Sunday, October 17, 2021

Move by Sarawak MP to ditch PKR ‘a message to Anwar’, says analyst

The exit of Julau MP Larry Sng is also seen as a signal to Umno ahead of any move to reconvene Parliament.

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A political analyst says the resignation of a Sarawak MP from PKR who has declared himself a government-friendly independent comes as no surprise in the wake of the announcement by Istana Negara that Parliament can be convened during the current state of emergency.

James Chin from the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute also spoke of a “message” to PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, who has been at the forefront of the push for a parliamentary session amid claims that the prime minister no longer possesses the majority support of MPs.

He said the addition of Julau MP Larry Sng, who left PKR alongside fellow MP Steven Choong, would restore Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) slim majority of 111 MPs in the Dewan Rakyat.

“Basically it is a message to Anwar that it is not easy to remove Muhyiddin Yassin from his position in Parliament,” Chin told MalaysiaNow, adding that it is “a signal to Umno as well”.

Sng and Choong quit PKR on Sunday, ending weeks of speculation over their loyalty to Anwar. Their exit dealt the party its biggest blow since the 2020 exodus of several senior leaders including Mohamed Azmin Ali.

“Basically it is a message to Anwar that it is not easy to remove Muhyiddin Yassin from his position in Parliament.”

Chin said more could be expected to leave as Muhyiddin must cement his position before Parliament reconvenes.

“There are also rumours that other politicians are about to jump,” he said. “Things are moving and it’s very chaotic right now.

“I think MPs who are not strongly aligned with their party will look at which way the wind blows, with all the attention on Parliament now and lining up the numbers before it convenes.”

Lack of development funds

Sng, who won his seat as an independent in the 2018 general election, said after meeting Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Sunday to state his support for the government that he had been unable to effectively serve his constituents due to a lack of development funds.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said the funds given to opposition MPs only amounted to RM100,000, adding that it had been difficult for him to serve the people under such circumstances.

“As someone who represents them, I should be able to help them but I couldn’t.”

Sng joined PKR after Pakatan Harapan (PH) took over Putrajaya in the aftermath of the historic 2018 polls.

He was previously with Parti Rakyat Sarawak, and was state assemblyman for Pelagus and assistant youth minister before being sacked from the party for insubordination.

In 2012, he founded the Sarawak Workers Party which he left after four years.

Sng, whose father Sng Chee Hua had also served as Julau MP for one term from 1995 to 1999, said the district had been left behind due to its previous representatives who had not done a good job.

Given the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, the only way to ensure development in Julau, a rural district in the Sarikei area, was for him to give his support to Muhyiddin’s PN government.

‘Not the first time’

Arnold Puyok, a political analyst at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, said this was not the first time that politicians had cited an inability to fulfil their electorate’s development needs as reason to leave their party.

However, he questioned this line of reasoning, saying the federal government should mobilise the funds to assist constituencies held by the opposition based on the needs of the people, not political affiliations.

“Why must an opposition assemblyman subscribe to the federal government’s partisan stance in order to benefit from the development funds contributed by non-partisan taxpayers’ money?” he said to MalaysiaNow.

Meanwhile, veteran Sarawak political observer Jayum Jawan played down the effect of Sng’s exit on PKR, saying it would have no significant impact on the political scenario in the state.

He also voiced doubt that it would weaken PKR, saying Sng’s presence was only important insofar as he holds the federal seat of Julau.

“He is in the cool as far as the next election is concerned.”

“Sng is not significant in the overall political scenario among the Dayaks and in Sarawak for the state election which will be held by June, or the federal election within the next 24 months,” the Universiti Putra Malaysia professor said.

“Neither did his presence make PKR any more acceptable among the Chinese, his community, or the Dayaks who elected him from Julau.”

He added that Gabungan Parti Sarawak might reject Sng as well.

“For now, Sng is partyless. Other parties are not a viable option as they are worse off than PKR, DAP and even PSB.

“So he is in the cool as far as the next election is concerned.”

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