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Choose right candidates, Sabah opposition told

KOTA KINABALU: The opposition stands little chance of wresting power from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) in Sabah in the next general election if it fails to re-strategise and market itself to the electorate, a Sarawak-based activist said.

Movement of Change Sarawak (MoCS) chief Francis Siah said that choosing the right candidates would make a tremendous difference to the election results in Sabah and the opposition must identify their candidates soon.

He said the recent Sarawak state election results may inspire Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to call for a snap general election within the next six to 10 months, ahead of the March 2013 date.

The opposition in Sabah is not seen as a tightly knit unit much like its counterparts in Sarawak.

“But in Sarawak the scenario was slightly different.

“The victories in the 16 seats there were mostly due to certain issues such as preference for personalities and the anti-government sentiments by the Chinese community.

“For Sabah, I believe that choosing the right candidate will make a big impact. To me, for now, the SAPP (Sabah Progressive Party) is the strongest opposition party in the state,” he told FMT.

Siah contended that although PKR faired better than SAPP in the Batu Sapi by-election last October, it should not be used as a yardstick.

“Let us look at Ba’Kelalan (constituency in Sarawak), for instance. The PKR candidate (Bian Baru) is of good character and is liked by the Dayaks.

“That is what I mean by choosing the right candidate… someone who is close to the hearts of the people.

“One of the MoCS members, Salleh Jafaruddin, stood as an independent candidate against Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud for the Balingian seat. He garnered more votes than the PKR candidate.

“He (Salleh) may have not won the seat, but the result certainly is an eye-opener; it shows that personality counts,” he said when sharing his views on last weekend’s election in Sarawak.

Rural votes disappointing

Siah said that Chinese support for the opposition was expected as they have been unhappy for quite awhile due to government policies which appeared unfair, unjust and not transparent.

“I am disappointed with the overall (Sarawak election) results particularly in the rural community. But, the opposition parties are partly to be blamed for the lack of support.

“As usual, politicians in the local opposition parties are going for personal glory and ambition above all.

“It is unfortunate that some opposition politicians make it a hobby to contest and do it for the wrong reasons… they are doing it for their own personal gain, personal ego and ambition.

“If this is their attitude, they can forget about winning in the state election for the next 20 years. Many of them lost their deposits … not only now, but also in the past,” he added.

Siah, however, believed that a just and fair election can make a difference.

“If it was not for money politics and vote buying, the opposition may have a good chance in winning.

“All we want is a fair election but money is used as an election tactic and has proved successful in the rural areas.

“There was a longhouse in Sarawak where initially, its leaders pledged their support for the opposition, but when the BN came in, giving each family RM1,000, they changed their mind.

“It will be the same for Sabah. The Sabahan Chinese must stand up because the locals in the rural areas are, unfortunately, like the Dayaks and Ibans in Sarawak,” he said.

MoCS was formed by a group of concerned Sarawakians on Aug 13 last year, with a mission to work towards the betterment of the state and its people.

“Our mission is for Taib to step down by Aug 13 this year. We can’t get him during the election, we will get him by August.

“What we want is action; desperate times call for desperate measures and we are serious in our mission,” he added.

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