The former member of parliament for Lubok Antu, Jawah Gerang, has been named as PKR’s candidate for the Batang Ai by-election which is to be held on April 7.
PKR de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim made the announcement today at the Kuching airport just before leaving for Kuala Lumpur this morning.
According to Malaysiakini, Anwar was supposed to have announced the name of the candidate on arrival at the Kuching International Airport yesterday, but adjourned the announcement to today.
Anwar told reporters that he decided on Jawah after gathering various views and feedback from several longhouse elders who came to meet him at Rumah Lepang, Sayat, Lubok Antu.
He said that he found that Jawah was not only the favourite choice to face Malcolm Mussen Lamoh of the Barisan Nasional, but also had every chance to win the seat for Pakatan Rakyat.
In introducing Jawah to the press, Anwar also appointed Nicholas Bawin as the director of operations for the by-election.
"I hope everybody will give their cooperation as PKR is confident in Jawah's ability in solving the people's problems and in looking after the interests of all communities in the state.
"I believe that with the strong partnership of Jawah and Nicholas, PKR can wrest the Batang Ai seat," added Anwar.
Jawah meanwhile said that he would work hard to deliver the seat. "I believe we can make a good start," he said, referring to PKR's planned assault on the state during the next state elections due to be held in the next two years.
Jawah, 55, was the member of parliament for Lubok Antu for five terms. He is an economics graduate from University of Malaya and had worked with a bank in Kuching before being recruited by the now defunct Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) to contest the Lubok Antu parliamentary by-election in 1987. He was then returned unopposed in 1990 and 1995 elections.
Noted for his fiery speeches, Jawah has become something of a symbol or even an icon in Batang Ai for his courage in articulating Iban issues which did not endear him to the top leadership of the state BN.
The Batang Ai constituency which fell vacant following the death of Dublin Unting on Feb 24 is part of the Lubok Antu parliamentary constituency and it has about 8,000 voters. The other state constituency is Engkilili.