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Sarawak coalition partners likely to oppose PDP-PRS merger, says analyst
Published on: Monday, April 15, 2024
By: Rex Tan, FMT
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Sarawak coalition partners likely to oppose PDP-PRS merger, says analyst
PDP president Tiong King Sing (left) and PRS leader Joseph Salang Gandum. But who would lead after a merger?
PETALING JAYA: Major parties in Sarawak’s ruling coalition would oppose any merger of the Progressive Democratic Party and Parti Rakyat Sarawak that would result in a united Dayak front, according to political analysts.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania said Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu and the Sarawak United People’s Party would oppose any such merger, to maintain their dominant positions in the state.

“The merger will never happen. The biggest reason is PBB and SUPP don’t want to see a united Dayak front as they do not want the Dayak community to challenge their supreme status in Sarawak,” Chin told FMT.

Chin was commenting on a suggestion by Julau MP Larry Sng of a potential merger between PDP and PRS.

Sng said he believed it would strengthen the ruling coalition, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, “and the Dayak cause” while PBB vice-president Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah later said the proposal was a good idea if GPS’s leaders could reach a consensus.

PBB, the dominant partner of GPS, is composed of a Bumiputera wing and a Pesaka wing for Dayaks, but the party leader has been a Malay since October 1975.

GPS, which comprises PBB, SUPP, PDP, and PRS, currently holds 79 out of the 82 seats in the state assembly.

Chin added that a PDP-PRS merger would also face opposition from their own members as it would trigger a fight over the presidential position.

He said PDP president Tiong King Sing, a federal minister, would not relinquish his position easily, while PRS, which is led by Joseph Salang Gandum, would be averse to having a non-Dayak leader.

Although PRS stands as a multiracial party, it places particular emphasis on the development of the Dayak-Iban community.

Chin also said a faction of the Dayak community would reject the merger proposal, as Dayak leaders may have fewer opportunities for political progress while at present Dayak politicians have the chance to climb the political ladder through SUPP, PDP, PRS, and PBB.

“If their choices would be reduced through this merger, a lot of the minority Dayak community, such as Bidayuh and Orang Ulu, would not be in favour,” he added.

Universiti Malaya analyst Awang Azman Pawi said PRS and PDP would not be interested in a merger, given their difference in focus.

“PDP’s president Tiong is already comfortable leading a multiracial party. PRS, being predominantly Iban, would not be inclined to engage in such a merger either,” he said.

However, Awang Azman dismissed the notion that a PDP-PRS merger would threaten PBB’s dominance in the coalition and in Sarawak politics.

“PBB is already widely respected in both Sarawakian and national politics. In essence, PBB is in a unique league and stature of its own,” he said.

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