SIBU, May 10 — Lim Guan Eng promised that Pakatan Rakyat will implement Penang’s poverty eradication programme if the pact wins Sarawak, telling Sibu voters they could hasten the change by voting DAP on May 16.
The Penang chief minister had toured two rural Melanau villages and an Iban settlement an hour’s boat ride from the town, boasting of the success of his government’s policy and pledging to do the same for Malaysia’s largest state.
“If you support ‘rocket’ on May 16, we can start the process of change in Sarawak,” declared the DAP secretary-general in his campaign stops to support the party’s state chairman, Wong Ho Leng’s, fourth bid to be Sibu MP.
The Bukit Assek assemblyman is contesting against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Robert Lau Hui Yew and independent Narawi Haron for the support of Sibu’s 54,695 voters. This is the first by-election contested by DAP since Election 2008. Sibu is also the 11th by-election since the last general election.
The rural villages in Sibu are said to be BN strongholds. In Election 2008, the ruling coalition retained the Sibu seat with the help of Malay/Melanau and Iban voters from villages as it was defeated in the Chinese-dominated town centre’s polling districts.
But Lim received a warm welcome and, at the Rumah Rassau longhouse, sat on a hand-woven screwpine mat, an honour reserved for important guests.
The riverside village has some 400 voters and was home to a small group of active DAP members.
“I am Lim Guan Eng, the chief minister of Penang,” the baby-faced politician introduced himself at all the campaign stops
During his 30-minute visit to the Iban longhouse, Lim said it is time for the community to switch their support to DAP.
“You have been under the same administration, under the same party for so many years. It is time for a change,” said Lim.He described the May 16 by-election as the start of the process of taking over the Sarawak government in the next state election, which must be held by July next year.
Lim also spoke of how the rural community in the state had been neglected by the government despite its vast natural resources.
“This state has timber, oil but unfortunately there are a lot of crocodiles also,” he said to laughter from some 50 villagers who attended his talk.
“You see for yourself who catches the crocodiles, who have been protecting them,” added Lim in reference to corrupt government officials.
He then promised the villagers that Penang’s poverty eradication programme would be carried out in Sarawak if PR took over the state.
“In Penang, when I became the chief minister, the first thing I did was to eradicate hardcore poverty. Similarly here, I don’t want hardcore poverty in Sarawak,” said Lim, adding that his state government handed money to the poor every month.
The Penang has also begun giving RM100 to senior citizens annually, a gesture that has drawn criticisms from BN politicians who called it political bribery.
Lim has countered by saying that BN had spent more in by-elections to win over people, and pointed out that the ruling federal government had spent an estimated RM170 million in a combination of projects and cash handouts in last month’s Hulu Selangor by-election. The Sibu seat was vacated following five-term MP Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew’s death on April 9. He was deputy transport minister.
In Election 2008, Lau won the seat with a 3,549-vote majority, beating Ho Leng and Lim Chin Chuang of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in a three-cornered fight.
Sibu has 54,695 voters, comprising 52,158 ordinary voters and 2,537 postal voters made up of 1,910 military and 627 police personnel.
According to the electoral roll, updated as of April 9, Chinese voters make up almost 67 per cent of the total number of voters, followed by Malay/Melanau (10.5 per cent) and Sarawak Bumiputeras (22 per cent).