Friday, May 7, 2010

Chinese Voters Play Determining Role in Sibu By-Election

Sibu will become the center of attention until 16 May when the campaign of the parliamentary by-election kick starts। The Election Commission (EC) predicts the nomination process held at Sibu Civic Center tomorrow will face problems if people fail to take heed of the advice from the commission. This is in view of the location of the nomination center which is surrounded by shop houses and residential areas.

Located about 104 km from the estuary of Rajang River - the longest river in Malaysia (773 km), Sibu is named after the Iban name of a type of rambutan (a local fruit)।

With a population of about 270,000, the town is now the center of attention because of the 11th by-election after the General Elections in March 2008।

Dominant Group
It was in this town where a 17-year-old teenager, Rosli Dhobi thrust his keris [a traditional dagger] toward the colonist governor, Sir Duncan George Stewart in 1948। Rosli and his friends were convicted and sentenced to hang in the Central Prison in 1950.

Despite its multiracial population, Sibu is better known as a Foochow town as people of Foochow (a Chinese dialect group) ethnicity form the dominant group।

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had made a right move in the effort to win the hearts of the Chinese voters by paying a friendly visit to Sungai Merah, about seven kilometers from the town of Sibu, recently।

Sungai Merah was where Foochow people settled down in 1901। A Chinese Kapitan (headman of a Chinese settlement), Wong Nai Siong wrote a letter to Governor Brooke, requesting to bring in Chinese from China. After getting an approval from Rajah (ruler) Brooke, Wong brought in Chinese in large numbers and the migration process went on until the 1950s before the Independence.

Economic Growth and Development
The major factor that had attracted Foochow people to migrate to Sibu was the ruler's liberal policies, including the award of land and rubber planting policy। Since then, the Foochow people have made massive contribution to the economic growth and development in Sibu. Their involvement in banking, shipbuilding, logging, plantation and media industries is widely acknowledged.

The Sarawakians use the word 'Foochow' to describe someone who is tough, persevering in life and who has the attitude of an entrepreneur। They own hotels, ships, express boats, and almost all important buildings in the town.

The Sibu people, especially the Foochows, are indeed famous with the skills in doing business and commerce, their readiness to work hard and their strong will inherited from their ancestors। All those qualities, the prime minister said, in addition to BN's (Barisan Nasional or National Front) commitment and capacity to implement it, are in tune with town's aspiration to develop faster, and to be acknowledged as a city eventually.

Other Factors
To take care of their welfare and interests, the Foochows founded the Sibu Foochow Association in 1902। The organization has developed rapidly and emerged as an active association in the town. In the coming by-election, the descendants of the Foochow settlers who had settled down in Sungai Merah, are among those to determine the fate of Barisan Nasional.

Two Foochow leaders will contest in the by-election on 16 May। They are Robert Lau Hui Yew from the Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) and Wong Ho Leng, the state chairman of Democratic Action Party (DAP), who is also the state assemblyman for Bukit Assek.

The 34,424 Chinese voters who constitute 66।7 percent of the 54,695 registered voters will play the determining role.

The by-election of Sibu parliamentary constituency is held following the decease of its former elected representative, Robert Lau Hoi Chew, who was also the Deputy Transport Minister, on 9 April।

Lau, 68, from SUPP won the seat in the General Elections 2008 with a majority of 3,235 votes। He defeated Wong Ho Leng and the candidate from PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat or People's Justice Party), Lim Chin Chuang.

He secured 19,138 votes whereas Wong and Lim garnered 15,903 and 812 votes respectively। Lau had been the MP for Sibu since 1990.

In the General Elections 2008, Sibu parliamentary constituency had 53,679 registered voters, constituted by the Chinese as the majority (60 percent), Melanau (20 percent), Iban (18 percent) and Orang Ulu (1।1 percent).

During his visit to Sibu, the prime minister said there may be intense competition in this by-election।

And to win the by-election, BN relies on earnest efforts to win the hearts of the voters who want development.

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