Robert Hui Yew Lau during his visit to one of Iban longhouse at Bawang Assan. (Photo: Robert Hui)

Sibu by-election campaigning is heating up as both candidates tried to secure crucial Iban votes which account for 22 percent of the 54,695 registered voters in Sibu parliamentary seat.

Robert Hui Yew Lau, the SUPP candidate is hoping to retain the 70 percent Iban votes his uncle once held while Wong Ho Leng looking at trimming it down.

BN leaders including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak were in Sibu last week to ensure the seat remains in BN stable and boosting Hui Yew campaign

In previous election, DAP has been accused of neglecting the Ibans – which the party vehemently denied when targeting Chinese voters.

In the Pakatan Rakyat camp, Wong said to his party would get the help of partners Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Sarawak National Party to woo Iban voters.

Prof. Dr Jayum

An expert in Sarawak Dayaks politics Professor Dr Jayum Jawan said he didn’t foresee much problems for BN retaining the Iban votes as the communities have always been loyal to the ruling government and appear to warm up to Najib’s 1Malaysia concept.

Prof. Dr Jayum – also a Sibu native said it will be a tough fight but expected Barisan Nasional to retain the seat.

“We will see a fierce fight. Winning the Ibans and the Melanau/Melayu support will prove decisive in determining the outcome of the by-election,” he said via phone interview earlier this week.

He added the Dayaks still need developments and the ruling government can fulfill that needs. As for the Malay / Melanau Prof Jayum said they will firmly behind BN and SUPP can count on PPB – BN backbone in Sarawak to deliver the votes as in past elections.

In previous election, Wong Ho Leng of DAP secured about 30 per cent of the Iban votes, 63 per cent of the Chinese votes and 20 per cent of the Malay/Melanau votes.

Wong contested two seats in the 2008 general election. He won the Bukit Assek state seat in the neighbouring parliamentary constituency of Lanang.

Barisan Nasional won all three state constituencies in Sibu — Bawang Assan, Pelawan and Nangka. In the last few days, Wong had been campaigning in several Iban longhouses outside of Sibu town. Nomination day is on Saturday.