KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 — Barring opposition party leaders from entering Sarawak may decrease their campaigning power, but the move could also backfire on Barisan Nasional (BN) and its state chairman Tan Sri Adenan Satem, analysts have warned.
Political scientist Dr Faisal Hazis said even without the immigration ban, he had expected an easy victory for BN in the May 7 state polls.
He said the decision to bar opposition lawmakers from entering Sarawak could be a “gamble” for Adenan, who is seeking his first mandate to lead the state.
“Both sides will see an impact. The opposition will definitely feel the pinch when some of the crowd pullers during talks are not seen and this will see lesser crowd at their talks.
“But then again, ground work have been done years and months before the election,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
“It will affect the opposition to a certain extent, but not that much,” added Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (IKMAS) associate professor.
He said, however, that the ban goes against Adenan’s projected “liberal” image, noting that the leader has been a strong advocate of Sarawak’s long time push for greater autonomy.
Should BN win big this year, the analyst said the victory could be regarded by the opposition as unfair.
“At the end of the day, if BN wins big, the win would be because they had flexed their muscles by twisting the arms of the opposition through immigration power. A big win might not be seen as legitimate and fair,” he added.
“In fact, I reckon BN would have won big even without exercising this. But now basically, he is gambling,” Faisal said.
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan said it was disappointing of Adenan to be “behaving like an old-time politician” in not allowing for fair competition.
“This will have a negative impact on Pakatan Harapan. The state government that is supposed to be a caretaker government is denying them the right to campaign.
“This is an unfair contest right from the beginning that to the authoritarian behaviour of Adenan,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) secretary-general Anuar Tahir asserted that even his party had held Adenan at high regard prior to the barring of opposition leaders ahead of the elections campaigning period.
Anuar said it was disappointing as the banned political leaders come from legitimate parties recognised by the Registrar of Societies (RoS), calling it an abuse of Sarawak’s immigration powers.
“We are not questioning the constitution or the autonomous rights of Sarawak and Sabah. We agree to this. But it is clearly an abuse of that provision, where legitimate political leaders, recognised, legal parties were barred from travelling within our own country,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
He said Amanah would definitely feel the impact, as they are a new party looking to introduce themselves and their policies to the people in the country.
“We will use whatever opportunities we have, to campaign with whatever resources we have there. But there is less opportunities, because our central leadership can’t go there,” he added.
“But our campaigning is not crippled. Because our people who are there, are spirited, and are now motivated to work doubly hard. We may have limited resources, but we will never surrender.”
Amanah president Mohamad Sabu was barred last month from entering Sarawak.
But analyst Dr Jayum Anak Jawan believes it is petty for the opposition to harp on the entry ban in order to attract votes and sympathy from Sarawakians.
“So, get over it and find other means to communicate your message to the people of Sarawak if, (a) you have something important to tell the peoples of Sarawak, and (b) if the people of Sarawak will want to listen to you anyway,” the National Council of Professors deputy head of Politics, Security and International Affairs Cluster said.
“The harping on immigration issue merely shows that they (the Peninsular guys, politicians and NGOs alike) are not at all innovative in time of technological advancement. If you are denied entry into Sarawak, then find other equally effective means to help your colleagues campaign.
“There is the uncensored social medias such as tape recorded messages through tape recorder and DVDs, real time connects through Skype, teleconferencing and face-time,” he added.
Over a dozen opposition figures have been barred from entering Sarawak since Adenan became chief minister on February 2014, succeeding Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud who is now the Sarawak governor. Selangor state legislative assembly speaker Hannah Yeoh from the DAP was denied entry to Sarawak yesterday when she travelled to Sibu for a church programme.
Adenan recently insisted that the ban on opposition lawmakers is justified, claiming that it was to protect Sarawak from unsavoury elements and that the ban was only until the state election.
The Sarawak state assembly was dissolved on April 11, with candidate nominations for the eleventh Sarawak state elections set to take place on April 25, and polling to take place on May 7.