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Pakatan gaining ground in Sarawak - malaysiakini

Malaysiakini's report:

Sarawak's long-serving Chief Minister Taib Mahmud has said very little to PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim’s statement over the weekend that his party is working towards taking over the state.

pkr national congress 301108 anwar ibrahimAt first he told reporters after a state cabinet meeting Sunday that he did not want to comment on Anwar's statement, but later questioned the opposition leader’s credibility.

Taib was obviously referring to the Anwar's Sept 16 plan to take over the federal government with the help of defections from Barisan Nasional component parties which did not materialise.

When he emerged from the cabinet meeting, Taib was asked to comment on Anwar's statement that PKR and Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition alliance that now controls five states - Selangor, Kelantan, Perak, Kedah and Penang - would add Sarawak to the list in the next state elections.

The opposition believe Taib, now 71 and said not to be in the best of health and under pressure from many quarters to step down after 27 years in office, may call the state elections at the end of 2009 to bring in his son Sulaiman, 39, the MP for Samarahan and deputy tourism minister, into state politics to eventually take over from him.

The term of the present governor Tun Muhammad Salahuddin has been extended by one year to the end of next year and it is widely believed the state election date could be around that time.

On the other hand, Taib may want to sit out the remaining five-year term of the state legislative assembly till 2011 before calling for the elections.

CM in a dilemma?

Political observers, however, believe that Taib may be in a dilemma about when to call for the state elections.

taib mahmud and the pbb party of sarawakIf he holds on right to the end of the term, and if nothing happens to his health, he would be giving the opposition more time to strengthen themselves and garner more support on the ground, riding on growing discontentment among the general populace with many of his policies, especially land both in urban and rural areas, and on such issues as corruption and nepotism.

He probably doesn't want to make the same mistake as Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in calling for a general election long before the term expires.

Even though things have not surfaced yet, there are already signs of growing disenchantment with his leadership from within the Sarawak BN parties, especially PRS and the Sarawak United People's Party (Supp).

A PBB politician told Malaysiakini today that Taib still exudes self-confidence over his strong grip on power politics, refusing to believe his political enemies could find it easy to unseat him.

Even PKR state assemblyperson for Ngemah, Gabriel Adit, told the PKR congress that it would be difficult to beat Sarawak BN unless PKR and Pakatan parties continue to strengthen themselves on the ground.

He also said that pro-PKR and Pakatan Sarawakians must get help from their counterparts in Peninsular Malaysia to end Taib's long reign.

Opening the door for Anwar

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister and Parti Pesaka Bumiputera (PBB) deputy president for the Dayak wing Alfred Jabu was reported by the Borneo Post today as saying that Adit, a former BN member, was being selfish by joining the opposition.

He said Adit and former PRS MP for Sri Aman Jimmy Donald's decision to join PKR would backfire as it would bring losses to the community they were representing. He said Donald had joined PKR out of frustration, after he was not re-nominated by BN to defend his Sri Aman seat.

However, Jabu made no comments about the presence of Daniel Tajem, a lawyer and former president of the now defunct Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) at the opening of the PKR congress.

Tajem, a lawyer-turned politician and former deputy chief minister and former Malaysian diplomat to New Zealand, still holds much respect among the Iban community and has been known as a fighter and defender of Dayak rights and interests.

"His presence at the PKR event has rattled some leaders in Sarawak," said a political observer, who added that Tajem could carry a lot of influence in the PKR campaign in Dayak areas.

Despite Adit and Donald joining PKR, Jabu expressed confidence that the people would still support BN.

Some leaders in the state BN are not happy with Jabu, saying he had turned away ex-PBDS leaders for fear it might erode his influence in the Dayak wing of PPB.

"With Tajem, Adit and Donald and with them their supporters and many others aligning themselves with PKR, it's like opening the door wider for Anwar and Pakatan Rakyat to take over Sarawak," they said -