Wong Soon Koh, white shirt standing with his Sibu branch party members.

KUALA LUMPUR: The decision by Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui to contest the presidency of the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) has undoubtedly put Datuk Seri Wong Soon Koh in a quandary over his next political move.

Wong, a state minister and SUPP deputy secretary-general, was the first to announce that he would contest the party’s top post at the party elections in December but party insiders pointed out that the decision had not gone down well with some quarters in the party.

“That explains why five branches from Kuching went to see Chin and persuaded him to contest the president’s post. Chin is more acceptable as he is seen as a neutral and inclusive leader,” said a party leader from Kuching who did not wish to be identified. Chin is the party’s organising secretary.

The Kuching party leader explained that SUPP branches from Kuching, Serian and Sri Aman or better known as the southern zone, command the highest number of delegates, about 250 of the total 600.

About 100 are from Sibu and the surrounding areas or better known as the central zone and the rest are from Miri, Bintulu and Limbang.

“SUPP practises a two-tier election system. The 600 delegates will first elect 130 central committee (CC) members. The 130 CC members will eventually elect the central working committee or office bearers, among whom will be the party president.

“It is an open secret that Chin will get most of the votes as he already has most of the votes from the southern and northern zones,” said the leader.

Party insiders explained that most of the members from Kuching want Chin to contest the presidency as he is regarded as more inclusive and neutral and this was clearly shown during the briefing to the party delegates in Kuching prior to his announcement on Sunday to contest the presidency.

Many of those who attended the briefing shared Chin’s opinion that there should be a limit to the tenure of those holding government and other positions such as minister, deputy minister, member of parliament, state assemblyman and even councillor in the local government.

“Most importantly, Chin has said that he will only lead the party for one term (three years), the most as a transition, to allow a newer and younger set of leaders to take over,” he said.

Therefore, some believe that Soon Koh will eventually compromise by pulling out of the race for the top post, and instead settle for another position which will secure his position in the party.

“There is no doubt that Soon Koh will not lose his minister’s position in the state government even if he fails to secure the party presidency. However, if he is reduced to just an ordinary CC member without any position in the party, it will be difficult for him to get himself retained as a candidate for the next general election,” said a grassroots leader from the Sibu branch.

However, Dr James Chin, political analyst at Monash University, said it was unlikely that Soon Koh would pull out as the battle for the SUPP presidency has already evolved into a battle of two powerful political forces.

Soon Koh, when contacted, stated that he has no intention of pulling out of the contest for the party’s top post as he wants the delegates to be given the opportunity to pick their choice.

“Let the party members and delegates decide. What I want to say here is that there is some leader who has earlier announced he is not going to contest but then makes a U-turn and now says he wants to contest,” he said without naming the leader.

“We need to show the people that we are serious about reforming and making the changes,” he added.