KUCHING, Feb 22 — The continuing row between Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) and splinter group United People’s Party (UPP) is growing into a difficult decision for Tan Sri Adenan Satem as both aim to vie for Chinese votes that could be significant in the coming state election.
Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan, who is also state Barisan Nasional chairman, has admitted that he cannot let UPP down, but can also scarcely afford to antagonise SUPP.
The party that won six state assembly seats in the previous Sarawak election is also hardening its position ahead of the poll, already staking claim on the constituencies that its offshoot could also be eyeing.
“In the coming state election, we will re-contest all the 19 seats allocated to us in the previous elections. There is no question about it,” SUPP president Dr Sim Kui Hian told Malay Mail Online.
“Of course, we will strongly object to UPP’s application to be a component party of the state (BN).”
Although UPP has declared itself a “member of the BN family”, it is not officially part of the coalition. But the declaration puts Adenan on the spot to either accept or reject this.
Speaking to reporters at a Chinese New Year open house here yesterday, UPP president Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh said the party is leaving the issues of membership in BN and the seat allocations to state leaders.
“We will leave it to the wisdom of the BN leaders. They know what to do, I suppose. All we want to do right now is we work very hard on the ground, serving the people, hoping to be recognised as winnable candidates when time comes,” he said.
Wong refused to disclose what his group would do if SUPP’s objections foil his party’s bid to join BN, citing Adenan who previously said they will “cross the bridge when we come to it.”
UPP was formed year after a long leadership tussle in SUPP, and both are now claiming to be best placed to represent the largely-Chinese urban constituencies in the state.
Political scientist Paul Kadang observed, however, that BN under Adenan must do more to address fundamental concerns of the urban voters, notably the Chinese, and that neither SUPP nor UPP can do much in these areas.
“The concerns of these voters are multifarious and they range from the economy and economic participation, transparency in government, educational and job opportunities and even religion,” he said.
“In many ways these issues are more national ones, rather than local.”
In the 2011 state election, SUPP lost 13 of the 19 seats to opposition parties, retaining only the Dayak-majority seats of Bengoh, Opar, Engkilili, Sri Aman and the mixed seats of Bawang Assan and Senadin.
UPP president Wong, who then contested on SUPP-BN ticket, retained his Bawan Assan seat with a reduced majority.