DAP calls on BN to respect the right of the Penang MCA duo to abstain in the DAP   motion on PORR in the Penang State Assembly and to accept  a mature, consensual and community-oriented Malaysian democracy which is one of the nine strategic challenges of Vision 2020

Speech (2)
DAP Political Dialogue
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Friday): One constant in the many  twists and turns in the three-week  escalating  Barisan Nasional showdown  over the abstention by the two Penang MCA State Assembly members Tan Cheng Liang (Jawi) and Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Keramat)  in the motion by the DAP Assemblyman for Batu Lanchang, Law Heng Kiang in the recent Penang State Assembly  to defer the RM1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project is that right from the outset, the intense inter and intra Barisan Nasional  power struggle had nothing to do with the interests  of the people, party discipline  or even the PORR issue! 

Right from the beginning, it was clear that at issue  was not a simple and straightforward case  of party discipline when no less a person than the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi himself was the first to go public, declaring that the Penang MCA duo faced disciplinary action including possible  expulsion  when one would have expected  the Gerakan and in particular the Gerakan Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon to  spearhead the campaign for their disciplinary action for Koh’s  humiliation in being unable to muster even two-thirds of Barisan Nasional Assembly members to oppose the DAP motion.


The  complex motives and factors for the Byzantine  inter and intra Barisan Nasional power struggle revolving around the Penang MCA duo include the following:


For UMNO, at least three factors, viz:


  • The need to establish UMNO political hegemony in Penang, especially that  projects and contracts related to UMNO or individuals in UMNO  cannot be challenged or questioned in any manner by the other Barisan Nasional component parties. What makes the PORR project so bizarre and deplorable is that the major beneficiary is an UMNO division leader in the Chief Minister’s own constituency, but there is nothing he could do although  the PORR would only  burden the people of Penang  with 30 years of escalating toll without providing   a medium-term let alone a long-term solution to the traffic congestion nightmare on the Penang Island. 

  • The need for Abdullah to establish unquestioned discipline in UMNO and Barisan Nasional ahead of his succession as Prime Minister, UMNO President and Barisan Nasional Chairman next October with all the rife talk that his authority in UMNO is far from assured and unchallenged when he  takes over the baton of power from Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. 

  • Opportunity by powerful elements in Barisan Nasional and UMNO to humiliate and to  ease Liong Sik out as MCA President, regarded as a liability to Barisan Nasional in the next general election.

 For Gerakan, at least two factors, viz:


  • The abstention of the Penang MCA duo is regarded, and not without reason,  as a direct MCA  challenge and long-standing bid for the post of  Penang Chief Minister.  

  • Full support and exploitation of UMNO decision  to teach MCA a lesson over the MCA duo.


For MCA, at least three factors complicated by the MCA Team A – Team B internal power struggle:


  • To humiliate Tsu Koon to highlight that he is a Chief Minister without real power; 

  • For MCA Team A to score points against Team B by giving the impression that Team A elected representatives  are prepared to take a stand in the interests of the people. 

  • Sabotage by MCA Team B who fully support  the bullying and high-pressured  UMNO tactics of UMNO on the MCA and MCA President over the Penang MCA duo.


In retrospect, the greatest mistake committed by Liong Sik and the MCA leadership was that in allowing  the power play with the Gerakan Chief Minister with the abstention of the Penang MCA duo, they did not realize until too late that they were in fact trampling on UMNO toes, to the delight of Team B leaders who have no compunction in fanning the flames.


In none of these complex motives and factors causing the inter and intra Barisan Nasional power tussle does  the interests of the people of Penang in wanting a cancellation or at least a full review of PORR  rate any significant place.


With the ultimatum by Mahathir that MCA abide by the Barisan Nasional stand to discipline and expel  the two Penang MCA duo (although the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council had never taken such a stand and the unilateral decision made by the UMNO Supreme Council for the expulsion of the MCA duo, not unlike Howard’s strike first doctrine,  was most improper, undemocratic and high-handed), the end-game over the Penang MCA duo storm has come.


Liong Sik’s days as a leader of the Barisan Nasional component party are numbered. He was more Ah Q than Ah Q, and qualifies to be President of an International Super Ah Q Association, when he stood out in lonely  splendour in claiming that Mahathir had not given any “direct warning” to MCA but a mere reminder which he wholeheartedly agreed about the power of the Barisan Nasional to decide which parties could be in the coalition.


Liong Sik could buy a bit of time for himself by submitting to the political blackmail of UMNO by sacrificing the Penang duo and take disciplinary action against them  or try to extricate himself from the present quandary by getting the Penang duo to voluntarily resign from the MCA ahead of the decision of the MCA  Presidential Council on Monday.


But these are dishonourable ways of exit which could not be delayed for too long in any event as Liong Sik should be able to see the writing on the wall.


Ling should consider doing the most honourable deed as MCA President by going out with a bang if necessary, by defending the right of the Penang MCA duo to abstain in the DAP motion on PORR and to take a stand for a more tolerant and mature democratic culture where  elected representatives, though bound by party policies,  have liberty  to vote according to their conscience and sense of justice as to whether a particular development project is  beneficial  or detrimental to the rights and interests of  the people.


Eleven years ago, the Prime Minister enunciated Vision 2020 for Malaysia to become a  fully developed nation by the year 2020 through overcoming nine strategic challenges.  The third of  these nine strategic challenges is to develop “a mature democratic society practising a form of mature consensual community-oriented Malaysian democracy that can be a model for many developing countries”.


This third strategic challenge to develop “a mature, consensual and community-oriented Malaysian democracy” will be utterly  meaningless if close to the mid-point of the 30-year Vision 2020, elected representatives cannot freely vote according to their conscience and sense of justice as to whether a particular project is good or bad for the people!


DAP therefore calls on the  Barisan Nasional and all its component parties  to respect the right of the Penang MCA duo to abstain in the DAP   motion on PORR in the Penang State Assembly and to accept  a mature, consensual and community-oriented Malaysian democracy as  one of the nine strategic challenges of Vision 2020.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman