An intriguing battle on the cards


WHEN Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) unveiled its logo last week, it was no surprise to see that it was in the shape of a hornbill.

With its distinctive curved horn, the rhinoceros hornbill, locally known as "kenyalang", is synonymous with Sarawak. A protected species, it is the state bird and takes centre stage in the state crest.

This ties in with the GPS narrative, which has been touting itself as a coalition of Sarawak-based parties fighting for Sarawak's rights and interests since quitting Barisan Nasional in the wake of GE14.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said as much during the logo's unveiling at Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) headquarters in Kuching, with leaders and members from the four GPS component parties in attendance.

Just as the "kenyalang" is a protected species, he declared, Sarawak would always be protected by GPS.

"This is a historic occasion in Sarawak's political development. We have formed a coalition of Sarawak-based parties to lead the state within Malaysia," he said.

Elaborating on the logo's colours, Abang Johari said red symbolised the supremacy of the Federal and state constitutions, white represented the fairness of the rule of law while black symbolised the pillar of the coalition to uphold its objectives.

"All three together show that GPS is a coalition that will defend Sarawak's rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and Federal and state constitutions and in accordance with democratic principles.

"We will be fair to all the people of Sarawak regardless of race or religion and we will continue to develop Sarawak," he said.

To recap, GPS was formed on June 12 last year when PBB, the Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) left Barisan to form an independent state-based coalition.

As political analysts pointed out at the time, the Sarawak parties had little choice but to jump ship or risk losing the next state election, due in mid-2021.

The ruling state coalition now has a new logo to go with its new name, but the reality is that it still comprises the same parties and leaders which were formerly in Barisan. For this reason, critics have been quick to call GPS "old wine in a new bottle".

 

While GPS has been rebranding itself as the defender of Sarawak's rights under the Malaysia Agreement, this was something that started during the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem's tenure as chief minister.

However, the GPS-led state government has become more vocal and assertive on state rights now that it is no longer part of the federal government. This narrative is likely to keep playing out ahead of the state polls, in line with the rhetoric that only Sarawakians can look after the state's interests.

All of this points to an intriguing state election ahead, as the independent GPS takes on Pakatan Harapan to retain control of the 82-seat state legislature. GPS currently holds 72 seats while Pakatan has 10.

Unlike previous elections though, Pakatan is in a position to pose a stronger challenge as it is now the federal government, provided it performs well and can build up support from its reasonable showing in Sarawak in GE14.

Can GPS show that it is not "old wine in a new bottle" but has something new and different to offer? Or can Pakatan convince Sarawakians that it is a better alternative?

It will be to Sarawakians' benefit if both GPS and Pakatan step up their game in governing the state and country to win voter support.

As GE14 showed, it is in voters' hands to decide who gets to be the government of the day. Ultimately, voters must demand better governance and policies from political parties before making an informed choice at the ballot box.

 


   

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