Bad blood between Sarawak party chiefs coming to fore, analysts say

Desmond Davidson

Progressive Democratic Party president Tiong King Sing claims the people in his constituency are at their wits’ end on how to get the authorities to address the frequent flash floods they have been facing. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, December 7, 2023.

THE bad blood between two party presidents in the four-party Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) has come to the fore with political analysts saying the feud between Tourism Minister Tiong King Sing and Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Sim Kui Hian has become personal.

The animosity between the two leaders stemmed from what University of Tasmania’s Asian governance expert James Chin described as Tiong “stealing” the Dudong seat from the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) in the 2021 state election.

The “unending flash and heavy floods” in Dudong was the focal point for Tiong, the president of Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and Sim, president of the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), to trade barbs at each other during last week’s state assembly sitting.

Flood mitigation is under the purview of Sim’s state Local Government and Housing Ministry.

Tiong, when debating the 2024 state budget, claimed the people in his constituency are not only tired of the frequent flash floods, they are also annoyed, frustrated and at their wits’ end on how to get the authorities to address the issue.

He then railed Sim over his water resources management and water control policies “study tour” to Denmark and The Netherlands this year.

He even poked fun at Sim’s now famous “tengok saja” (watch only) catch phrase, which he had often used on opposition DAP to describe its inability to deliver any services to the people.

“Sampai hari ini saya cuma hari-hari tengok saja banjir (until today I only see floods every day),” was what his constituents told him, Tiong told the assembly.

“Tengok saja their crops have been submerged, tengok saja their great losses, tengok saja dia punya rumah, barang-barangan terendam dalam air. (Just watch their crops being submerged, just watch their great losses, just watch their homes, belongings submerged under water).

“Tengok saja ini isu bila boleh diselesaikan.” (Just watch when this issue can be resolved).

Sim, in his ministerial reply, said the Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) and Sibu Rural District Council (SRDC), which administer parts of Dudong, received RM2.77 million and RM5.46 million respectively but the funds are for the upgrading and repairs of roads and footpaths, and provision of street lighting.

Sim said since the funds were insufficient for flood mitigation, Tiong then should dig into his deep pockets and emulate what his predecessor had done by topping the funds from his RM5 million rural transformation programme (RTP) fund.

Flood mitigation is under the purview of Sarawak United People’s Party chief Dr Sim Hui Kian’s state Local Government and Housing Ministry. – Facebook pic, December 7, 2023.

The PDP chief said Tiong’s predecessor, Tiong Thai King, had from 2017 to 2020, allocated RM3.65 million to SMC and RM5.04 million to SRDC.

Sim said Tiong, since winning the seat in 2021, has not allocated any RTP funding for SMC and SRDC to carry out the necessary infrastructure upgrading projects within his own Dudong constituency.

Political expert Chin said Tiong having a go at Sim is part of him trying to position himself as the third largest component in GPS.

The four parties in GPS are Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the lynchpin of the coalition; SUPP, the second largest party; Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and PDP.

Despite the feud, Chin said it would not affect the political stability of the ruling coalition.

He was alluding to the fact that PBB could rule on its own as the party holds more than half of the 82 seats in the legislature.

What people should watch out for from the latest public exchanges between the two men is if multi-millionaire businessman Tiong takes up Sim’s challenge and coughs up the funds for Dudong’s flood mitigation work, Chin said.

He said if Tiong could, then the Dudong seat “would be lost forever to PDP”.

Universiti Putra Malaysia political scientist Jayum Jawan said as both men are party presidents and in the same coalition, such behaviour should not be happening.

“Leaders need decorum and not show who has the loudest mouth because loud mouths do not solve problems.

“No need to try to upstage one other and try to look like a champion,” Jayum said.

But then again, he conceded such a behaviour from Tiong is not unusual considering the minister’s brushes with the Immigration Department over the detention of a China national at KLIA, his spats with Kedah Menteri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor, with former health minister Khairy Jamaluddin and the many viral videos that had made their rounds on social media.

“As ministers, whether state or federal, they have many resources to use to solve their constituents’ problems.

“So as ministers, go get the resources and solve the problem and not point fingers here and there.”

Ministers, Jayum said, must know they are part of the solution and not the problem or people who merely highlight problems.

“Highlighting problems is the work of ordinary MPs or assemblymen or junior level officers like the district officers, ‘penghulu’, ‘tuai rumah’, and councillors.

“It is good planning and a well-devised solution that will overcome, or if not solve, the problems and challenges facing urban and rural folk alike,” Jayum said. – December 7, 2023.

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