NOT many people thought that incumbent, caretaker federal Human Resource Minister Richard Riot Jaem (Riot), will even be considered as a parliamentary candidate for Sarawak’s Serian – a district about 40km away from the state capital, Kuching.
Popular for its durian, Serian, welcomes the visitor with a larger-than-life figurine of the fruit, which AR Wallace once said “tastes and smells so divine, that even the deer and tiger will scramble for it.”
There are other larger-than-life features too in Serian, such as the ones depicting a buffalo and a tiger. But they seem to be odd, quite out of place because there are no tigers and buffalos in Serian.
However, if the town council feels the need for another larger-than-life figurine – the most appropriate one would be that of Richard Riot.
Serian is Bidayuh country and Riot is a well-loved and well respected Bidayuh elder.
“Even little children recognise him and call him ‘babuk’ or ‘good grandpa’, and ‘babuk, he is, to everyone,” says political analyst, Peter Minos.
Speaking to People’s Voice, Peter said Riot is an institution in himself as far as the Bidayuhs are concerned.
Very much Serian
“He is very much ‘Serian’ and all the more, a true blue Sarawakian.
“For this reason alone, Riot’s victory is being taken for granted by the Serian Bidayuhs from the first day his candidacy was announced,” says Minos.
Riot is standing as a BN-SUPP candidate. He is also the party’s deputy president, an MP since 1990 and also served as the chairperson for the Sarawak Rivers Board.
“It must also be noted that in the 2013 general election, no BN-SUPP candidate won any seats except Riot.
“And when the party was called to recommend its MP for a federal minister’s post, it obviously had to be Riot,” says Minos.
Call it chance, but in politics a little bit of help from Lady Luck and being the right person at the right time in a given “scene-scape” can make a big difference, according to Minos.
Another plus point for Riot in GE14 is the fact that the three state assembly members under Serian are the constituencies of Tebedu, Kedup and Bukit Semuja – who are all BN-PBB friendly.
“PBB is backing Riot to the hilt. And when the PBB boss says ‘jump into the lake’, you just jump without asking questions.
“The assemblypersons of Tebedu, Kedup and Bukit Semuja will therefore be mobilising their voters to lend Riot their full support,” says Minos.
Serian will be engaging in a three-cornered fight in tomorrow’s polling at the ballot.
Riot will be pitting his adorable “babuk-ness” against independent Willaim Rade and DAP’s Edward Andrew Luwak.
According to Minos, these are small minions compared to the overwhelming personage of Riot who is just not anybody but essentially a “Serian-body”.
His opponents are inconsequential, no way they can match Riot’s enduring political stance, says Minos.
“Maybe they will even lose their deposits or come close to losing it,” Peter predicts.
Peter says, Riot has good bonding with the youths as well. So, the “millennials’ will add on to his vote bank.
He says: “I salute Riot. He is a Bidayuh and just a few of them in a Chinese-based political party. But he is deputy president and a full federal minister in Supp. He is determined and he is the face of grit himself.”
However, Minos side-stepped factoring in one glaring element in the equation.
What about Riot’s brush with the MACC on Sept 29 last year – where the parliamentarian spent hours being interrogated?
Riot gave the officers his statement in the probe into misappropriation of funds of the Skills Development Fund Corp (SDFC) amounting to RM40 million.
In the probe, Riot’s political secretary was detained for six days and a total of five other people were also detained.
Riot was not implicated but only called to give his side of the story as part of the investigation process.
But still, it could be an unfortunate red flag in Riot’s political office which his opponents may want to resurrect and feed as fodder to the voters in Serian.
On the other hand, perhaps, Riot’s altruistic “babuk-ness” may help to distil that “murky filtrate” and take him past the post for another mandate in tomorrow’s polling.