Sarawak parties quit BN to form coalition

Leaders of the four Sarawak parties that have decided to leave BN include PBB president Abang Johari Tun Openg (centre, in brown jacket), PBB deputy president Douglas Uggah Embas (in grey jacket), and PRS president James Masing (in white shirt).
Leaders of the four Sarawak parties that have decided to leave BN include PBB president Abang Johari Tun Openg (centre, in brown jacket), PBB deputy president Douglas Uggah Embas (in grey jacket), and PRS president James Masing (in white shirt).PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY PUBLICATION

Departure of four parties in Malaysia's largest state leaves ex-ruling coalition in tatters; new group won't join PH

KUCHING • Four Sarawak parties yesterday pulled out of Malaysia's Barisan Nasional (BN), leaving the former ruling coalition in tatters after it suffered a shock election defeat in May.

The four parties in Malaysia's largest state - Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Progressive Democratic Party and Sarawak United People's Party - have decided to form a new coalition called Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS).

"The decision was made after much deliberation, reflection and due consideration, taking into account the country's current political developments post-GE14," said Sarawak Chief Minister and PBB president Abang Johari Tun Openg in a statement, referring to the country's recent 14th general election.

GPS will have 19 MPs in the federal Parliament as well as control of the Sarawak state assembly with 67 of its 82 seats.

The departure of these politicians whittles down BN's lawmakers in Parliament to just 59, compared to the 133 seats the coalition won in the 2013 election.

Of these 59 lawmakers, 54 are from the Malay party Umno, which remains the party with the largest share of seats in the 222-seat Parliament.

  • DWINDLING FORTUNES

  • 59

    BN's lawmakers in Parliament, after the departure of politicians from the Sarawak parties.

    2

    Number of BN states - Perlis and Pahang - after it lost its grip on both its former "fixed deposit" vote banks of Sabah and Sarawak.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat, which is part of the four-party ruling pact Pakatan Harapan, is a close second with 49 MPs.

The Sarawak parties' move means BN has lost its grip on both its former "fixed deposit" vote banks of Sabah and Sarawak, leaving it to govern only two of Malaysia's 13 states - Perlis and Pahang.

Last month, BN suffered the loss of four of its Sabah-based parties - Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), Upko, Liberal Democratic Party and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah. Announcing his party's exit, PBS president Joseph Pairin Kitingan said: "At both federal and state government levels, it is clear that Barisan is no longer viable."

The new Sarawak coalition, however, will not be joining the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, which ended BN's six decades in power at the May polls, reported The Star.

Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari said GPS would instead "cooperate and collaborate" with the federal government for the national interest and state rights and interests based on the federal Constitution and the federation of Malaysia.

In the run-up to the election, Pakatan Harapan had pledged to give 50 per cent of all taxes collected in Sarawak and 20 per cent of oil royalties to the state government if it captured Putrajaya.

It had also promised Sarawak, one of the country's least-developed states, full autonomy in education, healthcare and fiscal matters, amid growing calls in the state for more autonomy from the federal government in accordance with the provisions of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement (MA63).

"We will protect the interests of all Sarawakians, regardless of the size of the community in inclusive manner. Hence, the decision (to leave) was made in the interest of the people and the state above all else," said Mr Abang Johari.

"Our new coalition will enable us to focus on Sarawak interests and rights based on MA63," he said.

Mr Abang Johari added that the formation of GPS would enable the parties to better serve the people of this "multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religion state".

"We are confident that this is the most pragmatic and appropriate decision to bring Sarawak into the new era desired by the people of Sarawak," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 13, 2018, with the headline 'Sarawak parties quit BN to form coalition'. Print Edition | Subscribe