Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sibu By-Election: Who Will Turn Up To Vote In Sibu?

From Malaysiakini

Who will turn up to vote in Sibu?

Lina Soo | Apr 28, 10 12:03pm

Sibu in central Sarawak, Malaysia, sits on the confluence of the Rejang and Igan Rivers. The name of Sibu is thought to have originated from the abundance of rambutan in the area, called 'buah sibau' in the Iban language.

Prior to 1873, it was a Melanau settlement comprising a few wooden houses with attap roofs. All this changed when Wong Nai Siong in 1901 led the first batch of Foochows from China to open up the fertile lands of Sibu for agriculture.

Today, Sibu municipality houses Sarawak's second largest population centre at about 200,000: Chinese (62 percent), Iban (19 percent), Malay (10.5 percent), Melanau (7.1 percent) Bidayuh (0.3 percent) and others (0.8 percent).

The Chinese population is declining in proportion, as many have left Sibu to settle in Kuching and Miri, in part purportedly due to safety fears about the Bakun dam upriver the mighty Rejang.

In their place have come the Iban from the rural areas to Sibu in search of job opportunities, tenanting the homes vacated by the Chinese.

Dam or not, economic life in Sibu has certainly declined in this once booming timber town where at one time, wealthy towkays were known to have lighted up their cigarettes in dimly lit nightclubs with rolled up dollar bills to impress Taiwanese singers, in the heyday of the 70's.

Sibu has 54,695 registered voters with Chinese at 36,389 (66.75 percent), Iban at 12,050 (22.1 percent), Melanau/Malay at 5,740 (10.5 percent), Indians 54 (0.01 percent), Orang Ulu at 23 (0.04 percent) and others 289 (0.53 percent). New voters relocated to Sibu number 3,028. There are 2,537 postal voters made up of 1,910 military and 627 police personnel.

Age-wise, 467 voters are over 90; 1,044 between 80-89 and 2,757 between 70 and 79. Against this background, a sizeable number of the voters, especially in the young and median age range work and live in other towns in Malaysia or overseas.

It is doubtful if this absentee group of voters will be able to make it back on polling day to exercise their democratic rights. In past elections, SUPP is known to have won on the back of bumiputera support in the longhouses and kampongs where bread and butter concerns rule the day, whilst DAP is perceived to have majority Chinese support in the urban areas.

Voting stations

Come May 16, polling will be at 45 stations with 110 streams, involving a manpower strength of 1,149. Two kindergartens, 39 schools, a training centre, longhouse, public library and public recreational centre will be use as voting stations. Nomination and ballot tallying will be held at Dewan Suarah while the issuance and counting of the postal ballots will be at Sibu district office.

SUPP has made known its choice of candidate in lawyer Robert Lau Hui Yew (left) who has already sprinted off the starting block from the word ‘go', meeting people at the central market, coffeeshops and longhouses.

DAP Sarawak chairman and state assemblyman for Bukit Assek, Wong Ho Leng will be the DAP/Pakatan Rakyat candidate.

Punting on the outcome of elections is illegal gambling in Malaysia. However, gentlemen's wagers are ‘tolerated' and these ‘friendly bets' run into five and six digits which accumulatively can be colossal, possibly sufficient to influence the outcome and tip the scale either side, especially where the margin of winning or losing is by a hair's breath.

For DAP, it is the perennial upstream battle against the BN's 3M: money, manpower and machinery, with some observers already dismissing the outcome as a foregone conclusion.

Nevertheless talk in the kopitiam reckon the odds at 50-50, as DAP has fielded a heavyweight. If DAP had put up a new face, the odds would have slid downwards to 40-60 or 30-70 against.

DAP won the Sibu parliamentary seat only once in 1982 by a whisker of 141 votes. The feat was achieved by Ling Sie Ming, the ‘David' against SUPP's ‘Goliath' Dr Wong Soon Kai. But it was never to be repeated, as Sibu fell back into SUPP hands in subsequent elections.

The question on everyone's lips in town now is, can DAP repeat its feat of 1982? Can we expect to see another David and Goliath battle in the making?

In politics, nothing is impossible.


LINA SOO is a Malaysiakini-trained Citizen Journalist based in Sibu.


Salak said...

Who will turn up to vote? Hopefully as many to keep BN from further acts of treason selling off our mineral wealth unconstituionally. The matter was not sanctioned by Sarawak DUN although they had the majority! If they had, PKR and DAP would have made noises to inform the public who would not have liked it!

Let's hope all the "hantu" voters RIP and more new genuine voters show up!

Anonymous said...

Lina great job. I will be engaged in your blog in future. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

great job Lina. I will be engaged in your blog in future. Keep it up.

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