JULAU: All eyes are set on the tussle for the Julau parliamentary seat in this 15th General Election (GE15), where two party presidents are locking horns with one another in what appear to be a repeat of GE14.
Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, 71, the candidate for Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), will be attempting to wrest back the seat that he had occupied between 1999 and 2018, before losing it to Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM) president, Datuk Larry Soon @ Larry Sng We Shien, 43, in GE14.
Besides the duo, two other candidates, namely Suhana Abdullah@Susan George, 37, of Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) and independent candidate Elly Lawai Ngalai, 55, are also joining the fray to win the mind and hearts of the Iban-dominant constituency, which has a total of 34,850 electors.
A win in Julau would prove significant for Salang to prove his worth as a party leader, as he is the only party president in GPS who neither had a parliamentary seat nor a state seat, since taking over the helm of PRS following the demise of Tan Sri James Masing last year, said a retired teacher, Emand Sedau, 59.
“It will be a tough contest for Salang as in GE14 he only garnered 8,174 votes as compared to 10,105 votes obtained by Sng,” he told Bernama.
Emand, who hailed from Nanga Ensiring in Julau and currently residing in Sibu, said the constituents appeared to favour Sng, a much younger candidate who had assisted them in many ways, especially in terms of education fund for their children.
On the other hand, he said Salang’s four-term track record, coupled with being a candidate for GPS which had scored a landslide victory in Sarawak’s 12th state election, would give him a certain edge over his younger opponent.
“Being in GPS, Salang can still make it (to win) but not without the assistance from the two assemblymen in the Julau parliamentary constituency (Roland Duat Jubin for Meluan and Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom for Pakan),” he said.
Meanwhile, an oil and gas worker from Julau, Amin Dom, 35, said the impact that could be stirred by the two independent candidates in this election should not be underestimated as they could split the much-needed votes for the two presidents.
He said Elly Lawai contested in the 12th state election for the Meluan seat as a Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) candidate and managed to haul in 4,447 votes, losing by a margin of less than 1,000 votes to the winner, Roland Duat, who obtained 5,269 votes.
“From what I gather, there is so much improvement on the part of Elly in terms of support. He is expected to follow very closely behind the two presidents. Suhana should not be much of a threat, but losing more votes to her would mean the slimmer is the chance to become an absolute winner,” Amin said.
The battle of Julau also came under the radar of National Professors’ Council Senior Fellow, Datuk Dr Jeniri Amir who observed that the political sentiment on the ground now seemed to be favouring Salang, judging by the role played by him to ensure GPS took Meluan and Pakan in the last state election.
He said Salang has clout and strong influence, apart from being actively moving around in Julau since 2018.
“GPS has strong leadership and effective grassroots machinery. Judging by the last state election, I think the political sentiment on the ground has shifted towards Salang,” he said.
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas)’ Social Science and Humanities lecturer Dick Lembang Dugun, meanwhile, held that Sng’s political reputation and principles had become an issue since winning the seat as an independent candidate in 2018.
Sng joined PKR just few days after winning the seat, but quit in February 2021 to become a Perikatan Nasional-friendly independent Member of Parliament, before forming PBM in November the same year.
“Sng is known as a frog. I think it’s not right for him to contest in any seat because he always changes party. Where are his principles and integrity?,” he added. – Bernama