Isnin, 4 April 2011

Contrasting takes on S’wak polls by 2 analysts

Terence Netto
Perhaps you could not get two more contrasting forecasts by academics of how state polls scheduled for April 16 would turn out at a forum on ‘Sarawak State Elections 2011′ in Petaling Jaya last night.
One was mildly optimistic of the prospects for the opposition while the other virtually held that only in the Chinese seats were there signs of a surge for the opposition.
Both prognosticators, Faizal Syam Hazis and Jayum Jawan, hail from land of the hornbills, each armed with the requisite doctorates, the former at Universiti Sarawak Malaysia (Unimas) and the latter at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).
The duo was invited by opinion research agency, Merdeka Center, to air before an eager audience of about 100 people their forecasts on how the 10th Sarawak state elections would eventuate.
You would think the academic from Unimas would have tempered his optimism that the opposition was in sight of a denial of a two-thirds majority to the BN, because of his on-site location and certainty about the traditional factor that determines the vote of longhouse folk: what the government-appointed tuai rumah’s instructions are in the 72 hours before polling, usually greased by the men with the moneybags.

NONEBut Faisal Syam Hazis (left) felt that the legion of stories on land grabs by the chief minister and his cohort, the displacement of villages by indiscriminate hydro dam-building, and the impoundment of the Malay Bible, Al Kitab, would factor in the ‘hot seats’ which he delineated as seven with an Iban majority, two with a Bidayuh plurality, and two with an Orang Ulu preponderance.
Combined with what is already unquestioned – which is the Chinese voter-preference for the DAP in 15 seats where they constitute a sizeable majority – the opposition in Sarawak, said Faizal, are within sight of the 24 seats needed to deny BN two-thirds majority, something that has not happened since 1987.
Such an eventuality would shake the federal BN’s certainty that Sarawak is their fixed deposit, the lion’s share of its 31 parliamentary seats safe for the tucking under the BN column come the 13th general election expected later this year or early the next one; its timing hastened by a thumping BN victory in the state poll, its deferral guaranteed by a limp BN performance.
‘Dayaks have politicians, but not leaders’
In contrast to Faisal’s assessment, Jayum Jawan felt that though the state poll would a referendum on four decades of uninterrupted BN rule in Sarawak, the prospects of the opposition were not good because the “Dayaks have politicians, but not leaders.”
He said the folk in the longhouses were unconcerned with the issues of transparency and good governance that are all the rage with denizens of urban centres on the peninsula, concerns which he conceded were the “characteristics of a mature polity.”
Jayum felt that though the Dayaks of the Sarawak interior were bypassed for development after nearly 50 years in the Malaysian federation, they had no real alternative to what was available.
NONEHe said the opposition was composed of credible but “expired” figures like Daniel Tajem, politicians without leadership stature, PKR associates who are suspect because of their subsidiary role in a peninsula-based party, and the DAP which is only focused on Chinese-majority seats.
Jayum (left) said he only expected gains for the opposition in 15 Chinese-majority seats where the DAP would pose a strong challenge to the SUPP.
Other than that, Jayum said, he saw little or no prospects of opposition gains in Dayak seats, Malay-Melanau ones, or in mixed constituencies because there were no credible alternatives to what was on offer.
So, he said that even though the BN government has failed on the prime issue of the election which was the issue of development, they would come through because the people saw no credible alternative.
Jayum said that Sarawak, in terms of resources, was one of the richest states in Malaysia, but in terms of the indices of development, it was one of the poorest.
He said that this was due to neglect by a federal-dominated “Malay polity” that cared little for the native people of Sarawak.
Jayum’s was a bleak assessment, framed in hardnosed terms, which was difficult to gainsay.
It made one think of former premier, the late Hussein Onn’s retooling of Lord Acton’s famous aphorism, about how power corrupts. Hussein held that poverty also corrupts; the more endemic it is, the more severely it corrupts.

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