KUCHING, Nov 11 — Datuk Bolly Lapok — former bishop of the Anglican Church in Sarawak and archbishop of the Anglican Province of South-east Asia — has joined Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB).

He announced his membership during a press conference with PSB president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh at the party’s headquarters here today.

Bolly said he had been invited by other political parties to join them, but decided on PSB after much consideration.

“I suspect that upon hearing of the news of my joining politics, many would be surprised, as not only it is unconventional but, for some reason, difficult to reconcile with the image I have been associated with,” said the 69-year-old who hails from Sri Aman.

According to Wong, Bolly joined PSB without any conditions but based on his convictions to serve the people of Sarawak through politics.

“Instead of choosing a happy retirement life, he chose to bring about changes to Sarawak. He opines that politics in Sarawak has to change and we hold the same view,” said the PSB president.

Bolly said although he has retired from active ministry of the Church, his life vocation to preach the Good News of the kingdom remains.

“Its burden defines my identity and witness as keenly as before, perhaps more now, as I am free from the administrative routine of the Church.

“It is a calling that transcends the expectation which dictates that, after his retirement that priest or pastor should be contented with quietly spending the remainder of his earthly life riding into the sunset,” he stated.

Bolly said some may even speculate that he had been ‘converted’ and made a tool to preach a different Gospel amidst the current intense political horse-trading, which has resulted in bewildering uncertainties.

He stressed that he found it highly inconsistent, even insidious, to think that God’s plan for him had ended on the date of his retirement.

“To do so would be aberration, a flagrant abdication and a sad betrayal of the very essence of my calling. I don’t say this lightly, for me to ride quietly into the sunset is not an option.

“So I feel extremely honoured to have been invited to join PSB under the able leadership of Datuk Seri Sri Wong Soon Koh, and grateful that I am seen as having a valid contribution, and can help realise all that the party is constituted for and aspires to achieve,” he said.

According to Bolly, he was drawn by PSB’s distinct advocacy of centrism and regionalism with its pledge to protect Sarawak’s much vaunted inter-racial harmony and religious tolerance from any form of extremism.

He added that PSB’s core values included moderation, inclusiveness, the way of justice and of peace, yet parochial enough to be burdened and mindful of the specific needs of Sarawak.

“Personally I view the invitation as a godsend and an ideal platform which represents the one I had been retired from. So I gladly accept it, and am thankful to Datuk Seri president (Wong) particularly, and PSB generally, for their trust in me.”

He said it is rare but not uncommon for a retired priest to become a politician given that the late Bishop Peter Howes was a member of the Council Negeri under the Colonial government, while the late Rt Rev Datuk Seri John Leong Chee Yun stood for election on the Sarawak National Party’s (SNAP) ticket.

Bolly said it saddened him that racial and religious polarisation still dominated the Malaysian political scene, which Sarawak is not impervious to.

“Incendiary utterances — the very antithesis of the spirit of Keluarga Malaysia are made with impunity. There is no telling what damage has been done to Keluarga Malaysia concept which the prime minister has taken great pain to inculcate.

“I find it rather astonishing that our local leaders, who should champion Sarawak’s sensitivities, choose to keep their silence.

“As I have been in the past, so I am now, committed to voice out, together with all like-minded Malaysians across the whole political spectrum, to denounce and condemn such reckless politics or rhetoric that can sow ill-feeling and discord to the Malaysian Family,” he added.

Wong said he would like Bolly to become a special envoy to spread the message of PSB and what the party is trying to do to bring about a better life for the people of Sarawak, although he came in as an ordinary member.

The party president said he had visited almost every corner and constituency of Sarawak that PSB aims to contest in, having travelled on timber and plantation roads as well as longboats.

Wong said he had seen for himself how much the rural folk in Sarawak lacked in terms of infrastructure development as they have no access to water and electricity supply as well as road and Internet connectivity.

“After 50 years of independence and we Sarawakians are still so poor in spite of our rich resources,” said the former second finance minister.

Wong said while he was in the government, he was bound by the unwritten rule of upholding collective decision.

He said he had waited until his party was strong enough to fight for the betterment of Sarawakians and resigned in 2019 so that he could be totally independent.

“PSB is a local-based party which has no affiliation to any party. It is a party that belongs to Sarawakians, fighting for Sarawak’s rights eroded over the years. PSB is a platform that can bring about change.

“I believe Datuk Bolly can help PSB to spread the message throughout Sarawak so that people are aware of what needs to be changed,” he added. — Borneo Post