(This story has appeared in Free Malaysia Today)
KUCHING: After severe beating in the last week-end polls, Sarawak National Party (SNAP) has now withdrawn into a corner licking the wounds of its defeat.
“This defeat is not only shameful, but questions are being asked whether the party continues to be relevant or not,” said a former SNAP minister and leader.
The leader who refused to be named was an assistant minister in the good old days of the party in 1970s and 1980s.
All the 27 candidates of the party lost heavily in the rural areas which it claimed to be its traditional home ground and strongholds. Except for Tedong Anak Gunda in Pakan, all of its candidates including its president Edwin Dundang lost their deposits.
Dundang managed to secure 281 votes in the party’s so-called strong hold since September 1963 until November 2002 - a period of 39 years.
In Pakan Tedong Gunda secured 2,741 votes. But the voters had no choice. It was either him of SPDP President William Mawan Ikom.
“Isn’t it shameful to lose badly and to lose all the deposits?” the assistant minister asked.
The recently concluded state election was its second outing (the first was in 2006) after it was forced to leave the Barisan Nasional.
Following this crisis, SNAP’s fortunes began to dip down after nine of its elected representatives and senior party leaders left the party to form Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) due to the leadership crisis in 2002.
SPDP was immediately accepted to join the Barisan Nasional.
Adding to SNAP’s problem was the fact that it had been deregistered by the Registrar of Societies as a result of the crisis, but it appealed for stay of execution.
Following the court of appeal decision to remove the ROS’s order (deregistration) in June last year, SNAP started to rebrand and rejuvenate itself to become the party of the future.
Its programme of rebranding in January 2011 and February attracted a number of ex-Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) leaders as well as some financiers from peninsular Malaysia.
But things were not moving even though some financial resources had been given to them. Their lack of planning and slow moving forced some financial supporters to withdraw. Potential and educated Dayak leaders were reluctant to join the party.And yet their leaders talked big saying that SNAP should be dominant party in Sarawak and not Parti Keadilan Rakyat and not DAP.
“We must be given the leading role in Sarawak Pakatan Rakyat,” said its President.
“The party with its glorious past and representing the Dayak community should take the lead. Therefore SNAP felt insulted by PKR which wanted us to contest in only three seats,” he said.
“We have all the branches over the state with a membership of 123,000,” he said, declaring that it would contest in all Dayak majority seats.
Even it asked for 48 seats including the 29 Dayak majority seats.
PKR, a peninsular-based party, should stay away from these constituencies, he said.
SNAP secretary general Stanley Jugol suggested that PKR candidates should contest using SNAP’s symbol.
“We are more popular than PKR,” he said.
Of course PKR was not fool as it knew its strength. After all it has been preparing to contest against the state Barisan Nasional since 2006.
SNAP blamed PKR for the failed negotiation and left Pakatan Rakyat, a coalition of PKR, DAP and PAS.
Efforts by PKR to negotiate for seats were ignored. Telephones and ‘smses’ went unanswered.
Days before nomination days, the movement of change, Sarawak (MoCS) revealed that SNAP’s financiers John Soh had withdrawn supporting the party due to lack of commitment given to the party and its lack of planning and direction.
A number of sympathetic organisations also announced their disassociation with the party, leaving it in a limbo.
But the most devastating effect on SNAP’s credibility was the disclosure that it had obtained some funds from UMNO to fight not only Taib Mahmud, but also PKR.
That little piece of news spread like wildfire in the rural areas especially in the constitunecies where SNAP was contesting.
Despite these handicaps, SNAP leaders insisted that it would contest in the Dayak majority and some mixed constituencies.
During a Press conference, a question was privately asked why did SNAP put some ‘lousy and bangkrupt’ candidates to contest.
Jugol replied that it was to ensure that PKR would not contest in those constituencies since SNAP had announced its candidates.
Their reasoning backfired as it pointed to SNAP’s selfish decision – its main aim was to prevent PKR from contesting in these constituencies, but missed the bigger picture that of ousting the BN leaders.
“That will give SNAP not only a wrong impression and perception to the voters, but in the process it lost its integrity and credibility” said a political analyst.
SNAP’s leaders should realise that after eight years in the “ICU” it was suddenly waken from the deep ‘slumber’ at the time when the state was preparing for its 10th state election.
“It is still weak and cannot talk big,” said the analyst.
Worst, it wanted to contest not only in two to three seats, but the whole of the 29 Dayak majority seats and 19 other mixed constituencies.
People were laughing at them especially the BN component parties as it helped to split the Dayak votes much against the Patakan Rakyat’s desire for a one-to-one fight against the BN candidates in all the 71 seats.
“This was SNAP’s biggest political blunder.
“The party should not have contested but continued to rebrand or rejuvenate itself until perhaps the next state election,” said a political scientist.
“SNAP should only think of contesting in 2015 election. By then it has fully recovered from the eight years in the political doldrum,” he said.
From onward, there are two things that it must do if it wants to continue to stay relevance. First, the party calls for an urgent emergency meeting to discuss the future of the party.
Second, the present committee must all resign to open the way for new, young and capable leaders to take over. Otherwise, the party will be further reduced into smaller than a mosquito party.
And third, it must return to the fold of the Pakatan Rakyat. On its own, SNAP cannot remain to become a single party purely representing the Dayaks.
Sectarian political parties are no longer relevant to serve the narrow and bigoted interest of a community.
It needs to be together with national based parties like PKR and DAP in the effort to create a two-party system.