"Mangkang Menua,Mangkang Dunya,Ngetan Ke Bansa!!"

June 28, 2010

SNAP’s back but at crossroads


Taken from  Malaysian Mirror

KUCHING – After eight years in the political doldrums, Sarawak National Party has been given a new lease of life after the Court of Appeal on June 23, 2010, set aside the decision of the Registrar of Societies to deregister the party.

But what is SNAP’s future like? Will the Dayaks return to the party?

Is SNAP – the pride of the Dayaks in the 1970s when it had 18 State assemblymen and nine MPs – able to recapture its past glory?

Or will it be able to capitalize on the sentiments of the Dayaks against the Barisan Nasional government and the authorities? And what are SNAP’s directions?

snap-dayakThese are some of the questions that many Dayaks and non-Dayaks are asking and demanding to know.

Many believe SNAP can attain its past glory, but to do that it must be led by someone who has the charismatic personality – the bold and the fearless.

“Change of leadership must be made if it is going to play a major role in both state and national politics. During these eight years, SNAP was left with a skeleton of members as many had left due to the uncertainty of its fate with the ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging over its head,” said a former SNAP leader.  

Its performances in those years in two parliamentary elections and one state election against the Barisan Nasional were not only dismal, but to the point of being embarrassed, considering the fact that at one time it was the party to be reckoned with.

On April 10, 1961, SNAP became the third party to be formed after Sarawak United People’s Party and Party Negara Sarawak and that opened the way for the Dayaks to play active politics just before Sarawak obtained its independence in 1963. Synonymous with Dayak politics, it produced Sarawak’s first Chief Minister in the person of Stephen Kalong Ningkan.

However, SNAP’s fortunes began to decline after the 1982 leadership crisis during which James Wong took over the leadership at the expense of the support of the Dayaks who formed between 80 percent and 90 percent of the party membership. That crisis led to the formation of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak in 1983.

But another crisis in 2002 between Wong and a group of Dayaks led by Peter Tinggom dealt a fatal blow to the party when the Registrar of Societies decided to deregister it on Nov 5, 2002, ignoring the appeals from both sides.

Crisis triggered by MP expulsion

Basically, the crisis was triggered by the expulsion of Bintulu MP Tiong King Sing over an issue involving the construction of a TV3 station in Bintulu.

The party accused Tiong of failing to honour his word of donating RM1.5 million to finance part of the project which cost RM4 million. Both the Federal Government and TV3 agreed to come up with RM1 million and RM1.5 million respectively.

Tiong, who was then treasurer general of the party, denied that he had promised to come up with the money.

However, SNAP found Tiong guilty as charged under Article V, Clause (iii) and (vi) of the party constitution.

“Article V – Expulsion of members

(iii) Destroys or attempts to destroy the integrity and good name of the party; or and

(vi) Incites hatred and animosity amongst members or against any Party leaders.”

The case against Tiong was heard on April 11, 2002, at the party headquarters.  All the Central Working Committee members attended the meeting.

Before the expulsion order was mentioned, nine members of the CWC led by Tinggom staged a walk-out in protest against the decision. They found that Tiong’s expulsion was flawed when two of the seven appointed CWC members took part in the decision.  

The appointment of the two had not been lodged with the Registrar of Societies, although the party constitution to increase the appointed members from five to seven was amended and endorsed in 2000 TGM.  

Thus all decisions including expelling Tiong made by the CWC with votes from the seven appointed members were invalid, null and void.

William Mawan, then the Minister of the Environment and Public Health, and obviously the leader of the group brought up the matter with the ROS. The protracted crisis led to the party’s deregistration and the formation of Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party. But SNAP applied for stay of execution pending its appeal to the Court of Appeal.

That exactly is the story. 

Left in political limbo

Since that crisis and the demise of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak in October 2004, also due to a leadership crisis, the Dayaks who were not with Barisan Nasional were left in political limbo.

Now that the Court of Appeal has made its decision in SNAP’s favour, many Dayaks both outside and within the Barisan Nasional are closely watching SNAP’s next move.

The first thing they are interested to know is when SNAP will be holding its TGM and the election of new office-bearers in the next two or three months.  

Can they bring in new professionals and the thousands of ex-PBDS members to join the party?

To them this is vital if the party wants to be respected and to be reckoned with. They feel that SNAP should try especially to woo the ex-PBDS members who are still angry with the BN government and authorities for deregistering PBDS and for refusing to register Malaysian Dayak Congress as a political party to replace PBDS.

“We are closely watching SNAP’s next move,” said Daniel Tajem, a former senior vice-president before he was kicked out from the party in 1983.

Many prefer SNAP to remain in the Pakatan Rakyat as it can form the “Dayak arm” of the coalition. At the moment the Dayak interests are being covered by the multi-racial PKR whereas the Chinese and the Malay interests are being looked after by DAP and PAS respectively.    

But a BN leader who refuses to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter believes that if SNAP is to remain in PR it may live to regret its decision.

To him, returning to BN should be an ideal and strategic move. Firstly, it can claim back all the seats now under the hands of SPDP. After all, SPDP is the “pretender”. So SPDP can be advised to dissolve and return to SNAP. After all SPDP is the off-spring of SNAP. From here, it can slowly and surely gain its past glory.

To his knowledge SNAP has never been expelled from the BN nor has it left the BN. This has been confirmed by SNAP secretary general Stanley Jugol.

The BN leader says that once in BN, SNAP (including the dissolved SPDP) and Parti Rakyat Sarawak can discuss the merger of the two parties. Currently the merger between PRS and SPDP is going nowhere as there are obstacles that both parties are unable to solve.

The future of Dayaks

“This is the bigger picture that SNAP must think in the interest of the future of Dayaks in this country,” he said.

But the question is: Is SPDP prepared to dissolve itself for the bigger interest of the Dayak community? And the other big problem is that whether the Barisan Nasional component parties are ready to accept SNAP back.  

Chief Minister and Chairman of State BN Abdul Taib Mahmud has made it very clear that only a collective decision by the BN parties can determine whether SNAP can return to the coalition.

“A lot of waters have gone under the bridge. I have to discuss it with other parties,” he said.

No doubt there are people including Dayaks themselves who do not wish Dayaks to be united under one political umbrella as this will pose a threat to their positions. In fact they prefer the current political scenario whereby the Dayaks are split right, left and centre: some are in SNAP, PKR, PRS, SPDP, PBB and even SUPP.  

This results in Dayaks having a weak and ineffective voice in articulating the community’s hopes and aspirations. And yet the BN parties consider the Dayaks as their “fixed deposits” in the coming election as they the urban voters are no longer reliable.

Given a new lease of life and the possible injection of new blood including professionals into the party, can SNAP be able to convince the Dayaks in the rural areas to support its political struggle and to reduce the BN’s “fixed deposits”?

This is its biggest test.

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