UPDATED Amid concerns that Pakatan Rakyat might become infiltrated by enemies from Prime Minister Najib Razak's BN coalition, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim held a "pow-wow" with top leaders of his PKR party in Sarawak.
At the closed-door meeting, they charted plans for the national elections expected to take place soon. They also discussed solutions in the event of multi-parties contesting the same seats, should an internal row brewing amongst coalition members get out of hand.
"The meeting will include top leaders from the PKR national leadership. They need to strengthen the state machinery fast in case the GE really comes early. Another hot topic will course be the SNAP-DAP merger," a PKR insider told Malaysia Chronicle.
Sarawak recently held its 10th state election, where PKR won 3 seats and Pakatan colleague DAP won 12. Although the Pakatan victory was unprecedented, with the Chinese voters clearly deserting the BN, there is speculation Najib might hammer through snap general elections rather than allow risks to snowball by delaying.
When Malaysia holds its 13th GE, Sarawak will become another hotbed of competition, not just between BN and Pakatan but also within Pakatan itself. Component parties are all eyeing the state's 31 parliamentary seats. There a total of 222 seats in the Malaysia Parliament.
"Discussion with leaders and candidates in Sarawak. Their spirits were high and eager to get ready for GE," Anwar later said on his Twitter site.
Clear links to BN
Flushed from its Sarawak success, Chinese-based DAP has expressed plans to expand its representation in Sarawak, where the Chinese form 31 per cent of the 979,796-strong electorate, the Iban 29 per cent, the Malay-Melanau 27 per cent, Bidayuh 8 per cent and the Orang Ulu 3.7 per cent.
It has proposed a merger with SNAP and despite a show of initial reluctance from Sarawakian-based party, few have doubts that the DAP-initiated tie-up will go through.
"DAP Sarawak state committee has given the nod to suggestion of DAP-SNAP merger as positive post-416 UBAH election to mobilise Sarawakians regardless of race," Kit Siang said on Twitter on Sunday.
The plan will now have to be passed through the Pakatan Rakyat leadership council, which is due to meet on May 1.
The proposal has stirred unhappiness within the coailition especially PKR, which has accused SNAP of being a BN proxy.
PKR leaders have minced no words slamming SNAP leaders including Edwin Dundang and Paul Kadang, both of whom have been accused of being enticed by the likes of fallen businessman Soh Chee Wen and former PKR secretary-general Salehuddin Hashim. Soh and Salehuddin were allegedly behind several of PKR's past defections to BN.
Others have also warned of BN infiltration
But this is not a case of unfair 'point-the-finger-panic' because the PKR leaders have not been alone in their accusations.
In late March, after the dissolution of the Sarawak state assembly, UK activist Clare Rewcastle-Brown wrote:
"Sarawak Report has received explosive evidence from the heart of Barisan National in KL, revealing that a secret deal has been forged with SNAP, in a desperate attempt to destroy the opposition and maintain BN’s grip on Sarawak after the election."
"We have learnt that the deal, which involves Federal BN pouring money into the newly revived SNAP (Sarawak National Party, which is meant to be part of the opposition alliance), was finalised during the visit by Prime Minister Najib Razak and his Deputy Muhyiddin Yassin just last weekend."
”Confidentially, UMNO will support SNAP and many BN Sarawak representatives will jump ship. Better to keep low key as nobody knows the game of the PM and Deputy PM,” Sarawak Report also quoted its sources as saying.
Another activist, MCLM president Haris Ibrahim too said his movement had received information that SNAP candidates, and some of their privileged leaders, had suddenly come into significant amounts of funds.
"We have been told that the funds were being made available by operatives from Kuala Lumpur acting under the direction of the BN," Malaysiakini reported Haris as saying. "There is no conclusive evidence, but in situations like this, you rarely get black-and-white evidence."
Not the first time
Nonetheless, boosted by their success, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng and his father Lim Kit Siang are expected to ignore the advice from their Pakatan colleagues as well as from the activists.
In the chase for parliamentary seats, DAP may jeopardise the good relations in Pakatan. Some even expect the coalition to break up on this move as they see the DAP-SNAP merger as being an indirect tie-up with the BN.
"At the best, DAP will take Pakatan through the same sort of embarrassment as the PKR did when it brought in former Umno leader Zaid Ibrahim. But that was not clear then because Zaid had been sacked from Umno. After he quit PKR to form KITA, the speed that KITA got its party registration and the heavy praise it received from PM Najib, it is clear where Zaid and KITA stand," Pakatan watcher Eddie Wong told Malaysia Chronicle.
"Now, with all the accusations against SNAP, for Guan Eng and Kit Siang to proceed with a merger means they are openly embracing the BN but through an indirect means. Frankly, for the DAP to join the BN is much hankered after by Najib because he needs a strong Chinese ally to bolster or even replace MCA. But in doing so, DAP would lose all its credibility. Becoming BN-friendly may not be what the Chinese community wants or even what its members want. This way, it is less obvious but very insidious. I would urge both PKR and PAS to tread very carefully."
Indeed, in 1995 DAP left Tengku Razaleigh's Gagasan Rakyat shortly before the general election plunging the Semangat 46-led pact into chaos and costly defeats. In 2004, it also pulled out of Barisan Alternative, paving the way for former premier Abdullah Badawi and BN to score a landslide victory.
Meanwhile, DAP MP for Taiping Nga Kor Ming denied the speculation.
"Rest assured. DAP will remain steadfast and committed to Pakatan Rakyat," Nga told Malaysia Chronicle.
PAS MP for Bukit Gantang Nizar Jamaluddin, who fough tooth-and-nail with his PKR and DAP comrades to regain Perak after the 2009 BN coup d'etat, also dismissed the concerns.
"Sarawak results should enhance further solidarity among Pakatan components and heighten endeavour towards Putrajaya," Nizar told Malaysia Chronicle.