KUCHING: The temperature is rising on SPDP’s hot seats as three new faces are joining the fray and only one incumbent retained for the 13th general election when Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud unveiled the Sarawak Barisan Nasional candidates list yesterday.
The changes in SPDP were probably the biggest surprise in the line-up. Taib, who is also state BN chairman made the announcement at the PBB headquarters in Jalan Bako here. State Barisan coalition is made up of PBB, SUPP, PRS and SPDP.
Overall, the state Barisan list saw six incumbents dropped and eight new faces fielded, including a woman.
Dropped from the SPDP line-up are two deputy Federal ministers. Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan (Baram) and Datuk Jelaing Mersat (Saratok), who are the party’s vice-president and senior vice-president respectively.
Jacob is the most senior SPDP MP, having been elected since 1995 whereas Jelaing had served two terms. The only SPDP incumbent retained is Datuk Tiong King Sing, who will be vying for his fourth term as Bintulu MP.
Of the new faces, the most significant would undoubtedly be SPDP president Tan Sri William Mawan, who was chosen to contest in Saratok, where Jelaing has long been rumoured to be out of the race.
“I am the only one left from my party for the job,” he told reporters when asked why he was contesting after the list of candidates was announced. In the run-up to the polls, there had been speculations that Jelaing could be replaced by SPDP vice-president Capt Zainuddin Tun Hamdan and even Mawan’s daughter, SPDP Puteri chief Barbara Mawan.
Mawan’s decision to stand is seen as a gamble by some political observers that could have repercussions on his presidency but Mawan disagrees.
In Baram, Limbang District Officer Anyi Ngau has been chosen as the candidate. The decision to drop Jacob was quite a shocker as it was only in the last one month or so that there had been claims that the incumbent had served his last term.
SPDP sources admitted that there was a possibility that Baram could fall to the Opposition due to the issues on the ground, particularly the construction of a new hydroelectric dam which could displace thousands, and it was hoped that a new candidate would be better able to allay the people’s fears.
Asked if the candidates for Saratok and Baram were “last-minute” decisions, Taib said: “They are not last-minute. We have been watching the developments in the last three months or so. Only after we are convinced that we need a new person we decide to change them. You must know that for the two seats, the candidates have been there for quite some time.”
As for Mas Gading, the three-term incumbent Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe is out and SPDP’s greenhorn Anthony Nogeh Gumbek will contest the seat. There had been much talk that Dr Tiki could contest as a direct Barisan candidate but now that that is out of the question, there are speculations that the former SPDP vice-president could contest as an independent candidate.
Besides the incumbents from SPDP, the others dropped are PBB’s Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib (Kota Samarahan), PRS vice-president Datuk Billy Abit Joo (Hulu Rajang) and SUPP president Datuk Peter Chin (Miri).
Contesting in Kota Samarahan would be PBB’s only new woman candidate this election, Rubiah Wang, and Taib had high hopes.
“Rubiah will show the ability of a woman candidate to serve the people. I am happy that she is a woman and a Samarahan-born as well. She served as a State Administrative Officer and District Officer, and is strongly supported by Samarahan people.”
In Hulu Rajang, PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Masing must have heaved a sigh of relief that his chosen candidate Wilson Ugak Kumbong was picked to contest over Abit, who was adamant about standing again after he had served as MP for five terms.
And in Miri, Chin kept his word about not contesting. He is replaced by his political secretary Datuk Sebastian Ting.
Interestingly, Chin yesterday also announced the line-up of SUPP candidates earlier there.
All Barisan candidates will be receiving their authorisation letter at a function this afternoon.