Pakatan ready with candidates as Balingian by-election looms

KUCHING: The Pakatan Rakyat has its own candidates for the Balingian by-election, which must be held should its present assemblyman and outgoing Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud be sworn in as Yang d-Pertua Negri this March 1.

At a press conference, Sarawak PKR chairman Baru Bian declined to reveal any name just as yet, but confirmed that the coalition had “at least two” possible contenders.

“We have discussed it and agreed that Pakatan would contest. This is because we are united in Sarawak and it also shows to Sarawakians that we are serious in challenging Barisan Nasional,” the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman told reporters after chairing the first Pakatan Sarawak Leadership Council here yesterday.

When asked for specifics, he replied: “We will announce at an appropriate time.”

On a related matter, Baru did not deny the possibility of SWP joining the coalition.

State DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen said as SWP had not expressed in writing any intention of joining, Pakatan did not discussed on the independent party during the leadership council conference.

In the 2011 state elections, Pakatan candidate for Balingian was PKR’s Suriati Abdullah, who only netted 871 votes, while former deputy Education minister Datuk Salleh Jafaruddin contested as an Independent and received 1,056 votes. Taib won with a convincing 5,154 majority.

Balingian is a coastal settlement about 60km from Mukah town in the central region. The heart of Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), Samalaju, is about 30km away. Politically, the constituency is a Barisan stronghold.

Since the announcement of Taib’s resignation, little has been said by Barisan leaders on who will contest in Balingian, while speculations have mentioned Taib’s son Datuk Seri Mahmud Abu Bekir and daughter Datuk Hanifah Taib Alsree as well as politician-turned-businessman Datuk Seri Effendi Norwawi — a known Taib loyalist — as possible candidates.

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