GPS can weather grassroots anger, say analysts

Desmond Davidson

Analysts feel that GPS will be able to ride out the groundswell of anger, after agreeing to work with Perikatan Nasional, because the next elections are a long way off and voters will have forgotten by then. – Facebook pic, November 24, 2022.

THE sands are shifting against Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) over its decision to back Perikatan Nasional, which has been accused of being anti-Christian, but political observers said this rancour will pass without any repercussions.

Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) senior lecturer Lee Kuok Tiung said he saw the unhappiness as an attempt by Pakatan Harapan (PH) supporters – hiding behind a religious veil – to “push GPS to support Anwar Ibrahim”.

University of Tasmania’s James Chin said he does not believe the anger will be strong enough to threaten the four-party coalition of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the lynchpin of the coalition; Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS); the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP); and the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).

Chin said GPS could weather the storm of protests after it decided to back the coalition of former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu and the Islamist PAS, despite their anti-Christian vitriol during the election campaign.

PAS, with its 49 parliamentary seats, is now the largest party in PN and its aim to make Malaysia an Islamic country has long made Sarawakians, 62% of whom are non-Muslims, uneasy.

“A lot of non-Muslims and people in the Christian community in Sarawak were shocked by Muhyiddin’s anti-Christian speech,” he said, referring to a TikTok video of him telling the audience not to vote for PH as the coalition was backed by Jews and Christians who were pushing for a Christianisation agenda.

Chin said, despite the appeals for GPS not to support PN and “religious extremists”, the coalition is unlikely to change its mind because there are no more elections on the horizon. It simply cannot work with a coalition of which DAP is a part.

“The next election is in four years’ time,” he pointed out.

“By that time, everything will be forgotten. People in Sarawak, like the rest of Malaysia, have very short memories.

“However, the more important reason is that they really cannot work with DAP. GPS had such a bad experience in the 22 months Pakatan Harapan was in power.

“There’s a lot of bad blood between the two,” Chin said, alluding a major falling out with DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng.

To top it all, he said GPS “has real issues” with DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen.

Chin said GPS is be well aware of the racists and anti-Christian sentiments on the peninsular.

“Yet they chose to back the PN and Muhyiddin. Why?”

He said GPS is more comfortable with PN even though PAS is extreme.

He said Muhyiddin is no stranger to GPS, having worked with the coalition for a long time, stretching to the days when it was in Barisan Nasional (BN).

Chin added that when Muhyiddin was prime minister he gave Sarawak most of Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) rights that were eroded.

He said as long as PAS does not or expand its presence in Sarawak, GPS should be able to keep the party at bay.

Lee said those people hammering GPS for its unwavering support of PN in the face of mounting criticism should take a close look at the terms and condition of this support.

“GPS stated its terms and conditions before” agreeing to align with PN, he said.

Chief among these conditions was freedom of religion and to respect the customs, culture and traditional practices of Sarawak’s various ethnic groups.

Lee said lending its support does not mean GPS has to change its political ideology to shoe in PAS’s “extremist political ideology”.

He said GPS has the option to pull out if the terms and conditions are breached or PAS goes overboard.

Anwar’s quest to become prime minister has also put PH in a quandary, he added.

“In its campaign, PH had been loud in claiming a vote for GPS is a vote for Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to become prime minister and free those in his party facing criminal charges.

“Now it has made a U-turn and is making overtures to Zahid and BN he leads to support Anwar to become prime minister.”

Parti Bumi Kenyalang president Voon Lee Shan described the just concluded elections a “political prostitution of democracy” branding politicians as “prostitutes” for “sleeping with whom they can freely choose once elected”.

“It makes democracy no longer a sacred process to elect politicians and political parties to run the country,” he said. – November 24, 2022.

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