NSTP File pic
NSTP File pic

THE Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) is Sarawak's oldest political party, formed in 1959 to campaign against the British decolonisation plan to have the state become independent through Malaysia.

It started out as a multiracial outfit, with significant membership and leaders representing most of the major ethnic groups in the state.

It lost the fight for Sarawak to stay out of the budding new Malaysian federation and grew to become increasingly Chinese in character.

An opposition force to be reckoned with, some of its members were inevitably drawn into the communist insurgency that became a serious security threat throughout the 1960s.

It was only in 1970 that SUPP was finally drawn into the then Sarawak coalition government led by the late Tun Abdul Rahman Ya'kub, with its secretary-general, the late Tan Sri Stephen Yong, appointed as deputy chief minister.

This political arrangement is often described as the precursor to the grand Barisan Nasional federal coalition of 1974 which SUPP was also a part of, with its president, the late Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui, inducted into the federal cabinet.

Although SUPP became the senior-most party in the state coalition after Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), it was significantly weakened when Yong lost his seat in the 1974 state election following voter backlash against it joining the government.

The party regained some lost ground under new secretary-general and later chairman, the late Tan Sri Dr Wong Soon Kai, in the 1980s and further consolidated in the early years of his successor, Tan Sri Dr George Chan.

Dr Wong played a fateful role in the so-called Ming Court crisis in the mid-1980s when PBB became seriously split between a faction led by the then chief minister, the late Tun Taib Mahmud, and his uncle and predecessor, Rahman, by swinging SUPP almost solidly behind Taib.

The struggle to succeed Dr Chan as party leader led to a serious split when the losing contender, Datuk Sri Wong Soon Koh, bolted out of the party taking with him a chunk of members mostly from his own Sibu division.

Wong's new political outfit
got nowhere despite a couple of incarnations and quite formidable resources.

His newest outfit, Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB), launched a statewide campaign to wrest control of the state government in the 2021 state election but won only four seats.

Undaunted, the octogenarian Wong schemed further, first toying with the idea of his party merging with Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) component, the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), and when that met some resistance from GPS, now dissolving PSB altogether and its members joining PDP en masse.

Unsurprisingly, such political machinations do not sit well with SUPP and, to a lesser extent, the fourth GPS component, Parti Rakyat Sarawak.

They, with good reason, view the developments as buttressing PDP, at the expense of SUPP and PRS.

The party whose views on
the developments matter the most, PBB, has been puzzlingly ambivalent.

PBB secretary-general Datuk Sri Alexander Nanta Linggi was rather blunt when he commented months ago that PBB would not betray fellow partners by endorsing one taking on a partner from outside the coalition (and one that took on the entire coalition to boot in 2021).

Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg has maintained his silence throughout. The only intimation of his view on the latest political goings-on can be gleaned from the utterance of state minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Hamzah expressing confidence the PDP-PSB saga will be positive for the state.

Given that there was no collective GPS stance on the PDP-PSB marriage, the implications on overall GPS coherence may be grave.

The writer views developments in the nation, region and wider world from his vantage point in Kuching