Mahathir, Ong Ka Ting and Hadi the three greatest casualties of the 2004 general election

at the DAP 2004 General Election Post-Election Conference of DAP MPs, State Assemblymen and candidates
by Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala LumpurSunday): The three greatest casualties of the 2004 general election are none other than the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the MCA President Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting and the PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang.

The unprecedented nine-tenth parliamentary majority victory of the Barisan Nasional was a clear repudiation of the 22-year legacy of the Mahathir administration and a vote for the promise by the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for meaningful and far-reaching changes in his pledge of a clean, incorruptible, efficient, people-oriented, trustworthy administration,  prepared to hear the truth from the people and which  regards the people and not itself  as the “boss”!

It was also a “black eye” for the MCA President, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, who lost the MCA political supremacy in the Kinta Valley, losing the three parliamentary seats of Ipoh Timor, Ipoh Barat and Batu Gajah, and six of the seven Perak State Assembly seats won by the DAP. Worst of all, Ka Ting’s elder brother, Ong Ka Chuan, was delivered an  ignominous defeat by DAP’s “cili padi”, Fong Po Kuan who won with a crushing  7927-vote majority.

Ka  Ting and Ka Chuan thought that it was “easy meat” for the MCA National Organising Secretary, Perak MCA State Chairman and four-term Perak State Exco to bully the one-term  DAP “cili padi”, claiming that he could win with at least 5,000-vote majority at the beginning of the electoral battle, which kept dwindling to 3,000, 2,500 and 1,500 in the short seven-day campaign – but nobody, including Ka Chuan and his MCA Prersident brother, believed that Ka Chuan could lose and lose so decisively when the ballot boxes were opened and the votes counted!

Making up the trio is Hadi Awang, who must bear the greatest responsibility for the worst electoral defeat ever suffered by PAS in its party history, losing the Terengganu state government; nearly surrendering the PAS Kelantan state power after a three-term 14-year rule  although the verdict is not yet out as the PAS Kelantan state government could  fall any time with the defection of two Assemblymen destroying  its wafer-thin three-seat majority; and the decimation of its parliamentary representation from 27 MPs to 7 MPs.

Although PAS suffered an electoral debacle in terms of parliamentary and state assembly seats, it must be noted that it was able to retain  some 15% of  the total votes cast as in 1999 – i.e. a total of 1,051,480 parliamentary votes in 2004 or 15.2 per cent of the total votes cast as compared to 997,816 or 15% in 1999.

The DAP did not win big nationally  in the 2004 general election as we  only won  two additional parliamentary seats from 10 in 1999 to 12. However, in the context of a general devastation of  the other Opposition parties, as  Parti Keadilan Rakyat Malaysia only managed  to retain  one of its previous five parliamentary seats, DAP’s ability not only to hold our ground but to add two parliamentary seats is most significant.

In the 2004 general election, the silver linings for the DAP’s electoral performance are:

  • The success of the Kinta Valley DAP mission to make Perak the second front-line state together with Penang, for justice, freedom, democracy, good governance and a secular democratic Malaysia with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State.  As the Kinta Valley DAP mission was decided and announced only two days before Nomination Day on March 13, 2004, with the target of winning three Parliamentary seats of Ipoh Timor, Ipoh Barat and Batu Gajah and their  nine state assembly seats, a score of three parliamentary and four  state assembly seats in the Kinta Valley  (it would have been six if not for Parti Keadilan Rakyat Malaysia’s spoiler role in denying a DAP victory in Bercham and Simpang Pulai state assembly seats although the Keadilan candidates lost their deposits), was quite creditable.  If the 2004 general election campaign had been more fair and clean, as allowing another three to five days for campaigning instead of the shortest and most undemocratic election campaign of 7 ½ days, Perak DAP would have won  four to five parliamentary seats and some  13 state assembly seats.
  • An DAP breakthrough in Negri Sembilan after eight years of political wilderness for the DAP,  ending  the “zero-DAP representation” in the State Assembly with the election of two DAP State Assemblymen, Anthony Loke Siew Fook (Lobak) and  Lim Fui Ming (Bahau). Again, if the 2004 general election campaign period had been more fair and there had been another three to five days campaigning, Chan Su Sann  would today be the MP for Rasah,  P. Gunasekaran State Assemblyman for Bukit Kepayang  and Yap Yew Weng State Assemblyman for Temiang.
  • The victory of Chong Chieng Jen as DAP MP for Bandar Kuching, heralding the return to Parliament of an elected Opposition  Member of Parliament for Sarawak to bring the voice of Sarawakians back to  the chambers of Parliament after a silence five years (or a period of nine years for the people of Kuching, as for that  period they they  had an MP who was more noted for his absence than presence in Parliament).

The DAP however  also suffered grave setbacks in the recent general election, in particular, one of the biggest blows in the 38-year DAP history - the  loss of the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat, which had been held unbroken by the DAP for 35 years since 1969. 

The result of the DAP’s defeat in Kota Melaka was met with incredulous belief, whether inside or outside the party, in Malacca or the country, by friends or foes alike – as there was no indication beforehand that the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat had become an indefensible seat and could be lost.

The moving out of the Malacca DAP State Chairman, Sdr. Sim Tong Hin from Kota Melaka from his  Bandar Hilir state seat to contest in Ayer Keroh outside the constituency, and the highly-publicised consideration by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Kerk Kim Hock to contest in Lukut state assembly seat in Negri Sembilan just before nomination day reinforced general party and public perception that the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat was very safe and could not be lost, and the worst  that could happen was a reduced majority from the 1999 majority of 9,389 votes.

Sim told me in Muar at the Bentayan and Bakri DAP election thanksgiving dinner in Muar on Friday night that it never occurred to him that the DAP could lose the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat.

This is  why  DAP leaders, members and supporters in Malacca and the country are  devastated by Kerk’s defeat in Kota Melaka – and the party has still to recover from the shock loss to find out the real causes for the defeat and why the party had allowed the Barisan Nasional to mount a fierce,  sustained and high-profile  political onslaught  for the past two to  three years to capture the 35-year DAP fortress without any inkling on our part  that the parliamentary seat was in danger, requiring an all-out defence not only by state but also by national leaders.

I have called for the fullest, thorough-going and most professional  investigation into the causes for the shock loss of the 35-year DAP fortress, the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat, not for any finger-pointing or blame-fixing exercise, but for the party to learn a very expensive political lesson to prevent any such recurrence in future.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor