections were most favourable to Sarawak Barisan Nasional because of the “Abdullah effect in 2004 General Elections” with Adenan as the new Chief Minister after 33 years of Taib Mahmud as Chief Minister – as well as Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak fighting for his “political life”.

From the results of the 11th Sarawak state general elections, it was obvious that even if Pakatan Harapan had been to present an united front, the Sarawak election results on May 7 would not be very different with BN winning from 70 to 72 seats in the 82-seat Sarawak State Assembly.

DAP sufferered a major defeat in the May 7 Sarawak state elections, but it was not the most devastating defeat that DAP had suffered in our 50 year history. I

In the 1999 general election, for instance, DAP was reduced to 10 Parliamentary seats and a single seat in the Penang State Assembly, when in 1986, DAP had won 24 Parliamentary seats while in the 1990 general election, DAP had won 14 Penang State Assembly seats.

Even Karpal Singh and myself lost in the parliamentary elections in 1999.

But we did not give up and surrender. Today, thanks to the perseverance, stamina and commitment of DAP leaders and supporters, DAP is the second largest party in Parliament after UMNO, leading the Penang State Government and part of the Selangor DAP State Government, with the most number of State Assembly seats in the country.

I am confident that the electoral debacle and reverses of DAP Sarawak in the recent Sarawak state election would become a stepping stone for the Sarawak DAP to achieve greater heights than in the past in its political struggle to be a political party for all Sarawakians – not only in the urban but also rural areas; the voice not only the Chinese but also Dayaks and Malays in Sarawak.

Sarawak had played the role as the vanguard for political change in Malaysia for the past ten years.

The 2006 Sarawak general election with the historic result in the election of six DAP Sarawak State Assemblymen was the prelude to the “political tsunami” in the 11th Malaysian General Election in 2008, which saw UMNO/BN losing its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time and UMNO/BN’s loss of five state governments – Kelantan, Kedah, Perak, Selangor and Penang.

The 2011 Sarawak State general election which saw DAP State Assemblymen doubled from six to 12 was the prelude to the 13th General Election in 2013, which would have changed Federal Government in Putrajaya if the democratic system was fair and democratic, not marred by constituency gerrymandering, as 53 per cent of the electorate voted for Putrajaya change of government.

Sarawak cannot perform a “triple” in the 2016 State General Election to continue to be in the vanguard for political change in Malaysia, needing a respite before returning to the forefront for political change and meaningful development.

Johor must now take over the baton from Sarawak to be the vanguard for political change in Malaysia.

This role of being the vanguard for political change in Malaysia now falls on the shoulders of Johor and the leaders of Johor DAP and Johor Pakatan Harapan must rise up to the occasion to assume this new and great national responsibility and challenge.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah