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Friday, March 21, 2008

Bidayuh Should Never Be In MCA, SUPP and GERAKAN

Official confirmation not forthcoming but Dr Chan says no quit letter from MP and brushes aside news as mere rumour

KUCHING: Serian MP Datuk Richard Riot Jaem is said to be quitting the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP).

Serian town was abuzz with news of his resignation but official confirmation was not forthcoming from anyone in his party, including the MP himself who has made himself incommunicado.

In an immediate reaction, SUPP president Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan denied that he had received any resignation letter from Riot, brushing aside the news as just a rumour.

“The party secretary-general and I have not received anything yet. I don’t think it (rumour) is true. I have tried to contact him but to no avail,” he said.

Riot’s house in Kampung Pichin, which also acted as the operations room in the just concluded election, was closed while the pole that used to fly the SUPP flag at his office in Serian town had no flag on it.

Sources close to him, however, said Riot was in Singapore, and for whatever reason they were not revealing.

Talks, however, were rife that this state of incommunicado began after the announcement of the federal cabinet line-up on Tuesday.

The same sources said Riot knew he was not in the federal cabinet hours before the announcement, and that he had called for a meeting of local party leaders to have a measure of their sentiments to reconsider his position in the party upon his return to Kuching from Kuala Lumpur later that day.

The MP, it was said, not only talked about his frustration in not getting a cabinet post after serving as Serian MP for close to 20 years, but that the new cabinet had totally excluded the Bidayuh community.

Riot was unreachable even by his own party leaders, after he was said to have sent a resignation letter together with a few hundred supporters yesterday.

After the meeting that evening, Riot was said to have asked his men to collect SUPP membership cards from five sub-branches in Serian, namely Mongkos, Tebakang, Lanchang, Balai Ringin and Tebedu, to be surrendered to the party headquarters in Kuching.

“He was unhappy not only because he was not in the line-up but also because there was no representation from the Bidayuh community in the cabinet,” said one particular source.

According to the source, Riot had on Wednesday handed over 300 membership cards (including that of the source) and a letter to the SUPP headquarters to notify that the MP and members were quitting the party en masse.

It is also learned that SUPP secretary general Senator Datuk Sim Kheng Hui along with other leaders were asked to go to Serian to talk things over with Riot and persuade him to retract.

“But he failed to meet Datuk Richard Riot because he was nowhere to be found,” said the source.

A local party member in Tebakang Jimmy Choo said a group of people claiming to be Riot’s men approached him on Wednesday morning requesting for his membership card.

“I was made to understand that they had gone to the residences of SUPP members in Serian asking for membership cards to be surrendered to the Hq,” he said.

Dr Chan, when reached for his comments yesterday, said he had not received Riot’s letter and the membership cards.

“As far as I am concerned these are just rumours. Nothing official. But we also hope they are not true,” he said.

He nonetheless expected the Bidayuh community to be unhappy with the cabinet line-up now that they were no longer represented. The first and only Bidayuh in the last cabinet — Mas Gading MP Datuk Dr Tiki Lafe from Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party (SPDP) — was dropped from the line-up.

“I knew right away that the Bidayuhs would be unhappy. More so when the Prime Minister dropped the only Bidayuh federal deputy minister Dr Tiki. But this has got nothing to do with SUPP. They (Bidayuhs) are unhappy because first of all, Dr Tiki was dropped and then Riot did not get it (appointment). Dawos also did not get it. But what can we do?” he argued.

To a question, he said Riot’s name was among the four names submitted by the party to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to consider.

“The Prime Minister did not appoint him (Riot) but then again that is his (Abdullah’s) prerogative,” he said. In the new cabinet line-up, SUPP has one full minister and two deputy ministers.

Datuk Peter Chin was retained as the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities, Datuk Robert Lau retained as Deputy Minister of Housing and Local Government while Datuk Yong Khoon Seng was made Deputy Minister of Works.

He said he could well understand Riot’s frustration but would like the MP to stay calm as “SUPP will find more ways to allocate more posts to him and the Bidayuhs”.

He revealed that even state BN backbone Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) failed in its bid to get another Bidayuh, Mambong MP Datuk James Dawos Mamit, appointed to the cabinet.

“Party members should not simply quit because of this. Even when we (SUPP) did not get another seat — Sibuti, we were also unhappy but we did not quit BN,” he said.

SUPP central executive committee member Ranum Mina, who is Opar assemblyman, also denied hearing about Riot’s purported resignation.

“No, I did hear anything like and nobody has informed me,” he said. His party colleague Bengoh assemblyman Dr Jerip Susil also gave the same reply.

Riot has one of the best election records among candidates in parliamentary elections in Sarawak. His votes had increased in each election since he first entered the fray in 1990.

In the 1990 polls, Riot contested as an independent candidate in Serian in a straight fight against BN’s William Aham. Riot polled 10,349 votes to win with a majority of 2,685 votes.

In the 1995 polls, Riot defended Serian on the BN ticket against four contenders. Nevertheless, he polled 12,116 votes to win with a majority of 7,554 votes.

Garnering 12,491 votes in the 1999 polls, Riot increased his winning majority by 8,451 votes in a three-cornered fight. In the following election, he again increased the vote majority to 9,695 votes after garnering 13,960 votes.

The March 8 polls saw Riot getting his best result. Challenged by Sarawak National Party’s (SNAP) Sylvester Belayong Jayang, Riot garnered 15,793 votes to win with a majority of 13,427 votes — the third highest in the state.

Following BN’s simple majority win helped by 30 seats from Sarawak, many expected an increased representation from the state, especially from among the minority Bumiputera communities — Bidayuh especially.

If Riot has indeed resigned from SUPP it will mean that the state BN is now left with 29 parliamentary seats and SUPP one less from six.

“Party members should not simply quit because of this. Even when we (SUPP) did not get another seat — Sibuti, we were also unhappy but we did not quit BN,” he said.

The Best Advice to Bidayuh for Brighter and Prosperous Future. Thank you to Dr. George Chan!

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