(Petaling Jaya, Monday): When I spoke at the Repah by-election ceramah in Tampin on Friday (23.5.97) night after spending two days in the Kemena by-election campaign in Sarawak, I said that there could be three possible outcomes in the Kemena by-election yesterday:
The Barisan Nasional victory in the Kemena by-election yesterday, with Ujang winning with a 5,471-vote majority after securing 6,928 votes against 1,457 votes cast for Chiew, was therefore not unexpected.
What would have been totally unexpected to Malaysians would be the third possibility of Chiew defeating Ujang - as the first possibility of Chiew losing his deposit in a 90 per cent Iban constituency would not have been unexpected to Malaysians as a whole.
The DAP had known that we faced a very uphill battle in the Kemena by-election, although Chiew would have won the constituency in the Sarawak state general elections in September last year if he had not been unfairly and unlawfully disqualified as a candidate on nomination day.
In the by-election, Chiew had to face the triple curses of unfair and dirty elections in Sarawak: the politics of race, the politics of money and the politics of fear and intimidation.
Furthermore, Chiew had to fight not only a 23-year incumbent Assemblyman for the area and a Iban Minister and leader, but the whole Sarawak Barisan Nasional government led by the Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud himself and the entire resources behind the state government!
Despite these insuperable odds faced by the DAP, Celestine Ujang was never placed under greater pressure in his 23-year political career than during the by-election. He was so worried about the outcome of the by-election that attempts were made to disrupt DAP meetings in long houses in the constituency.
For instance, in one long-house meeting, Celestine Ujang sent in outsiders to try to disrupt and stop my speech, making racial accusations and objections that I did not speak in Iban, but when this trick failed, on the next day, a different tactic was used where the Barisan Nasional succeeded in putting pressure on two long-houses to disallow me from visiting and speaking to the Iban voters.
During the by-election campaign, the former State Deputy Minister and now President of State Reform Party (STAR), Dr. Pataui Rubis (MP for Mas Gading), who wanted to help the DAP in the campaigning, was virtually hounded out of the Kemena constituency.
These episodes do not speak well for the victory of Celestine Ujang. In his victory speech after the announcement of the results yesterday, Ujang described his win as the best Gawai Dayak present for the people of Kemena. The harvest festival is celebrated on June 1 and 2.
He is of course greatly mistaken, for thanks to the Barisan Nasional, the voters of Kemena had already been celebrating the Gawai Dayak even before the nomination day for the Kemena by-election on May 12. This year, the Ibans in Kemena are celebrating the longest-ever Gawai Dayak !
Be that as it may, I congratulate Celestine Ujang for keeping his Kemena seat as well as his Ministerial post.
He should make good use of his victory in the Kemena by-election by getting the Sarawak State Government to conduct a referendumn to seek the Ibansí views on the state land policy on their customary community land rights in the same way the people of Sarawak were consulted 35 years ago over the issue of Sarawak joining Malaysia.