KOTA KINABALU, April 26 ― After nearly 30 years, Parti Bersatu Sabah is hoping to win back the Sandakan parliamentary constituency with its chosen candidate Datuk Linda Tsen, a former two-term MP of the neighbouring Batu Sapi constituency.
Party president Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili said the party decided on 63-year-old Tsen, a Sandakan local, due to her experience and steadfast work in Sandakan.
“After an intensive study of the grassroots, we have decided she is the best candidate. She has served Batu Sapi well, and the grassroots all over Sandakan know her. She has been a dedicated and hardworking party worker,” said Ongkili during a press conference in Sandakan.
Tsen, who last won the seat in 1990, is hoping to make a comeback for PBS in Sandakan.
The party lost the seat to BN’s Liberal Democratic Party candidate Tan Sri Lau Ngan Siew in the 1995 elections.
Tsen got into politics in 2010 after her late husband Datuk Edmund Chong died in a motorcycle accident.
She was chosen to take his place in the by-election and won by a 6,359 vote margin or 64 per cent. She was elected the second time beating out PAS’ Hamzah Abdullah by 3,798 votes in 2013.
In last year’s election, she lost to Warisan’s Datuk Liew Vui Keong by 4,619 votes.
According to Ongkili, Tsen will be backed by all Opposition parties, both local and national ― Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku (Star), Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP), PAS, Umno, MCA and United Sabah National Organisation, among others.
This is also PBS’ third foray as the Opposition over the last 35 years, after quitting the BN coalition last year due to its poor performance in the 14th general election.
Ongkili said that PBS decided to take a chance to contest this election, the first time since 1995, due to the feedback they received, and the track record of the last few by elections in the country which were won by Barisan Nasional.
“We had a choice whether to contest or not but there is a lot of things not right in Sabah. There is a lot of unhappiness and dissatisfaction around the country.
Tsen will take on DAP’s rookie Vivian Wong, the 30-year-old youngest daughter of Datuk Stephen Wong Tien Fatt, whose death on Mar 28 paved the way for the by-election.
Wong, a two term elected MP, was a popular candidate, having obtained 19,094 votes, defeating candidate Datuk Lim Ming Hoo by some 10,098 votes.
Pointing to Tsen’s experience, Ongkili said that Wong was too much of a newcomer and her inexperience would not serve the constituency well during Parliamentary debates.
“Between DAP and PBS, PBS is a local party that can represent the voice of Sabah and Sandakan. Parliament is no place for a rookie. In the turbulent waters of the Parliament, the voice of Sandakan will be drowned out,” he said.
The two women will likely have to navigate several independent candidates who, though not expected to win, may cause some split in votes that could just give one candidate the leg up they need to win.
The Sandakan seat has 39,777 registered voters comprising 49 per cent Chinese, 44 per cent Muslim Bumiputera and six per cent non-Muslim Bumiputera.
The two state constituencies under Sandakan are Tanjung Papat and Elopura, both represented by DAP.