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Published: Friday April 5, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Updated: Friday April 26, 2013 MYT 1:01:32 AM

GE13: Riot a picture of calm

KUCHING: Despite the nearness of the general election, incumbent Serian MP Datuk Richard Riot Jaem’s office at the semi-rural constituency was a picture of calm yesterday.

In his office, which was lined with exactly 25 photos of himself officiating at events, constituents were milling about, filling forms and making enquiries.

“I think this is a very winnable area for Barisan Nasional,” said Awang Landon, private secretary to Riot, who has served as MP for the area for four terms since 1990.

“In terms of public support, we are (doing) good, which is not to say that we will be complacent,” he said, adding service centres like Riot’s were particularly effective in maintaining rural support for the Barisan.

The chances of Barisan renominating Riot for another term is as good as gold. During The Star’s interview with Awang, the private secretary never hinted of Riot being replaced.

“He’s coming back tonight (yesterday) to attend a dinner. We need to plan how we’ll be working with the other component parties for the campaign. The next day, there is a meet-and-greet event at the local community centre, then he’ll be flying back to Kuala Lumpur again.”

Riot first won Serian, about 50km from here, as an Independent, beating Barisan’s candidate William Aham by a majority of 2,685 votes. A month after his shock win, Riot was invited to join PBDS and was quickly elevated to the position of vice-president.

In the subsequent state election in September 1991, Riot, however, lost to PBB’s Michael Ben Panggi by 398 votes. In April 1995, Riot joined SUPP, which he has since remained loyal to, despite strong rumours of his dissatisfaction several years ago.

Riot’s political career is unlike most others’. In every subsequent election Riot had participated in, he had won with bigger majorities.

In the 9th general election, Riot won with a majority of 7,554 votes, in the next, he won with a majority of 8,451 votes, then with 9,695 votes. In the last election he won with a 13,427-vote majority.

In June 2010, Riot was appointed as Deputy Foreign Minister and at SUPP’s controversial triennial delegates conference last December, Riot became deputy president of the state’s oldest political vehicle.

In fact, Riot is considered by many, including among members of the opposition parties, the only sure win SUPP will register in the 13th general election.

Awang said Serian voters, about 70% Bidayuh, were likely to back Riot, who is also a Bidayuh, both for his work rate and his personal touches.

“I don’t think there are any major issues here. The infrastructure here is generally quite good and it’s still developing,” he said.

Awang, however, declined to speculate on native land rights allegations brought forth by the Opposition, but admitted that the controversy over native rights could become a campaign matter.

According to the latest gazetted electoral roll, Serian, which comprises the state seats of Tebedu and Kedup, has exactly 33,764 voters. The second largest bloc of voters are the Ibans, about 15%, Chinese, 11%, and Malay, 4%.

The population is spread out across about 270 villages of between 500 and 2,000 population each, and within the Serian township.

Awang singled out the Chinese as the only bloc of voters that might have divided loyalty.

He said the Chinese here were economically and politically less dependent on the Government compared to the other communities.

Tags / Keywords: Community, News, Politics, Serian, Richard Riot Jaem, SUPP

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