(Kemena, Wednesday): I had described the DAP’s unexpected but historic victory in the Teluk Intan by-election on May 17 as a Richter 6 political earthquake, winning in a parliamentary constituency Barisan Nasional had believed it could not lose and the DAP could not win.
Furthermore, the DAP had not only wiped out the huge Barisan Nasional majority of 13,968 votes in Teluk Intan, but secured an impressive majority of 2,916 votes - which was an awesome turnaround of 16,884 votes in a matter of two years.
If a general elections is held and there is a Richter 6 political earthquake in Peninsular Malaysia, the Barisan Nasional would lose a total of 27 Parliamentary seats to the DAP - including the fall of five Cabinet Ministers and four Deputy Ministers.
The effect of a DAP win in the Kemena by-election in Sarawak will be even greater than the Teluk Intan by-election result, generating a Richter 6.5 political earthquake and sending tremors not only to Kuala Lumpur but all the way to London where the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is on holiday leave.
A DAP win in Kemena would create history in many senses of the word, not only for the DAP, but also for Sarawak and Malaysian politics, such as:
A DAP win in Kemena will send out the message to Sarawak, Malaysia and the world that with the coming the new millennium, there is hope that the politics of race will begin to give way to the politics of solidarity of the people based on common socio-economic interests and needs.
This is because in the Kemena by-election, the real issue is not about which political party will win in the by-election, whether Datuk Celestine Ujang can retain a seat which he had held for 22 years or whether Chiew Chiu Sing can create a political upset.
The one paramount issue in the Kemena by-election is the issue of the land rights of the Ibans, not only in Kemena but throughout the state of Sarawak.
The Kemena by-election is in fact the last chance for the Ibans to save and protect their customary community land rights and demand that the Barisan Nasional Sarawak State Government stop its land policy and refer the issue to the people of Sarawak in the form of a referendum to decide whether the land policy should continue or be changed - in the same way that the people of Sarawak were consulted 35 years ago as to whether Sarawak should join Malaysia.
The Kemena by-election is the last chance for the Ibans to save and protect their customary community land rights and demand that the Barisan Nasional Sarawak State Government stop its land policy and refer the issue to the people by way of a referendum for two reasons:
Firstly, the next occasion the people would have the opportunity to express their deep-seated feelings about the state land policy would be the next Sarawak state general elections, which need not be held until September 2,001;
Secondly, by the next state general elections in the year 2,001, there may not be much land left to save or protect at the present rate of land acquisition and alienation to certain corporate groups at dirt-cheap premium. The people of Kemena should realise that on 24th and 25th May, they are voting not only for themselves, but for all other Ibans as well as for future generations.
This is the reason why in the Kemena by-election, what is important is not whether Celestine Ujang or Chew Chiu Sing wins, but whether the people of Kemena can make full use of the last opportunity to save the customary community lands for future generations by speaking out, loud and clear, not only for Ibans in Kemena but in the whole of Sarawak, that the Sarawak State Government should immediately halt its land policy, refer the whole issue to the people by way of a referendum in the same way that the issue of whether Sarawak should join Malaysia was referred to the people 35 years ago!
It may be a personal loss to Celestine Ujang if he is defeated in the Kemena by-election after serving the constituency for 22 years, but if his shock defeat could force the Sarawak State Government to hear the cries of the people of Iban and halt its land policy and conduct a referendum for the people to decide whether the land policy should continue or be changed, then Celestine Ujang would be performing his greatest service to his community and the state in his entire political career.
There is otherwise no other way for the people through the democratic process to make the Sarawak State Government heed their cries to halt the land policy and to hold a referendum in the state on the issue.
The people of Kemena should follow the example of their counterparts in the Peninsular Malaysia, who united to oppose the injustices of the Land Acquisition Act where land was arbitrarily and inequitably acquired from landowners not for any public purpose as building schools, hospitals or police stations, but for private development by certain private companies.
As a result of the opposition and the unity of the people adversely affected by the Land Acquisition Act, the Federal Government was forced to direct state governments in Peninsular Malaysia to halt all land acquisitions until a new law is passed.
Similarly, all Ibans who are adversely affected by the state land policy should unite to make their voices, cries and demands heard loud and clear by the Sarawak State Government. It is because of the deep-seated and widespread discontents of the voters of Kemena about the violation and deprivation of their customary community land rights by the state land policy that the DAP was confident Chew Chiu Sing would have succeeded in being elected as Assemblyman for Kemena when nominations were called for the Sarawak state general elections in September last year.
At the time, the DAP had not expected to win the three seats of Bukit Assek, Pahlawan and Kidurong.
However, Chew was unfairly and unlawfully disqualified as a candidate by the Returning Officer on Nomination Day last August, resulting in an election petition which declared Celestine Ujang’s election null and void and ordering a by-election to be held.
Although I was quietly confident that Chew could have been elected Assemblyman for Kemena in the state general elections last September, I am not so confident in this by election as Chew has now to fight the entire Sarawak State Government and the entire machinery and money of Barisan Nasional.
As a result, I dare not predict the outcome of the by-election on Sunday - as it could result in one extreme with Chiew losing his deposit or the other extreme of defeating Celestine Ujang and giving the voters of Kemena the last opportunity to unite with all like-minded Sarawakians to defend their customary community land rights.
It is under these circumstances that Chew’s victory, should it come about, would be even more significant, creating a Richter 6.5 political earthquake to send out political tremors to other parts of Malaysia and into the whole world as well.