PBB mulls ‘united coalition of Sarawak’

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KUCHING — Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) will review its membership in Barisan Nasional (BN) and will consult its state coalition partners on the formation of a new pact.

Its president Datuk Abang Johari Openg, who is state BN chairman, announced this after chairing the party’s supreme council meeting yesterday.

“We will review our position in BN.”

He said he will call a meeting with PBB’s BN partners — Sarawak United People’s Party, Parti Rakyat Sarawak and Progressive Democratic Party — on the formation of a “united coalition of Sarawak” soon.

Quashing rumours the state BN would join Pakatan Harapan (PH), he said: “We will work with the federal government in the context of the Federal Constitution but we will not join Pakatan Harapan.

“You must remember, we are a federal system but our interest is the people of Sarawak first.”

Sarawak is one of three remaining BN-controlled states after PH swept to power in last Wednesday’s general election.

The state coalition suffered its worst defeat in parliamentary polls, losing 12 of 31 seats. Significantly, it lost six seats in Dayak-majority areas, which were seen to be the coalition’s “fixed deposit”.

Soon after the polls, it was reported the parties were mulling to join PH. However, state PH chief Chong Chieng Jen swiftly protested any en bloc attempts.

Abang Johari’s announcement could be a result of his discussion with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tun Daim Zainuddin, who heads the Council of Eminent Persons, on Monday.

With the Sarawak state election due in about three years, the formation of a new coalition could be a strategic move to ensure the former BN parties remain in power.

Reading from a prepared text at the press conference earlier, Abang Johari said PBB is committed to moving forward on a strong united front in the interest of Sarawakians.

He said the 19 parliamentarians from the coalition, 13 of whom are from PBB, would be effective voices in fighting for Sarawak in parliament.

“We are determined to pursue and ensure that our quest for devolution of powers from the federal government be mounted further, in an even stronger mode and effort.

“We will passionately continue to fight for Sarawak interests first at all costs and we will enhance all efforts to take back our infringed rights under MA63, the federal constitution and all relevant laws.”

There was no mention of BN in the text.