BY STEPHEN THEN and SHARON LING
MIRI: A prominent member of the Lun Bawang minority ethnic group, Mutang Tagal, has emerged as the front-runner for Barisan Nasional's candidate in the coming Bakelalan state-seat by-election.
Mutang, who is former Bukit Mas MP, is tipped to be a hot Barisan candidate to contest the seat, which fell vacant following the death of his elder brother Dr Judson Tagal.
Dr Judson was killed, along with six others, in a helicopter crash near Bario last month.
Sources said Mutang, a native of Bakelalan, was the favourite choice of the people in the constituency, which has about 8,000 voters.
“The people know him very well. He has served as MP before and he has been actively involved in political and community issues in Bakelalan when his brother served there during the past two terms.
CRASHED COPTER: The Hornbill Skyways Bell 206 helicopter wreckage in Miri yesterday after it was airlifted from its crash site from the foot of Mount Murud.
“The Tagal family is very much respected in the constituency. Mutang will be the favourite in winning the seat if he was the Barisan candidate,” said a source.
Dr Judson was a two-term state assemblyman for Bakelalan before his untimely death.
He won both terms uncontested in 1996 and 2001. The Bakelalan state constituency was formed in 1996.
Dr Judson was Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) secretary-general, state assistant minister in the Chief Minister’s Department and assistant state public health minister.
SPDP is to hold a supreme council meeting tomorrow and the issue is likely to be discussed, along with matters relating to the SPDP general assembly on Thursday.
Sources said there were three other likely candidates for the Bakelalan seat – Dr Bob Baru (dentist and Dr Judson’s relative), Dr Roland Matu (medical doctor) and William Ghani Bina (president of the Sarawak Lun Bawang Association and the Sarawak Teachers Union).
SPDP information chief Peter Howell said yesterday that the four names had been proposed but the party had left the final decision to Barisan leaders at state and federal levels.
Yesterday, the Sarawak National Party confirmed its intention to contest the by-election next month and is now considering several potential candidates for the seat.
Its president Edwin Dundang said the party had set up a four-member committee headed by deputy president Datuk Justine Jinggut to identify a candidate.
He said the party already had several persons in mind for the candidacy but the choice of candidate would only be revealed on nomination day on Sept 9.
Nomination for the Bakelalan by-election will be on Sept 9 and polling on Sept 18, if there is a contest.
In a related development, the Hornbill Skyways Bell 206 helicopter wreckage has been airlifted from the crash site at the foot of Mount Murud to here yesterday by a Russian Meridian heavy-duty helicopter.
The wreckage will be examined by technical experts from Bell USA, the Department of Civil Aviation and Hornbill before being sent to Texas in the United States for a detailed analysis.