‘Sabah polls will not affect when Sarawak will hold election’

KUCHING: The timing of the Sarawak election does not depend on the outcome of the recently concluded Sabah polls, say state leaders and political analysts.

Sarawak and Sabah might be geographically close to each other but both states had different political agendas and thinking, said Deputy Chief Minister and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri James Masing (pic).

“The Chief Minister will call for the 12th state election based on what he thinks is the right time, ” he said.

PRS is one of four component parties in the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition, along with Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

The next state election is due in mid-2021. But there has been talk that it may be called later this year.

PBB vice-president Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the Sabah polls would not have much effect on the coming Sarawak election.“The scenario in Sarawak is totally different. The GPS government is close to the Federal Government and we will probably not see Barisan Nasional or Perikatan Nasional participating in the Sarawak election.”

Abdul Karim also believed that Sarawakians were relatively happy with the present state government’s performance and would give it a new mandate.

“Whether the Sarawak state election is going to be held sooner or later is immaterial. Sarawakians have more or less made up their minds who they want to form the government, ” he said.

Political analyst James Chin also said there were lessons Sarawak could learn from the Sabah election.

“In Sabah, the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) and state nationalism were issues, just as in Sarawak.

“I think GPS was watching how the debate went. The MA63 issue in Sabah was linked to the illegal immigrant issue under the Federal Government, which is not an issue in Sarawak. But it was also about oil royalty. “Warisan blamed Sabah’s lack of development on the Federal Government not wanting to resolve the oil issue. So even though MA63 covers a lot of things, local Sabahans only linked it to this issue.

“In Sarawak, I suspect that when it comes to MA63, it means getting back our oil and continental shelf, ” said Chin, who is professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania.

Assoc Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaya believes the Sarawak state election would likely be called after the tabling of the state budget in November.

He said the Sabah polls would not be a factor as Sarawak’s political situation was different.

“GPS has a good record in developing the state. Abang Jo’s popularity is also rising after Putrajaya agreed to pay nearly RM3bil in state sales tax (for petroleum products) to Sarawak, ” Prof Awang Azman said, referring to Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“Sarawak will want the election to be held while the feel-good factor is there among the people.”

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