Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 12th October 2008: 

Gerakan has not risen above its infantile political subservience to Umno despite all the posturing, “thunder and lightning” of past seven months

The first post-March 8 Gerakan national delegates conference is supposed to send out one message - that Gerakan has finally come of age as a political party as it has heard loud and clear the message of the political tsunami in the March general election seven months ago.

I had looked forward to such a Gerakan “coming of age” as a healthy development of Malaysian politics in the post-tsunami era.

But it is not to be and I am disappointed. It was very clear from yesterday’s opening session of the Gerakan conference that it has not risen above its infantile political subservience to Umno despite all the Gerakan posturing, “thunder and lightning” in the past seven month.

When Gerakan President Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon could call Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi the “Father of Democracy”, it was a most adverse reflection on the former Penang Chief Minister than on the Prime Minister.

How could Koh call Abdullah the “Father of Democracy” when:

(1) the draconian and most undemocratic law, the Internal Security Act (ISA), was arbitrarily and unjustly wielded only last month against DAP MP for Seputeh and Selangor senior exco, Teresa Kok, Sin Chew Daily senior reporter Tan Hoon Cheng and blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin;

(2) three newspapers, Sin Chew Daily, the Sun and Suara Keadilan asked to show cause under another most undemocratic law, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, why action should not be taken against them;

(3) the Hindraf Five continue to be detained in Kamunting Detention Centre under the ISA with the first anniversary of their incarceration fast approaching and the latest abuses of power in the orchestrated campaign of intimidation and demonisation of Hindraf with the police harassment of Hindu members and supporters over their plea for the release of the Hindraf Five at the Prime Minister-cum-Cabinet’s Hari Raya Open House at Putrajaya; and

(4) the undemocratic action and abuse of power in prosecuting RPK under sedition and criminal defamation, when the proper course is for those aggrieved by RPK’s blogs to institute civil defamation proceedings to seek justice.

Koh would have received unanimous approbation if he had said that Abdullah deserve the title of “Father of Democracy” if in his remaining five months as Prime Minister, he could initiate democratization reforms which he had failed to do in the past five years, and in particular:

• Release the Hindraf Five from ISA detention in Kamunting before Deepavali on 27th October, RPK as well as all ISA detainees; and

• Repeal the detention-without-trial ISA law and other undemocratic and draconian laws like the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Sedition Act, the Official Secrets Act and the Police Act.

I wonder what would be the result if Koh’s proposal to name Abdullah “Father of Democracy” is put to a vote by the Gerakan delegates at the conference – whether he could secure even majority support if it is by secret ballot, without any redeeming democratic reforms in the next five months.

Yesterday, Koh declared that Gerakan will remain in Barisan Nasional to help reform the coalition.

This is of course for Gerakan to decide. But what has happened to his earlier revelation that up to 60 percent of party grassroots wanted Gerakan to pull out of BN following the March 8 general election and the subsequent support by 80 per cent of the delegates at the August Perak Gerakan delegates conference for a pull-out of BN?

Were these just “hot air”?

Koh told the press yesterday that discontent peaked among the party grassroots over the “penumpang” controversy of Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Ahmad Ismail and when one of Ahmad’s supporters tore Koh’s picture in front of journalists.

Has Ahmad Ismail apologised for his offensive, insensitive and racist reference of the Chinese in Malaysia as “penumpang” and has there been any public expression of remorse for the public tearing of Koh’s picture?

One can only imagine what would have been the consequences if a Gerakan official had publicly torn the picture of the Umno President and had remained defiant and unrepentant!

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor