(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): I deny that I had ever said that the DAP is confident of winning the forthcoming Kemena by-election in Sarawak on May 24 and 25, as reported in the local press.
What I had said was that the DAP was quite confident before the Sarawak state general elections last September of winning the Kemena state assembly constituency in the Sarawak state polls, but for the forthcoming Kemena by-election, I am not confident that the DAP stands a chance of winning in the forthcoming Kemena constituency.
This is because the political landscape in the Kemena state constituency, whose 12,739 electorate comprises 88.4 per cent Ibans, 6.9 per cent Malays and 4.7 per cent Chinese, is completely different during these two periods between the Sarawak state general elections and the forthcoming by-election.
It was clear that Celestine Ujang was afraid of a contest in the Kemena state assembly seat in the Sarawak state general elections last September, and this was why Chiew Chin Sing had to be unlawfully disqualified as a candidate during Nomination Day on the most frivolous and irresponsible of grounds - as affirmed by the Sarawak election judge on Monday.
Why should Celestine Ujang, an Iban leader with Ministerial rank and an incumbent for five terms in a Iban-predominant constituency be afraid of a contest from the DAP?
There were two good reasons: firstly, Chew’s popularity with the Iban ground in Kemena, which was one reason for his victory in the Bintulu parliamentary constituency in the parliamentary elections in April 1995. Secondly, the unpopularity of Celestine Ujang among the Ibans in Kemena, especially for his failure as Minister for Land Development to protect and look after their native customary rights land.
The Kemena by-election battle, however, is a completely different kettle of fish as compared to the Sarawak state general elections in Kemena last September, as we will have to fight not only the entire might and money resources of the Sarawak Barisan Nasional this time, but also their unfair and dirty tricks, including threats and intimidation of voters.
This is best illustrated by the press report yesterday that Chiew’s seconder in the Sarawak state general elections last year, longhouse headman Usah ak Lutong, had resigned from the DAP and pledged his support for Barisan. Usah even said that he was disappointed with Chiew’s leadership on the ground that Chiew had failed to help the Dayaks.
Voters of Kemena and the people in Sarawak and Malaysia must expect more of such "spectacles" in the next four weeks leading to the polling day.
In fact, the swiftness with which the Election Commission fixed the date for the Kemena by-election was clearly designed to give advantage to the Sarawak Barisan Nasional, by deliberating clashing with the Teluk Intan by-election on May 17 although an Election Commission spokesman had earlier indicated that the nomination for the Kemena by-election would be held after the Teluk Intan by-election.
The Election Commission took only four days to fix the dates for the Kemena constituency by-election although the seat was declared vacant only on Monday by the election judge, Justice Datuk Suleiman Hashim. This must be one of the fastest cases where the Election Commission swung into action to fix by-election dates, although its original intention was to fix a later date - forcing the DAP to fight two by-elections at the same time. This is another example of the lack of independence of the Election Commission, as mandated by the Malaysian Constitution which envisages an Election Commission which is completely free from influence from any political party or leader - including those in power.
These are indications of the great odds the DAP would have to face in the Kemena by-election, to the extent that there are those who expect the DAP to lose very badly in the by-election.
However, whatever the outcome of the Kemena by-election, the DAP would be doing a great favour to the 12,800 voters of Kemena, who would have the "chance of a lifetime" to benefit from the various "goodies" that would undoubtedly come their way in the by-election.