Friday, March 21, 2008


Posted by Wong Ho Leng on Sarawak Talk on March 20, 2008 at 13:54:30:


Malaysiakini reports today (20/3/2008) that Serian MP Richard Riot from Sarawak SUPP has resigned from his Party after he was not appointed to the federal cabinet.

Though Anwar had been reported in the local media as saying that a few BN MPs had spoken to him about defection, and a few had indicated to me that they would “sail with the better wind”, it is too early to suggest that Richard’s resignation, if the report is confirmed, is a first sign of defection.

But there is no escape that there is discontent within the SUPP and other BN component parties. How long will the rope of sand hold this discontented lot? Let’s wait till the better wind blows.

Richard Riot is a 5-term MP for Serian. Born a Bidayuh, he has the edge to be appointed to the federal cabinet had there been more fairness. BN Sarawak delivered 30 MPs to Abdullah, yet only secured 3 Ministers’ posts in his cabinet together with 9 Deputies. More specifically, SUPP was given only 1 Minister’s post together with 2 Deputies.

While I have not heard of any scandal involving Richard Riot, I have heard that one of the SUPP MPs appointed to the AAB’s administration is not as clean as a slate but has been widely said to be linked to gangsterism. He was often quoted in the streets as having told the people that he would resort to “black and white, it is entirely up to you”. Ask the streets people in Sarawak, and they will unmistakenly point a finger on one person. Yet, he was appointed.

This is the 2nd time that Richard Riot has missed the boat. The first, according to Malaysiakini, was in 2004, and he expressed displeasure about it.

I am not totally surprised by the resignation of Richard Riot, though he has yet to confirm personally.

Malaysiakini reported that many party members in Serian, mostly Bidayuh, had surrendered their membership cards and sent them all in a bag to the party president. The party flags at the Serian branch office had also been taken down and burned by angry members.

Sources told me that a couple of hundred members resigned with Richard Riot.

Malaysiakini further reported that in the resignation letter, Richard was said to have told George Chan that the party did not have Dayak interests at heart.

According to the sources, the SUPP leadership submitted 4 names to AAB, though knowing fully well that they would be given a maximum of 1 Minister and 2 Deputy Ministers’ posts. As an immediate reaction to the appointment, George Chan was reported as saying that he was happy with the number of MPs appointed to AAB’s administration.

Taken as a whole, though, it makes us wonder at least 2 things. Firstly, is appointment to the Ministers portfolio so important? It would be a lame lie to suggest that this is not something of interest to politicians. We had seen 2 UMNO leaders who were appointed Deputy Ministers but refused to accept saying that they had served as Deputy Ministers and would only accept if appointed as Ministers.

Secondly, why should it be so difficult to consider Sarawak a special case, if cabinet posts are so important to those elected under the BN ticket? Sarawakians love Ministers in their midst, and the SUPP had been capitalized on this mentality for decades. Sarawakians save the skin for AAB, and should be able to hold Abdullah’s administration to “ransom” by demanding for better treatment. A defection by the Sarawak bloc of 30 BN MPs would mean that AAB would anytime become the Opposition leader. If there was a chance to demand for better and fairer treatment or recognition of Sarawak interest, the time is now. Yet, apart from James Masing, all other BN leaders in Sarawak had expressed satisfaction with the manner AAB appointed his cabinet.

It is now too early to speculate on defection, but who knows what may happen in a month or two when Parliament sits? The BN is in crisis. BN’s 2/3 majority in Parliament has been breached. Sarawak holds the determining bloc of number of MPs who can shout commands at Abdullah. Abdullah knows he has to tread carefully but is cushioned by the comfort that no BN MPs from Sarawak have the courage to demand more for Sarawakians. Had DAP Sarawak won a few more seats on 8th March, 2008, that will make defections easier to accomplish. Let’s see soon who will “sail with the better wind”.

Wong Ho Leng

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