MIRI: Political bickering among grassroots community leaders in rural Sarawak seems to be the order of the day.
Politicking has taken over the daily life of rural communities in this crucial run-up period to the state elections.
These “kaki-kaki” politics are siding either with aspiring political candidates or those seeking another term in office.
My travels to numerous rural regions over the past few weeks in northern Sarawak showed that political candidates are making great effort to secure support from community leaders because they can influence voters from villages under their jurisdiction.
The problem is that when these community leaders like tuai rumah, ketua kampung, penghulu, kapitan and the like quarrel and fight over politics, they neglect their duties to the people.
Almost everyday, there are groups of community leaders coming out to issue statements to the press or holding talks in their villages.
There have also been claims of political interference in the appointment of new grassroots community chiefs.
Numerous longhouse chiefs and village heads are claiming that unethical conditions are being imposed by certain quarters on the selection of community leaders.
It is claimed that those new community leaders appointed to their posts must fill in application forms to become members of TERAS (Parti Tenaga Rakyat Sarawak) or UPP (United Peoples Party).
Imposing such political conditions for community posts is an abuse of power.
TERAS was formed by a group of five former Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) leaders after they broke away from SPDP following a heated internal leadership tussle.
UPP was formed by several former leaders of the Sarawak United Peoples Party (SUPP) due also to similar internal leadership disputes.
SPDP and SUPP are component parties of Barisan Nasional.
TERAS and UPP have applied to join the BN coalition at the state and national-level but until now SPDP and SUPP have objected to their admission.
UPP is led by its president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh who is Sarawak state minister for local authorities.
TERAS is led by Tan Sri William Mawan who is state minister for social development.
Community leaders must not allow themselves to be intimidated into joining any political party.
They should focus on their primary task of helping their village for issues like infrastructure projects, welfare programmes, skills development, improvement of amenities like roads, as well as water and electricity supply.
Although they need to work with the government-of-the-day and give their cooperation to the wakil rakyat, they should remain neutral and not be directly involved in party politics or else they will become distracted. Instead of working for the welfare of the community, they will be preoccupied with politicking and the people’s welfare will be neglected.
If community leaders want to be active in party politics, they should let go of their community posts.
There is also a danger that the unity among rural folk will be torn apart if community leaders keep taking sides in the political arena.
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