Sarawak: “Don’t be fooled by crowd numbers, Anwar”


A by-election will soon be called in Sarawak after the death of the BN state assembly member for Batang Ai, Dublin Unting. In the 2006 state elections, Unting defeated a Snap candidate, Nicholas Bawin Anggat, who has since joined PKR, by an 806-vote majority.

PKR must have received a boost from the reported 4,000 crowd that turned up in Bintulu to listen to Anwar. While the crowd size may have appeared encouraging to many, a former resident of Bintulu cautions Pakatan and Anwar not to get too carried away. They still have much work to do:

I read the report that Anwar Ibrahim drew a large crowd in Bintulu. That is good. But please realise that a large turnout does not mean support for Anwar in Sarawak’s case.

All the same, I believe  many in Bintulu are not happy with the government as they have (one of) the highest assessment rates in Malaysia. I was posted there for four years (1997 – 2000).

Many people would come to town if there is an event, and so when Anwar was coming, they all came down in droves using kereta sapu. Even if there is a circus clown coming, the crowd would be the same.

Bintulu has seen the DAP under its wing. The DAP’s Chiew Chin Seng, the state assembly member for Kidurong, (is) a nice guy and his personality is what has captured the rakyat’s support.

I remember on one occasion when we attended a function hosted by the state government, Chiew was invited as I was too. He was seated in the “public” section while the BN YBs were seated on stage. When these BN YBs started their greetings, Chiew’s name was omitted. It was a pitiful sight.

When it was coffee break, they had two sections: one for the VIPs and the other for the audience. Chiew was queuing in the line for his coffee.

When the audience saw him, they immediately gave way for him, saying “YB dulu“.

He told them, never mind, he doesn’t mind queueing up.

When the whole audience (many Malays too even from Semenanjung) saw him, they all asked him to go first. It was a “commotion”. Many Malays were not too happy that the BN YBs treated another YB like that.

When the BN YBs saw that Chiew was so well received, only then did they come over to him and ask him to join them, which he declined politely.

He told the BN YBs he had many friends in the audience.

I can tell you he won a lot of respect from people who didn’t even know him. So, to Anwar’s team, don’t be fooled by the crowd numbers.

Sarawak is different from semenanjung. In semenanjung, we have in most kampungs at least a graduate in many families or kampungs. Not so in Sarawak. Many of my friends in the rural areas will ONLY vote for the government. For them, only BN=Government=BN. They see no other alternatives to BN. They just don’t understand the concept of government.

So even with change happening in semenanjung, it will not necessarily translate to change in Sabah and Sarawak. Many here are still illiterate and they tend to view the more educated ones as saviours. But the problem is some of the educated ones have no principles (and) can be “bought”.

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Calvin wrote: Money isn’t a problem to him. He seen as the most generous MP Bintulu ever had. (Financial assistance) when your kids get enroll at uni, and whole lot of things. See the problem here? Malaysians generally want their wakil rakyat to play the role of Santa Clause….to give money and goodies; or they want their wakil rakyat to become ‘longkang and potholes MP’…to take care of their complaints about blocked longkang and potholes in their roads. Sigh……as long as Malaysians are poor and ignorant, BN will continue to win. Maybe that is why the gomen especially Taib wants… Read more »


You are correct. Don’t be fooled by the crowd. I remember when Dr. Mahathir visited Sarawak some years ago. The Sarawak state government (allegedly) tried to impress Dr. Mahathir by paying (a sum of money) for each person to come out from the interior kampong to cheer him in the welcome gathering. … Apart from the money, a free lunch of a package of Nasi Lemak was served.






This time around it’s PR that will win the seat. The sentiment is against the incumbent.


When BN had 2/3rds majority you don’t want to stick out as opposition and get your head knocked off. It’s different now.

There is so much that needs to be done to take this country to new heights. To start with, we need to review the ISA, introduce anti-hopping laws, junk ridiculous laws against oral sex and sodomy, etc. It won’t happen as long as BN is in power. BN is anti-change and anti-rakyat.


“…, we are not idiots” – miwaki Well said about illiterates and ‘uneducated’, but just look at ‘educated’ folk in Johor, Pahang etc who are clinging on to their rice bowls and condoning absolute carnage of the socio-economic mores, with corruption, nepotism, racism, neofeidalism, religious intolerence and downright injustice of the powers that be. A well filled stomach, does not a rebel make. To galvanize our brethren in Sabah and Sarawak, we must fire them with idealism of a better nation and a just system, otherwise idiots remain idiots. Servile servants to these gasbags. The Chinese and the Indian etcnics… Read more »


With due respect,though Anil’s analysis is right but people of Sarawak are not stupid.They could be illiterates but literate doesn’t mean you are smart.They are load of literates in Semenanjung but they are without wisdom,they pray to money instead of God.

Most of our ancestors are illiterates but their wisdom are without question,only people without wisdom would fall for evil government of the day.I have confident in Sarawakians just like my fellow Perakians,we are not idiots.

Kenny Gan

“Dont expect them to change….. And yet one election after the next, it is bn. All bn have to do is to promise them developemnt, party, tuak, buy over the tuai rumah’s heart, perform the miring and swear. No offence here but are facts.” – 104East It was the same here in Semenanjung. The Chinese and especially the Indians have been marginalized by BN with their economic policies yet election after election, they voted BN. All BN had to do was to promise them development. That was before the 12th G.E. And then came the tsunami. I should add, don’t… Read more »


Well “former resident of Bintulu” may be right in saying “They see no alternatives to BN. They just don’t understand the concept of government.” But i think the ‘natives’ do have the concept of ‘alter’, don’t you think? It’s possble that they do have a concept of Government ala Raja Brooke style, they may not have a well developed concept of ‘democracy’, ‘social rights’etc? In which case, it’s time to educate them thoroughly despite their “uneducated-ness”. Certain things are universal – truth, justice and morality for e.g. and we can for the moment just pause and hope that PR can… Read more »


Different minds have different needs. It is true BN has control of the Sawarak State for umpteen years and have better grasp of the
mentality of the locals. I feel it is utmost important, PR
should look for local talents to win the hearts of the electorates.
Have PR the resources to counter the well established BN machinery?
Yes, it is an acid test for PR. The tide is changing towards the opposition, the rakyat want a change, PR should make the most of it.
I still think, the underdog PR will hit the winning line by a nose.

Mohamad Taufan Mohamad Yassin

That’s what we always told them about. PR should works hundred time harder than before to get Sarawak.

Unlike most of semenanjung state, Sarawak are bigger but with small population density, limited infomation (which most has been conquered by BN media) and illiterate.

To hope BN YBs turn to PR is a bad option since (some) of them have been “locked in” (allegedly via land concession, contract etc).


Hi nat…

“they said that last march too, for the rest of m’sia. i guess onli time will tell..”

We saw big crowds in Machap and Ijok as well, and we all know how that worked out! I guess the take home message is we shouldn’t read too much into the size of the crowds, one way or the other?

Mata Kuching

Words and promises of a better future are not enough to convince the rural folks who had for more than 40 years been accustomed to empty promises of BN government but could not have cared less and only too happy to be paid some money as “voting” expenses during every elections. Over the years the sentiments and the attitutes towards their BN YBs and total lack of social and economic developmenbts in their areas could have changed somewhat when their lands had been encrocached by outsiders claiming that they had been given provisional lease to develop their NCR land. Most… Read more »




Dont expect them to change. I was involved in the Bt.Ai Hydro 30 years ago. Long houses were relocated. People suffered. We were promised cheaper electricity. Did they get it? All these people got was lost ancestral home, farmland, and electricity pillons and HV cables overhead. And yet one election after the next, it is bn. All bn have to do is to promise them developemnt, party, tuak, buy over the tuai rumah’s heart, perform the miring and swear. No offence here but are facts.


I was told the gathering was not free. However – it pretty difficult wrestling Bintulu from BN. Tiong is doing not even a Minister could afford in Bintulu. People just love this guy. He always there – your weddings, when your longhouses burn down, even to petty issues such as when your kids get naughty in schools. He always visited his constituency. Even if he didn’t he would send his guys – like every weeks visiting longhouses, community functions etc. Money isn’t a problem to him. He seen as the most generous MP Bintulu ever had. (Financial assistance) when your… Read more »

Kenny Gan

Bintulu Resident has a point but it’s also true that times are a-changing. A political awakening is sweeping Sarawak. Where previously the natives may have equated BN=government=BN, this is not necessarily true now. This is because previously there was NO CHANCE of changing the BN govt (not only in Sarawak but also in Semenanjung). But now there is a chance of change, people’s mindset are going to be different. Money politics is rampant in Sarawak but now voters may just take the money and vote to change the govt. There’s no penalty if the govt changes, right? So let’s not… Read more »


Maybe true to a certain extend. If a free dinner is thrown in, the crowd would normally be there. But 4000 people in a small place like Bintulu is quite sizeable. Having said that, I agree Anwar must not let his guard down because one never underestimate BN money power and dirty tricks. The important thing is to draw the crowd and then do all you can to keep them on your side. The worry is when the crowd is significantly small. The sign is good so keep on the momentum.


Hi Anil This question to you is unrelated to the article. However, i am very curious and wonder if you could comment on why while others are selling, EPF keeps buying. Example: In Feb 2009 Petgas – Kumpulan Wang Persaraan keeps selling; EPF keeps buying Sime – Amanah Raya, PNB,Yayasan Pelaburan Bumi all sell; EPF buys Maybank – Sell by PNB, EPF buys TM – Sell by Amanah Saham Bumiputra, EPF buys Conversely, when others buy EPF sells: SP Setia – Buy by PNB, Yayasan Pelaburan Bumi, EPF sells Who is ultimately responsible for the investment moves of EPF and… Read more »


BN got no guts lar. They are scared. That’s why BN is facing the Batang. Batang Ai state by election. Hmm what say you Batang Ai folks?


I share Bintulu resident’s sentiments. PR zealots will believe that the crowd is there to eat out of Anwar’s hand. Let’s ignore PR zealots because they are in their own dreamworld and it’s difficult to reason with them. PR optimists will tell you that the crowd being there is a good thing because “at least people are listening to PR’s side of the story”. This is a very good point, and is crucial for the survival of Malaysia’s infantile two-party political system. However, PR must realise what the people are trying to hear when they attend such things. People are… Read more »


they said that last march too, for the rest of m’sia. i guess onli time will tell.. 🙂


Prosperity would soon come to Batang Air constituency in rural Sarawak. The State Assemblyman just died this morning after a 9-month in a state of coma. This shall be the first test for PKR in its plan to wrest the Sarawak state government. This is where the incumbent BN Chief Minister would probably be spending hundreds of millions for the 6,000+ voters. Congratulations to the people of Batang Air – prosperity is coming very soon!

The Penquin

I think the writer is trying to say that ‘words’ alone can only take you half the way. It will be the correct ‘actions’ that will complete the journey.