By JACK WONG
KUCHING: Sarawak National Party (SNAP) will stay out the April 7 by-election in Batang Ai, its former stronghold.
President Edwin Dundang has confirmed that SNAP was unlikely to field a candidate in order to pave the way for Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) one-to-one fight with the Barisan Nasional.
"Let me be honest with our members and supporters that we (SNAP) have not made any preparations on the ground for the by-election," he added when asked on Thursday.
Dundang said he had discussed the by-election with the PKR leadership.
He said the party's veterans in Lubok Antu were backing PKR, which is expected to announce its candidate on Sunday. Lubok Antu parliamentary constituency comprises of Batang Ai and Engkilili state seats.
Dundang said SNAP had worked well with PKR and DAP as an opposition alliance in the 2006 state polls and last year's parliamentary election.
The by-election was called following the death of four-term assemblyman Datuk Dublin Unting Ingkot.
SNAP, which produced Sarawak's first Chief Minister in the late Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan, won Batang Ai in 1970 and 1974 on an opposition ticket.
Later, the party joined the state coalition government and retained the seat in 1979 and 1983.
However, SNAP-nominated Barisan Nasional candidate Nicholas Bawin lost the seat to Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak's (PBDS) Mikai Mandau by 83 votes in a three-cornered battle in 1987.
PBDS was formed by a breakaway Dayak elite group from SNAP during a leadership crisis in 1983.
Headed by president Datuk Leo Moggie, PBDS was accommodated in the state Barisan Nasional Plus government but the party opted out of the state coalition and became an opposition in 1987.
After victory, Mikai defected to Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) led by Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.But he failed to defend the seat for the Barisan Nasional when he was ousted by PBDS's Ingkot in 1991.
Later, PBDS rejoined the state coalition, and Ingkot managed to keep the seat in the 1996, 2001 and 2006 polls.
The state Barisan has agreed to field newcomer Malcolm Mussen Lamoh in the by-election. Lamoh is likely to face PKR's Bawin or former five-term Lubok Antu MP Jawah Gerang in the contest.