Sarawak United Peoples' Party

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Sarawak United Peoples' Party
Parti Rakyat Bersatu Sarawak
Gerempong Sa'ati Rayat Sarawak
Abbreviation SUPP
President Sim Kui Hian
Secretary-General Sebastian Ting Chiew Yew
Deputy President Richard Riot Jaem
Chairman of Central Youth Section Tan Kai
Chairman of Central Women's Section Jennifer Alice Chee Moinie
Founded 1959
Headquarters 7, Jalan Tan Sri Ong Kee Hui, 93300 Kuching, Sarawak
Newspaper SA 'ATI (United)
Youth wing SUPP Youth Section
Women's wing SUPP Women's Section
Ideology Centrism
National affiliation Alliance (1970–73)
Barisan Nasional (1973–present)
Colours Yellow, red, black
Dewan Negara:
1 / 70
Dewan Rakyat:
1 / 222
Sarawak State Legislative Assembly:
7 / 82
Election symbol
Barisan Nasional Logo.svg
Coat of arms of Malaysia.svg
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The Sarawak United Peoples' Party, or SUPP (Chinese: 砂拉越人民联合党; Malay: Parti Rakyat Bersatu Sarawak; Iban: Gerempong Sa'ati Rayat Sarawak) is a multi-racial political party based in Sarawak. It is a key component member of Barisan Nasional,[1] the current ruling party of Malaysia.

At present, the SUPP president is Dr. Sim Kui Hian. He succeeded the post from his predecessor, Peter Chin Fah Kui in 2014.

Established in 1959, SUPP is the first political party in Sarawak. It has its roots in Left-leaning ideologies, nationalism and championing for the cause of the working class.


Being the first local political party, SUPP's origins are tied to Sarawak's history of 20th century political awakening.

After World War II, the last Rajah of Sarawak, Charles Vyner Brooke ceded Sarawak to Britain in 1946, thus making it an official British Crown Colony – to the dismay of many locals. This eventually gave rise to local anti-cession and anti-imperialist movements which further sparked local political awareness.

The triggering event was Sarawak's new Constitution of 1959 which fell short of expectations for many who hoped to see significant progress to self-governance. The need for an organised political front to champion Sarawakian interests finally led to the formation of SUPP on 4 June 1959, with Ong Kee Hui as its founding president.

With a "Sarawak for Sarawakians" ideology – SUPP's movement gained widespread support, including winning big in the local elections of November 1959, alarming the then ruling British colonial government.

When the proposal for Federation of Malaysia was first mooted in 1961, SUPP came out strongly to oppose the idea. Ong argued for Sarawak's independence before setting up a greater federation.[2][3]

In December 1962, the British colonial government launched a crackdown on all dissenting groups in Sarawak. Many party members were detained, some even deported from Sarawak for alleged communist activities as, at the time, some members had links with Communist-affiliated organisations.[4][5]

Nonetheless, SUPP still did well at the Sarawak elections of June 1963 but it left one-seat-short of a majority to form government, thus it remained as the opposition party.

On 22 July 1963, Sarawak gained independent self-governance from Britain. On 16 September, Sarawak together with the Federation of Malaya, Singapore and North Borneo (Sabah) jointly founded the Federation of Malaysia.

On June of 1965, the government launched “Operation Hammer” to counter prevailing communist threats. Party leaders vehemently protested when about 10,000 Sarawakians men, women and children were forced to resettle under curfew – surrounded by barb-wire fencing – including more than a hundred SUPP members.  

Party leaders initiated daily visits to the resettlement centres to monitor the welfare of the detainees, but later, even this was barred by the government.

In May 1969, due to “13 May” riots in Peninsular Malaysia, an Emergency Proclamation was declared across the country, suspending an ongoing elections in Sarawak.

When the Sarawak elections resumed in 1970, SUPP emerged as the single party with largest number of votes, but no party has control of majority seats to form a government. Considering that this crisis for a functioning government occurred at a time when, on one hand, a state of turmoil post-May 13 was still present, while on the other hand, people were rounded-up and detained without trial – SUPP accepted the invitation to form a coalition government to stabilise the situation.[6]

In exchange, the government agreed to SUPP demand that party secretary-general Stephen Yong be appointed to the State Operations Committee (the security directorate) so that the party can influence counter-insurgency operations to look after the welfare of SUPP detainees including Chinese settlers, in the resettlement centres.[7][8]

In the ensuing years, SUPP generally had wide support at the polls even during the 2008 Malaysian general election where most of its allies suffered.[9]

However, it is no stranger to major setbacks at the polls: In the 1996 Sarawak elections, its then president, the late Wong Soon Kai was defeated and thereafter decided to retire from politics. A similar situation happened in 2011 Sarawak elections when the then party president, George Chan Hong Nam was unseated. It also lost at the Sibu by-election of 2010. In the 13th general elections of 2013, the party won only 1 out of 7 seats contested. Not long after, Wong Soon Koh, who was then the deputy secretary-general, left with his faction and eventually set up a separate splinter-party with a similar-sounding name, called "United People's Party" (UPP).[10]

A positive turnaround was marked in the 2016 Sarawak elections when SUPP, with current party president Sim Kui Hian at the helm, went on to win 7 seats out of 15 contested.

After establishing new leadership line-up and reforms – including amending the party constitution to limit the tenure of the president himself[11][12] – the party placed renewed focus on the pursuit of more Sarawakian autonomous power and rights within Malaysia,[13][14][15] based on the unique contexts of the federation's formation, as originally outlined in the Malaysia Agreement 1963, Inter-Governmental Committee Report, and the Report of the Cobbold Commission.


Dewan Negara (Senate)[edit]


  1. Sim Kui Hian – appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong

Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives)[edit]

Members of Parliament of the 13th Malaysian Parliament[edit]

Dewan Undangan Negeri (State Legislative Assembly)[edit]

Malaysian State Assembly Representatives[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Specifically, "Barisan Nasional Sarawak" (BN Sarawak) consists of only 4 locally-based parties, in that they exist and operate exclusively in Sarawak. The 3 other local parties are Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), and Sarawak People’s Democratic Party (SPDP).
  2. ^ Ooi, Keat Gin (2009). Historical Dictionary of Malaysia. p. 232. 
  3. ^ "SUPP wanted independence first before forming Malaysia". 
  4. ^ Ong Kee Hui and Stephen Yong seemed to be aware, they held that while some members were more radical, they needed a political outlet, and the party could guide them to become a moderate, positive force.
  5. ^ "Communist insurgency in Sarawak". Wikipedia. 
  6. ^ "SUPP accepted Sarawak Alliance to form a coalition government". 
  7. ^ Chan, Francis. & Wong, Phyllis. (September 16, 2011). "Saga of communist insurgency in Sarawak". The Borneo Post. 
  8. ^ Porritt, Vernon. (2004). Rise and Fall of Communism in Sarawak, Chapters 1-4. Monash Asia Institute. pp. 169–175. ISBN 1876924276. 
  9. ^ " S’wak ‘shields’ balance ", The Borneo Post. 30 August 1998.
  10. ^ "Soon Koh, the man who wanted to be SUPP president". Hornbill Unleashed. 
  11. ^ "Amending SUPP constitution". The Star. 17 September 2014. 
  12. ^ "SUPP President Can Serve for Not More Than 3 Terms - Dr Sim". The Borneo Post. 2 March 2016. 
  13. ^ "Re-examine Malaysia Agreement, Dr Sim urges federal govt". The Borneo Post. 
  14. ^ "沈桂贤多次国会反映 权益侵蚀砂人不快乐续为砂人请命". See Hua Daily News. 
  15. ^ "Is a Fair Share Too Much to Ask For as 1 of the 4 (not 1 of 14) Partners of Malaysia Agreement?". Facebook. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Chin, James. (2011). Forced to the Periphery: Recent Chinese Politics in East Malaysia. Singapore: ISEAS.
  • Chin, Ung Ho. (1997). Chinese Politics in Sarawak: a Study of the Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP) New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 983-56-0039-2.
  • Ong, Kee Hui. (1998). Footprints in Sarawak: Memoirs of Tan Sri Datuk (Dr) Ong Kee Hui, 1914 to 1963. Kuching: Research and Resource Centre, SUPP. [[Special:BookSources/983-99257-1-7|ISBN 983-99257-1-7]] (hardcover) 983-99257-2-5 (paperback).
  • Steinmayer, Otto. (2000). Review of Yong K.T.: "A Life Twice Lived: A Memoir" and Ong Kee Hui: "Footprints on Sarawak: Memoirs of Tan Sri Datuk (Dr) Ong Kee Hui, 1914 to 1963". Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. LXXII (Pt.1), 126-129.
  • Yong, Stephen K.T. (1997). A Life Twice Lived: A Memoir. Kuching: S. Yong. ISBN 983-99457-0-X.

External links[edit]