Sarawak is Pivotal to BN and PR

Ever since Anwar won the Pematang Pauh by-elections, Pak Lah has kept Taib close to him.  Pak Lah knows Sarawak is the last bastion for the BN that cannot shake lest it sounds the death knoll for 50 over years of rule.

It was rumored that Pak Lah flew from Penang to JB to meet with Taib on the early evening of the Pematang Pauh election day when Pak Lah knew that the constituency was a lost cause.

For a while, Anwar had tried to quietly woo Taib and other component parties in Sarawak but to no particular success.  Taib knows his position and understands the peculiar position Sarawak plays in the possible fall of BN and the possible rise of PR.  It’s Sarawak that will tip the scales either way.

Even now, Sarawak, not Sabah, remains the crucial tipping point for both BN and PR and Pak Lah has kept his watch on this state.  On the other hand, whilst Pak Lah and Anwar have both focused on Taib and Sarawak in differing ways, Najib has not yet moved in this direction.  Granted Najib is DPM and not the PM yet, Najib has not made particular overtures here.  For now, we watch Najib in KT by-election.

Najib lost the Pematang Pauh by-election, now he has no choice but to defend KT by-election with all his might.  If Najib shows his prowess in manouvering in KT, then Sarawak may be within his means.

Anwar has shifted gears in Sarawak and Sabah.  More so, the focus on Sarawak is a clear acknowledgement that without this state, PR will never stand a chance to rule Malaysia.  His strategy is first to upstage Taib for the State Assembly control, an extremely bold move.  His gambit is to pit himself against Taib, a fight of two personalities and ideologies to let the Sarawakians choose.

Behind the scenes, we will find the arguments accusing Anwar having little empathy or appreciation of Sarawak nor its people of diversity.  Sarawak is not like West Malaysia and neither the culture nor political astuteness is akin to West Malaysia. Anwar cannot ignore this fact to his detriment.

Sarawak has the ability to stand on its own now as it is rich with oil and natural reserves but has a rather backward economic development compared to West Malaysian states like Penang, Johor and Selangor.  Sarawak human capital is under developed but fast catching up with UNIMAS churning out many graduates.

The ability of Taib to maintain full control of the Sarawak State in support for Mahathir and for Pak Lah cannot be written off.  This is no flash in the pan and is due to his vast control of all the political elements within the state.

Then there are the rumors of dissatisfaction arising from the native parties particularly the Ibans.  This is not new and such news have come and gone over the years.  Will this flame start or sputter?  Time will tell and surely Anwar will capitalize on this.  In every leadership, there will be dissention.  Will these voices become pivotal against Taib?

Taib has started the re-engineering of Sarawak through the announcement of SCORE, Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (read here).  Possibly funded through RMK9 extension and the oil royalty and other private initiatives, SCORE may be the very springboard for Sarawak to move forward in a new generation progress.  This initiative is in its infancy behind the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) in Johor.  However, it will have an excellent chance of success given the dedication of Sarawakians to make this successful and start a brand new chapter to spur the economic growth of Sarawak.

The timing of SCORE appears to prevent Sarawak from falling to non-Sarawak parties and to reinforce Taib’s rule.  It underscores Pak Lah’s favor to Taib and their mutual understanding but only until March 2009.

However, politics is politics.  No arrangement is cast in stone and depending on how things turn out in Sarawak, there can be surprising outcomes.  Now, all parties are on their toes and the attention is definitely good for Sarawak.  There will be more in store for Sarawak in the coming months in 2009.

How effective is Anwar in Sarawak will remain to be seen. But what is for sure is that Sarawak is now established as the final beachhead for all parties to determine the overall outcome of the country’s rule in a seeming final run that will span the next few years until GE13.

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