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FIGHTING FOR THE PEOPLE: Kapit MP is happy just to serve his constituents
AS the general election nears, it is hard not to be cynical about the manoeuvrings and posturings as politicians of all stripes go into pre-election mode.
The jockeying appears particularly intense and confusing this time in Sarawak as governing parties fight opposition ones, and parties within each coalition fight each other, somewhat more obliquely and often by proxy.
It seems to be each to his own. Such is the treacherous waters of politics played locally, with shifting alliances the order of the day.
Amid all the hurly burly, three-term Kapit member of parliament Datuk Alexander Nanta Linggi stands almost serenely above the fray.
Perhaps it has something to do with the responsibilities of being the grandson of a national founding father, the late Tun Temenggong Jugah, carrying on the family's political traditions, or the upbringing by his father, Tan Sri Leonard Linggi Jugah, himself a one-time state minister and secretary-general of Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu. This ruling party was a merger between Panas, Barjasa and Pesaka, forged by the late family patriarch.
Belonging to the first family of Iban politics, however, carries privileges and responsibilities. It affords Nanta the rare luxury of not having to join in the scramble for positions or economic spoils that go with the angling for power and influence, which is the staple of Sarawak politics.
Nanta exhibits an almost child-like contentment with the opportunity just to serve the people. Serving as MP for Kapit is certainly no walk in the park. It surely ranks as one of the least accessible towns in the country from Kuala Lumpur.
With a growing family in Kuching, Nanta spends most of each week in Kuala Lumpur when Parliament is in session, weekends in Kapit and manages only a meal a week with the family, on Sunday evening, before he leaves on the first flight out for parliamentary sittings each Monday.
To get to Kapit, Nanta needs to take the half-hour flight from Kuching to Sibu, a three-hour express-boat trip from Sibu to Kapit and several more hours by speed-boat or vehicle to reach the remotest longhouses in his constituency.
It's the mundane routine of drink-and-dance sessions, speeches, chit-chats and problem-solving, usually till the wee hours, in each longhouse visit.
He has unsurprisingly developed something of a passion fighting to connect Kapit by road to the rest of Sarawak.
The road is slowly but surely coming into fruition and, with it, the certainty of opening up the lands of his constituents for development.
Nanta is at his most passionate in arguing for his people's right to benefit from their lands' bounties.
That the people in remote Sarawak have not appreciably enjoyed the fruits of the state's wealth is a sore point for Nanta and the people he represents. He caused a stir recently in Parliament when he attributed such a sorry state of affairs to a lack of political will on the part of the state.
He finds his parliamentary work in Kuala Lumpur rewarding as he can see how the fruits of his labours, particularly his push to bring development to his constituency, benefit his people.
His lack of an official post was also a personal choice. He declined offers to head Kuala Lumpur-based government bodies, fearing it would only take more time away from his constitutents. He agreed to chair the Malaysian Pepper Board only because it is based in Kuching.
Nanta's family has a delicate and chequered relationship with the state leadership ever since his father was faulted for throwing the Pesaka wing's support behind Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg's successful bid in 1989 for the party deputy presidency against Tan Sri Adenan Satem, regarded then as the favoured candidate of Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
The party has since opted for leadership succession rules by a caucus of its elected representatives to avoid a recurrence of the 1989 leadership contest.
Nanta, in recent discussions with this writer, was at pains to detail how he had defended his party leader against attacks in Parliament.
The family's party loyalties, he noted, had been tested through the years and not found wanting, and he wished the coolness towards his father and others, including his father-in-law, Datuk Seri Celestine Ujang, another former state minister, would end.