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Souring ties with Bersatu a non-issue for GPS in considering Willie’s membership bid, analysts say

They say the peninsula-based Bersatu is 'irrelevant' in the context of Sarawak.

Nur Shazreena Ali
3 minute read
A Gabungan Parti Sarawak flag featuring the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu logo flutters in the breeze across Sungai Sarawak and the state legislative assembly building.
A Gabungan Parti Sarawak flag featuring the Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu logo flutters in the breeze across Sungai Sarawak and the state legislative assembly building.

Any move by Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) to accept Willie Mongin into its ranks might affect the coalition’s ties with Bersatu, analysts say as deliberations continue over the application by the Puncak Borneo MP to join Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, though, political observer James Chin said the prospect of a souring relationship was unlikely to sway GPS in whatever decision it made.

“If GPS accepts Willie, of course it will create problems,” Chin, of Australia’s University of Tasmania, said.

“But at the same time, GPS doesn’t care because it is only worried about Sarawak. So even if this impacts its relationship with Bersatu, it will make no difference.”

Willie confirmed earlier this month that he had submitted an application to join PBB several months ago.

PBB, the GPS lynchpin, is led by Sarawak Premier Abang Johari Openg.

Willie, a former PKR man, also said that he had been “technically parked” under Bersatu in order to bring in support for the government of the day.

While Bersatu and GPS are seen as being on friendly terms, GPS has maintained that it will not give way to the peninsula-based party in the 15th general election (GE15).

The coalition is instead looking to contest all 31 seats in the state once the election is called.

Willie won the Puncak Borneo seat on a PKR ticket in the 14th general election, defeating candidates from Barisan Nasional (BN) and local outfit Parti Aspirasi Rakyat Sarawak.

He left PKR in February 2020 and joined Bersatu the following month in the wake of the so-called Sheraton Move which saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

Jeniri Amir, a veteran observer of Sarawak politics, said GPS already had more than enough support in Parliament.

“It is irrelevant that it will need to consider Bersatu’s reaction in whatever action it takes,” he said.

“In the context of Sarawak, Bersatu is irrelevant.”

However, he acknowledged that the strong grassroots support for Willie in Puncak Borneo would be crucial if GPS aims to take the federal seat in GE15.

“PBB is likely to listen to the grassroots leaders, especially the three state assemblymen under the Puncak Borneo constituency,” he said.

“Willie is a leader with strong grassroots support because he always goes to the ground. In that sense, GPS cannot take this lightly.”

Chin agreed that Willie’s support on the ground would be a deciding factor in whether PBB accepts his application for membership.

“I suspect they haven’t decided yet because the party has groomed one particular person to go against him for a very long time already,” he said.

“The compromise could be if they say yes to him but he cannot stand for Puncak Borneo. But this could be a problem because Willie has strong grassroots support.”

In any event, neither Chin nor Jeniri see the possibility of a disgruntled Bersatu as much of a threat to GPS.

“To GPS, Bersatu is not relevant in this case,” Jeniri said.

“After all, they will fight against BN. Bersatu will work together with PH in some parts of the peninsula in order to fight against BN.”

Chin meanwhile said there would be no compromise on the part of GPS, whatever the outcome of its relationship with Bersatu.

“The writing on the wall for Bersatu is that it will not do well in GE15,” he said.

“Most people in Sarawak don’t care about Bersatu.”