Corrected on 29 March 2009 at 3.20pm
(Updated 29 March 2009, 12.57pm)
THE by-election for the state seat of Batang Ai will be a straight fight between the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s (corrected) Malcolm Mussen Lamoh, 49, and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s Jawah Gerang, 55. Jawah is a five-term former Lubok Antu Member of Parliament (MP).
Returning officer Nelson Mujah Girie announced the candidates at the nomination centre located at the Lubok Antu sports complex after the objection period ended at 11am.
Jawah submitted his nomination papers at 9.03am, accompanied by his proposer, Unggeh Babang, and seconder, Lepang Gerang. Present was a crowd of about 3,000 PKR supporters led by Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim.
The BN candidate filed his papers at 9.15am accompanied by his proposer, Jampi Tutong and seconder, Gerang Juben.
Sarawak BN chairperson Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud led the coalition march to the nomination centre together with BN director of operations Datuk Seri Dr James Masing and more than 5,000 people.
Also present were newly elected Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) president Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Pairin Kitingan, and former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak.
Party supporters started converging on the area near the Lubok Antu sports complex as early as 6am. The Sri Aman-Miri trunk road junction leading to the nomination centre was jammed with vehicles ferrying party supporters, election workers and dignitaries, while police personnel facilitated traffic and maintained order.
Due to the remoteness of Batang Ai, about 850 police officers will be mobilised as part of security measures. Ten police boats, three helicopters and two light aircraft will also be deployed, with the Election Commission (EC) expected to spend RM400,000 to run the by-election.
About 40% of the 22,270 Batang Ai residents from 238 longhouses and 15 longhouses rely on boats as their primary mode of transport.
There are 8,006 registered voters, comprising 95% Ibans, in the 1,341sq km constituency where 24 polling centres will be opened on polling day, which is on 7 April.
The seat fell vacant following the death on 24 Feb of four-term BN incumbent Datuk Dublin Unting Ingkot, who was Sarawak agriculture and sports assistant minister and Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) vice-president.
Batang Ai is one of two state constituencies under the Lubok Antu parliamentary seat. The other is Engkilili. — Bernama