SANDAKAN, Sabah: The two frontrunners in the Sandakan by-election, contesting under the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), have resorted to banners to discredit each other as the race enters the final stretch.
The DAP candidate contesting in Sandakan, Ms Vivian Wong, is hoping to break Pakatan Harapan’s by-election losing streak, following the coalition’s recent losses in Rantau, Cameron Highlands and Semenyih.
She is up against PBS' Linda Tsen and three other independent candidates in the polls on Saturday (May 11).
The campaigning over the past few days has been marred by the two main parties putting up banners to rebut one another at a small area facing a busy road in Bandar Nasalim, at the heart of town.
Three banners have been put up side by side, two of them by PBS and one by DAP.
According to reports, PBS had initially put up a banner accusing DAP’s secretary general and finance minister Lim Guan Eng of saying he will only address the issue of insufficient parking lots in Sandakan hospital if DAP wins the contest.
The poster, which contained images of Mr Lim and Ms Wong, was taken down by Election Commission officials.
Following this, PBS put up another banner in its place, without the image of the politicians, but bearing the original headline in mandarin: “If we win the election, come and find me … if we lose, then there’s nothing I can do: Lim Guan Eng.”
In response, a smaller banner in red was put up to counter PBS' claims. It said: “Fake news. The media has apologised but PBS continues to spin (the issue)”.
Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily had apologised to Mr Lim for misquoting him on the issue.
The Star quoted Mr Lim as saying that PBS is playing a “game of lies” to win over voters by putting up the banners.
However, on Wednesday afternoon, PBS put up a third banner, challenging DAP to take legal action.
It said: “Rocket (DAP) is lying again. It dared to say it but now it does not want to admit. If you dare, come and sue us.”
In a press statement, PBS’ deputy president Yee Moi Chai said the Election Commission told him that the initial banner was taken down following a directive from the police.
Dr Yee noted that the banner had allegedly violated Section 504 of the Penal Code of intention to insult and create provocation that would lead to public disorder or other offences.
The opposition party's banner has been held by the police for investigation, but Dr Yee was adamant that PBS did not break any rules.
“Despite assurances that investigation on the banner will be done as fast as possible, they (police) have not updated us on the progress of the investigation, and have yet to return our banner,” he said.
PBS CLAIMS POSTERS HAVE BEEN VANDALISED
Additionally, PBS information chief Joniston Bangkuai told media that some posters in Sandakan featuring Ms Tsen were vandalised.
He said the party machinery became aware after seeing some of the posters torn, while others had stickers on the candidate’s face.
The Sandakan by-election was called after the sudden death of former MP and Sabah DAP chairman Stephen Wong Tien Fatt on Mar 28.
His youngest daughter, Vivian, would need to overcome Ms Tsen, to retain the seat for DAP.
Ms Tsen is the former MP for Batu Sapi, Sabah. She lost her seat to Mr Liew Vui Keong, a minister in the prime minister's department, during last May's general election.
Other candidates contesting in Sandakan include former Sabah Parti Amanah Negara chairman Hamzah Abdullah, 65, businessman Chia Siew Yung, 45, and former political worker Sulaiman Abdul Samat, 36.