KUCHING: Sarawak has a new ruling coalition after the state’s four previous Barisan Nasional component parties left the former ruling coalition to form Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) unanimously decided to leave Barisan and form an independent state-based coalition.
He said the decision was made after “much deliberation, reflection and due consideration” of the political developments in the country following GE14.
“We believe it is timely and appropriate for Sarawak to embark on a new political platform in order to face challenges in line with the changing aspirations, needs and demands of Sarawakians.
“Our new coalition will enable us to focus on Sarawak’s interests and rights based on the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
“We strongly believe the formation of this new coalition will enable and empower us to serve the people better,” Abang Johari told reporters after chairing a meeting with leaders of the four parties at the PBB headquarters here yesterday.
He said GPS would not join Pakatan Harapan but would “cooperate and collaborate” with the Federal Government on issues of national interest and state rights.
“We are not joining Pakatan as a coalition. We will work together but we have our own bloc and will remain with the Opposition in Parliament,” he said.
He said whether the United People’s Party (UPP), which broke away from SUPP, would be invited to join GPS would be decided later.
UPP is part of the state administration but was never a member of Barisan.
Abang Johari also said the new pact would not be like the former Barisan coalition despite comprising the same parties.
“It will be different. Our direction is different because we are independent,” he said when asked if GPS would be “old wine in a new bottle”.
He thanked Barisan for its previous contributions to the state but said Sarawak had to keep up with the change in the country’s political situation.
He added GPS would continue to focus on issues in line with the mandate given to the state Barisan in the 2016 state election.
“We won big in 2016 based on our fight for state rights initiated by the late Tok Nan (former chief minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem), so we are continuing the mandate,” he said.
The state Barisan swept to a landslide victory in 2016, winning 72 of 82 seats in the Sarawak Legislative Assembly.
In GE14, however, the four component parties under Barisan won only 19 of 31 parliamentary seats in Sarawak, failing to wrest back six seats from Pakatan and losing six more.
PRS president Tan Sri James Masing pointed out the Barisan brand no longer appealed to Sarawakians.
He said GPS, made up of local-based parties, would give the ruling coalition a chance to restructure its policies and governance.
“We need a new system. Under Barisan, only Umno has a say and controls everything. GPS must allow all component parties to have a say,” he said.
SUPP president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian said GPS would welcome other parties who believed in Sarawak’s autonomy and wanted to fight for the state’s rights.
“GPS must be Sarawak-centric, looking at policies that are best for the state.
“Sarawak needs to be more united than before and we have to be autonomous in politics.
“GPS may start off with four former Barisan components but who knows, in the future everybody may merge to become one entity under the new coalition. Unity is about not having many parties; it is about bringing everybody together,” he said.
Dr Sim added that SUPP would honour the MoU it signed with UPP before GE14, whereby both parties agreed to unite into a single political entity for stronger representation in the state legislative assembly.