KUCHING, May 17 — Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing said today state Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders are coming to terms with the fact that their coalition can no longer win votes on its brand name alone.
Masing, who is also Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president, said he had been a fierce proponent of BN even as recently as the May 9 general election, but admitted that he has had a change of heart, though he won’t be joining Pakatan Harapan (PH), which has newly been recognised as a coalition.
“BN as a brand is no longer attractive or saleable [sic] to the voters both in Malaya and Sarawak,” he told Malay Mail.
Masing said he hopes Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Abang Johari Openg will call the state BN supreme council meeting soon to enable the component parties to decide if they should quit the coalition and form a new pact.
“To form a political alliance among Sarawak-based parties to protect state interests is one of the best moves,” he said, adding that he would discuss the proposal with his party before the BN meeting.
He also suggested that the now-Opposition parties come together as an entity to fight PH in the next general election.
On Monday, Masing said he would always be grateful to BN for accepting him in 1994 after he had fought the coalition as an Opposition leader for eight years.
“I am always grateful to the BN government for giving me the privilege to serve the people of Sarawak and was duly paid like other ministers for my task. And for such an opportunity and privilege, I am forever grateful. I will not betray the organisation which offered me such an opportunity,” said Masing.
When asked today to explain his change of heart, Masing said: “Things that you can’t sell, you have to let go. Remember I used to fight BN. But I couldn’t do it, so I joined them.
“In a democracy, majority rules.”
Abang Johari told reporters after chairing Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu’s (PBB) supreme council meeting yesterday that his party was reviewing its position in BN and would consult its partners on the formation of the new coalition of Sarawak-based parties.
He emphasised that they would not be joining PH but hoped to work closely with the federal government.
The state coalition — comprising PBB, PRS, Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) — suffered its worst defeat in a parliamentary election last Wednesday, when it lost 12 of 31 seats contested.
As the state election is held separately from the parliamentary election in Sarawak, the coalition still occupies 72 of 81 seats in the state legislative assembly — making Sarawak one of only three BN-controlled states left.
However, with the state polls due in about three years, the plan to form a new coalition could be a strategic move to give the parties a fighting chance against PH’s onslaught.
SUPP president Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian also believed that the four parties must remain united to protect Sarawak’s interests, especially under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the Constitution.
“We are therefore looking forward to meeting the other three parties to discuss the way forward. We also see our meeting as an opportunity to address our weaknesses in administrating the Sarawak Government so that we could further enhance our strengths and integrity in governance, policy making and economic planning.
“Our hearts and minds are totally with the people and we are fully committed to building a stronger and greater Sarawak that all Sarawakians can be very proud of,” said Dr Sim.
SUPP won only one seat in parliament, PRS has three, PDP two and PBB 13.
PDP president Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing could not be reached for comment but vice-president Datuk Paul Igai said the party would meet soon to discuss Abang Johari’s proposal.