Thursday, April 21, 2011

Baru reveals why PKR vied for 49 seats

Andrew Ong

When it was announced that PKR would be going for 49 out of 71 seats in the Sarawak elections, questions rose whether the party, still in its infancy in Sarawak, was biting off more than it could chew.

There were also questions on why the party would not spread out the burden with its Pakatan Rakyat allies and Sarawak National Party (Snap), thereby overstretching itself.

NONENow that polling is over, PKR state chief Baru Bian firmly believes that the party and Pakatan made the right decision.

Speaking to Malaysiakini recently, Baru (left) said the Pakatan principle was that all seats must be fought for because the electorate must know that the coalition is serious about taking over the state government.

"We cannot give the other side a free ride. If we did, it would demoralise us. This was the strategy," said Baru.

'The burden was on us'

Baru admits that this strategy came with a heavy cost. The party was severely stretched because the rural campaign was resource-intensive.

"The burden was more on us (to deliver) while DAP won more seats because their resources could be concentrated (in a few cities). But this is okay because we are all part of Pakatan," he said.

According to Baru, the three main issues PKR faced during the polls were its weak party machinery, selection of polling and counting agents (PACA) and financial constraints.

Baru revealed that in some constituencies, PKR had only a handful or no branches. He also disclosed that PKR had only five women's wing branches at the division level.

NONE"I have been emphasising this over and over, yet a lot of our local leaders think that popularity alone is enough. I told them to set up ranting (branches) in all longhouses.

"In my area, I have more than 30 branches, which includes some women's and youth wing branches. The women's wing was particularly effective," said Baru.

Hamstrung by lack of cash

On PACA, Baru revealed that the party did not train or recruit personnel ahead of time and was thus unable to provide proper scrutiny.

He said that in some cases, the PACA were missing or were unable to raise objections effectively because they took the presiding officer's word at face value.

"Sometimes they went missing because we were only providing a RM50 allowance for PACA, while in some cases our opponents were paying RM500," he said.

But ultimately, PKR was unable to match the BN's financial muscle, which even roped in federal government agencies during the campaign.

In the rural areas, covering ground is extremely important as information is scarce and the challenging terrain makes it difficult to hold rallies as seen in urban areas.

By the parang's handle

Baru said that PKR had been aware of this scenerio from the start thus there were several "priority areas" for the party, but lamented that only Batu Lintang, Ba'Kelalan and Krian bore fruit while the party lost the urban seat of Senadin by a sliver.

On the rural campaign itself, Baru explained that it had been more of an "educational process" for the rural community and informing them about the purpose behind running elections.

He said that BN's campaign had always been focused on ethnicity, while Pakatan had avoided this, focusing more on educating the voters that they have the power to change ruling parties.

NONE"I tell them that over the last 48 years, they have been holding the blade of the parang, while they (the ruling party) have been holding the handle.

"I'm telling them that this is their chance to turn the tables and hold the handle... It is easier to explain now that there are two strong coalitions," he said.

He said that this anology had lent him a helping hand in his campaign for the rural seat of Ba'Kelalan, where he won by a wafer-thin majority.

1 comment:

Lynn said...

It is timely and wise to explain as you did as most people will not understand why. I empathise with PKR but the reality is that wooing the natives and Malay in the semi-rural and rural seats is a must to be able to wrest power from BN. DAP has establised itself since the 70s and are trusted by the urban voters, so let them be. Take it as the early bird catches the worm. I have decided to throw my support for PKR Sarawak if it continues to be headed by a person with the stature of Baru Bian. And I will certainly do my utmost to persuade those within my cirle of influence to do so as well.