By Clara Chooi
SIBU, April 25 — The Sarawak DAP appears to be taking aggressive steps to take charge of Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) campaign ahead of the coming general election, beginning with endorsing the proposal to merge with the Sarawak National Party (SNAP).
The state’s top leaders met here yesterday to discuss the proposal mooted by DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and gave its approval despite SNAP’s still-simmering feud with PKR.
The merger is seen to be the DAP’s strategy to boost its mileage in the state’s Dayak-majority areas, thus giving the party greater bargaining power when negotiating for seats with PKR in the coming general election.
Sarawak DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen (picture) told The Malaysian Insider today that the party had already kicked off informal discussions with several SNAP leaders on the proposed merger and will soon raise the matter with the DAP’s national leadership.
He acknowledged that PKR was uncomfortable with the merger but reminded its leaders that it was PKR’s strained ties with SNAP that had forced multi-cornered fights between the two parties during the April 16 state polls.
“To have a friend is better than to have a foe. For whatever said and done, they (SNAP) still have their support so that is why our state committee met and discussed the proposal and decided to endorse it.
“They (SNAP) still have a brand name in Sarawak after having been around for so long and though they may not have done so well in this is election, I do not think you can just write them off like that,” he said.
Before the polls, the DAP had to back down during negotiations with PKR over seat distribution and finally agreed to settle for 15 seats instead of the 20 seats it had initially wanted to contest.
PKR and SNAP, on the other hand, had failed to strike a compromise and in the final hours before nomination day on April 6, both parties were still locked in combat over seat distribution.
They ended up clashing in 26 state seats, forcing a split in the opposition vote, which PKR later complained had helped Barisan Nasional (BN) emerge victorious in the polls.
“We cannot afford to have a repeat of that... we cannot afford to wait and to continue what we did in the last election when we all had to wait until the very last minute. There was just too much uncertainty,” Chong recalled.
He pointed out that if the DAP did not engage with SNAP, a repeat of the state polls would likely occur during the general election.
“Like it or not, we cannot avoid it. They (SNAP) will be around and they will contest and we need to prevent multi-cornered fights,” he said.
He cited an example of Election 2008 when PKR and the DAP both contested in the Stampin parliamentary seat and lost to BN.
“DAP got 18,000 votes, PKR got about 2,000-plus while BN won with 21,000. Fact is that they (PKR) ruined our chances to win... this is why we must sit and discuss these things amicably.
“If we exclude them (SNAP), they will still come up again and then when does it stop?” he asked.
He expressed relief that despite its battle with PKR, the DAP had already laid its groundwork in Sarawak many months prior to the dissolution of the state assembly, helping it to face the polls fully prepared.
For PKR however, deputy president Azmin Ali admitted to The Malaysian Insider recently that the party had only gotten down to serious work about three months before the election, resulting in its “disorganised” campaign.
As a result, the DAP cruised to a thumping victory on April 16 and swept 12 of the 15 seats it contested while PKR trailed far behind, securing just three of its 49 seats.
“For the next election, we want to be even more prepared and that is why we endorsed the merger. We will sort out the details later... hopefully, SNAP will see the wisdom behind it,” he said.
He stressed however that the proposal was still in the discussion stage and would only become a reality one it is endorsed by the national leadership and accepted by PR.
“We also have to raise it with our central executive committee and to the Sarawak PKR leadership as well as the PR council.