Thursday, January 20, 2022

Ali Biju’s unique challenge in Sarawak polls

The Bersatu man has announced his withdrawal from the contest for the Krian seat, but changing his mind is not as simple as that.

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Bersatu man Ali Biju faces a string of unique challenges in the upcoming Sarawak state election: whether or not to campaign, who to campaign with if he does, and how to convince voters not to vote for him.

Ali, the Krian incumbent, had initially intended to defend his seat as an independent candidate following his party’s decision to sit out the polls on Dec 18 out of respect for the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) coalition.

But this caused unhappiness in GPS which accused Bersatu of going back on its agreement not to field candidates in the state election.

Ali subsequently announced that he would withdraw from the race, and pledged his full support for the GPS candidate in Krian.

But having submitted his nomination on Dec 6, pulling out is not as simple as that.

Ali Biju.

“His name remains on the paper because candidates are not allowed to withdraw,” Election Commission (EC) chairman Abdul Ghani Salleh told MalaysiaNow, citing Rule 9 of the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981.

“The deadline for withdrawal ended at 10am on nomination day.”

Ali won the Krian seat on a PKR ticket in 2011 and 2016, and had aimed to defend it against Friday Belik of GPS, Musa Dinggat of Parti Sarawak Bersatu and Danny Kuan from Parti Bumi Kenyalang.

He retracted his decision following advice from Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin, who had said on Nov 27 that his party would sit out the election out of respect for the wishes of the GPS leadership.

Muhyiddin also said that Bersatu had chosen to stay out of the contest because it believed GPS had the ability to win and that GPS had supported the Perikatan Nasional-led federal government when he was the prime minister.

Ali himself, at a press conference on his decision to withdraw, said it had been a strategic move, and voiced hope that the gesture would be reciprocated by GPS at the next general election.

“A victory for GPS is also a victory for me. If GPS wins, I win,” he said.

But not everyone in his constituency appears to agree.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, community leader or penghulu Anyum Anak Kinyeh said Ali was a responsible person.

“When you request anything from Ali – whether it is to repair the roads or to repair the streetlights – he will try to get it done.”

In Anyum’s opinion, Ali should continue to campaign despite no longer wishing to contest – perhaps together with the GPS candidate as a gesture of solidarity.

Batang Kabo community leader Latan Ambau agreed.

“Apart from a joint campaign, I think it would be appropriate for Ali to send an official letter to the EC,” he said.

“Whether the EC will accept the letter or not is not the issue. The most important thing is the gesture, to show his sincerity.”

He also agreed that GPS should return the gesture by helping Ali campaign at the next general election.

“We should stay together and work together for the best interest of Sarawakians.”

Other candidates from Bersatu who will be running in the Sarawak polls are Siki Balarik (Belaha), Ricky Enteri (Bawang Assan) and Ismawi Muhammad (Muara Tuang).

Siki is Hulu Rajang Bersatu chief while Ricky is a youth activist from Bawang Assan.

Ismawi meanwhile is Kota Samarahan Bersatu division chief.

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