Can BN Woo Chinese Voters in Sibu?

by Syed Zahar (Malaysian Digest)
The recent by-election in Hulu Selangor saw an apparent shift of partiality among the Chinese community within the constituency towards the Opposition. In Kuala Kubu Baru itself, there was a six-fold increase of Chinese voters favouring Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) Datuk Zaid Ibrahim from the last general election albeit Barisan Nasional’s (BN) P Kamalanathan victory over the former by a majority of 1,725 votes.
With this worrying trend still fresh in the minds of BN leaders, there’s no doubt that the ruling coalition’s main mission is to make things right with Sibu’s Chinese community for the upcoming May 16 by-election there. More so as this time around the Chinese voters are even more significant seeing as they make the majority (60 percent) of the city’s population. So it’s no surprise that both parties involved (DAP and SUPP) are fielding Chinese candidates.
Put to the task of re-establishing Chinese support for BN in Sibu is MCA. Its new president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek had already said that his party needed a “paradigm shift in its approach towards the Chinese community as the community was not very concerned with basic needs and amenities”. Chua has more to worry about seeing that his scandalous past is still palpable on people’s mind, the net and hard drives. Come what may, he is still popular among members of the party but it is uncertain to whether sentiments are the same among the public, in particular the Chinese communities.
The battleground is set and the showdown will be between DAP chairman Wong Ho Leng and Sarawak United People’s Party’s (SUPP) Robert Lau Hui Yew (second cousin to his late predecessor Robert Lau Hoi Chew). In the last election, Robert Lau Hoi Chew had won the seat by a margin of 3,235 against PKR and DAP candidates. Thing’s will be different for this by-election, the eleventh one since the 2008 general election, provided the voting trend of the Chinese electorate in Hulu Selangor is repeated there. As for Pakatan Rakyat, they can’t afford to be overly confident as, in spite of the 1Malaysia conception, the political scene in West and East Malaysia are poles apart.
Notwithstanding the declining Chinese support for the ruling coalition, BN still has the upper hand as ‘The Great White-haired One’ (Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud) still seem to have a strong influence and control over his state. With this in mind, I believe Taib is who BN can depend on to win the hearts and minds of the Chinese majority in Sibu. As for Chua, unless there is a clear consensus showing that he is popular among the Chinese Sibuans, he should consider keeping it on the low.
Let’s put it this way. Tell me which looks worse: a law minister having some wine or single malt whiskey every now and then or a married health minister checking into a hotel to have unprotected sex (yeah, I saw the clip, so what?) outside his marriage? Only god would know. And the same goes to the outcome of the forthcoming Sibu by-election.