In a rare and telling standoff, PKR leaders scoffed at a statement from DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang, accusing him of not telling the full story about a seat allocations spat in order to shield his Sarawak leaders although it comes at the expense of the PKR and its members.
“We state categorically that from the start, we only wanted to maintain four seats out of the 19 SUPP seats. These were the four seats that we fought for in 2006 and we want to maintain that equilibrium,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
“In the process of negotiations protracted by Sarawak DAP’s stubborn and unreasonable refusal to agree to this, we made several offers to swap the seats. We did not have to do so but we did it in the spirit of esprit de corps. But whatever the combination that PKR offered, it was rejected by DAP. Throughout negotiations, we wish to stress in no uncertain terms, the total number of seats that PKR requested never exceeded four.”
Tian declined to comment further, saying the matter would be escalated to the top national leadership.
But rumblings are growing within PKR and no doubt in DAP as well.
Initially confused by several news reports from Sarawak DAP leaders including Wong Ho Leng and Chong Chieng Jen, PKR supporters maintained a worried silence as the spat worsened and their party got the brunt of the bad publicity.
Amid deep-seated concerns over the future of Pakatan's multiracial identity, the latest facetious accusations from Chong that Sarawak Pakatan might collapse due to PKR's greed was the last straw.
“We urge Anwar to stand firm. Don't let these political roughnecks get away. They must be taught a good lesson in manners and co-operation,” Eddie Wong, a PKR stalwart told Malaysia Chronicle.
“What has happened and made us really upset was the way Sarawak DAP manipulated the media and used the Datuk T sex video scandal to create a bad impression of PKR and Anwar to the Sarawak Chinese. If that is the case, most of us in PKR will tell you straight off, Sarawak DAP should be booted of Pakatan – Lim Kit Siang or no Lim Kit Siang.”
Multiracial - never Chinese, Malay or Indian dominant
Indeed, Kit Siang may be deserving of their wrath. In his statement released on Saturday, he urged Pakatan not to be deflected by the Datuk T sex video scandal and to maintain focus on Sarawak.
Yet he himself has issued several statement on the mess that has boomeranged on BN, the Home Ministry and the police.
“Why did Kit Siang do that if the sex scandal is not a worthy cause to alert Malaysians to and fight against? It does not mean we forget about (Sarawak Chief Minister) Taib Mahmud, but Malaysia is full of scandals and corruption. So far, PKR and Pakatan has been able to attack BN on multiple fronts. It will be the same in Sarawak. Life goes on in the rest of the nation. What is Kit Siang trying to insinuate?” said Eddie.
“We are not over-reacting but it is time to call DAP's bluff or we become like BN. In BN, because Umno is dominant, the coalition is dominated by the Malays. But PKR is staunchly multi-racial ... we are not so sure about the DAP anymore. But if we allow DAP to get away with this, then Pakatan will seen as the Chinese BN, where the coalition is dominated by the Chinese because DAP mistakenly thinks it is the dominant partner. Is such a coalition partner worth having?”
PKR is also extremely disappointed
In his statement, Kit Siang also expressed his disappointment over the failure of Sarawak DAP and PKR to come to terms on Thursday. There was an agreement to keep the dispute out of the press so as to avoid the BN media creating a circus of out the matter.
But after Sarawak DAP’s Chong went public and warned of a collapse, few PKR leaders were willing to maintain their silence.
“We wish to tell Kit Siang that we are also very disappointed. We would also like to inform him that it was not PKR’s fault and that it takes two to tango. We hope that Kit Siang will give more information about the six seats he mentioned so that the public will not jump to the conclusion that it was PKR who was being greedy. Certainly, we hope that was not the insulation he wished to make,” PKR Sarawak chief Baru Bian told Malaysia Chronicle.
In 2006, PKR contested four seats namely N9 Padungan, N13 Batu Kawah, N63 Piasau and N65 Senadin.
Two other seats were brought into the picture as part of negotiations because Sarawak DAP wanted to claim all of the 19 seats contested by SUPP. The SUPP are deemed to be the most “winnable seats”.
But at all times, PKR said it made clear it only wanted a total of four Chinese-dominated seats. It also offered to give up rural constituencies to Sarawak DAP but they did not wish to take up the challenge.
According to PKR leaders, Sarawak DAP initially refused to give up any of the 19 SUPP seats. At one point, Sarawak DAP even claimed to the press that they had already ‘conceded’ Padungan to PKR, yet PKR was dissatisfied and wanted more.
The more gullible of DAP supporters may have swallowed this explanation, perhaps in part also because most people in the peninsula find the names of East Malaysian constituencies still difficult to recognize.
But Padungan is already held by PKR, which won it in 2006. How could Sarawak DAP pass that off as a “concession”, PKR leaders asked.
Maybe Sarawak DAP leaders did not tell Kit Siang the full story. But would be extremely hard to believe. A seasoned veteran like him would be able to put two and two together straightaway.
Yet in his statement, Kit Siang said:
“Thursday’s seat negotiations broke down however when DAP leaders found that instead of five contentious seats to be resolved, another seat was added increasing the list to six,” said Kit Siang.
This hit a raw nerve within the PKR.
“Kit Siang owes it to PKR and to the public who have been reading about the spat to detail out the 6 seats he mentioned so casually. He must also state who held which seat in 2006 and what is Sarawak DAP’s rationale to deny PKR the same quantum of Chinese seats it contested in 2006,” said Eddie.
“Otherwise, it will look like the BN speculation is true - DAP does have an ulterior motive to be the Chinese overlord in Pakatan. PKR and PAS must tread carefully and not allow themselves to used. It must be reiterated and accepted by all three parties all over again – Pakatan is a multiracial party. Malaysians vote Pakatan because it is Pakatan and not because of individual prima donna parties or politicians."
DAP and Sarawak PKR resolve spat
DAP national Secretary General Lim Guan Eng today announced that the recent spat between the party and PKR in Sarawak has been resolved.
Lim, who is Penang chief minister, said details of the matter would be worked out soon.
He added that the outcome of the resolution will be announced by top Pakatan leaders as soon as possible.
"Every delay will cost us a seat... it is time to work as one," he told reporters after attending a Japanese donation drive in Straits Quay, Penang.
"The odds are against us... We need to concentrate our resources together to deny BN the two-thirds majority,'he added.
Lim said DAP leaders in Sarawak had said all they had to say. "They have nothing more to add."
'I have spoken to them and they have agreed not to say anything for now," he said, adding that further details of the about the allocation of seats would be announced soon.
It had earlier been reported that DAP and PKR were at loggerheads over insistence by the latter that DAP only contest 13 of the total 71 state seats in Sarawak.
DAP had wanted 16 seats.
Of the 18 seats which DAP is now claiming, 14 are Chinese majority seats while the rest are mixed seats. The party contested in 12 seats during the 2006 general elections.
A breakdown ensued after negotiations failed to reconcile differences over the four seats of Batu Kawah, Balai Ringin, Dudong and Piasau.
With the surrender of Padungan and Senadin to PKR, it is believed that DAP now has 15 seats in its bag to contest in the state polls to be held next month.