Batang Ai by-election is a hot, hot topic now in coffeeshops. In Sibu, you may not feel strongly the fever of it, but in the northern part of the state where Batang Ai is located, the by-election is almost the most-talked about market gossip.
As I said before, the constituency is vastly spread out, with majority of the electorate in remotely located longhouses where living conditions are still backward. To them, sometimes daily subsistence means a lot more than democratic principles and doctrine of social justice in a modern society.
This is where BN is coming in. The ruling front's strong card in this by-election is again the politics os development. This ages-old tactic worked wonder in the past, but now it stands to tough test with the wind of change gusting all over and the rampant upsurge of Anwar syndrome in Sarawak.
But, to those Dayaks in far-away longhouses, does a politics of change appeal to them at a time of such economic hardship when commodity prices are slumping?
On the other hand, after years of lip service, is the piecemeal election promise going to work again? And, how about the burning NCR land issue? The question now on hand is: How well are Dayaks prepared to convey a strong message to the ruling front by way of voting in an opposition candidate?
This by-election may prove to be a mind-boggling exercise for the voters there!
The photo shows a scene in Batang Ai. (Photo: Steve Ling)