(Penang, Wednesday): The Penang state leadership will give its final recommendations on the Sungai Bakap state by-election in the next two days and a decision on whether the DAP would contest the by-election could be announced by the weekend.
When I said at the Penang DAP state convention early this month that a victory for the DAP in the Sungai Bakap by-election on November 8 would be akin to a political earthquake of Richter 7 scale, even more shattering than the Richter-6 DAP victory in the Teluk Intan parliamentary by-election in May, my intention was not to say that the DAP could win but to show how difficult and even impossible it is for the DAP to win in Sungai Bakap. This is because Sungai Bakap had always been a Gerakan stronghold.
There are both arguments and reasons for the DAP staying out or taking part in the Sungai Bakap by-election.
One reason for the DAP staying out of the Sungai Bakap is that the DAP still needs time to heal from the traumatic debacle in Penang during the 1995 general elections, where the DAPís Tanjong 3 plan to capture state power was not only defeated, but the DAP was virtually wiped out in the Penang state assembly elections - with Sdri Chong Eng surviving as the lone State Assemblywoman in the Penang State Assembly.
It is understandable why the DAP fielded a candidate in Sungai Bakap in the 1995 state general elections as part of the overall DAP Tanjong 3 strategy to capture Penang state power, but such larger considerations do not apply in the forthcoming Sungai Bakap by-election. So, why waste time, energy and resources as there is no chance whatsoever for the DAP to win in the Sungai Bakap by-election.
Reasons for the DAP contesting in Sungai Bakap is that politics is not just about winning or losing in elections, but a long-term commitment to rally the people to the DAPís political cause for a more just, equal and prosperous society with an efficient, honest and corruption-free government.
The DAP should not contest in a constituency or a by-election just for the sake of contesting, but the DAP should not be afraid to lose either, just as when the DAP contested in the Teluk Intan by-election in May, the DAP was prepared to lose as it was regarded as a parliamentary seat where the Gerakan could not lose and the DAP could not win.
There is strong public sentiment that the DAP should contest in the Sungai Bakap by-election, as things have not gone right whether in Penang or in the country despite the unprecedented landslide victory of the Barisan Nasional in the 1995 general elections.
Thirty months after the 1995 general elections, the country is in the throes of a prolonged triple crisis, the twin currency and stock market crisis and the national haze disaster, which has been described as a global environmental catastrophe, with grave long-term health consequences for the people, particularly the children in ten or twenty yearsí time.
The 1998 Budget has failed to restore confidence in the Malaysian economy. Although the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in his budget speech last Friday forecast "speedy recovery from the economic complications that we are currently experiencing" and the restoration of the value of the ringgit to around its previous levels, both the KLSE Composite Index had fallen by over 40 points from Friday to yesterday, while the ringgit has gone on a continuous slide since the budget, from 3.17 to the US dollar on Thursday, to 3.27 on budget day last Friday and 3.35 yesterday.
There is already a general round of price increases adding to the burden of the people. Parents who have children studying overseas have now to find another RM5,000 to RM6,000 ringgit to meet the costs of their childrenís education overseas because of the free-fall of the Malaysian ringgit by some 25 per cent since July, when the value of the ringgit was 2.5 to a US dollar.
The question is whether the Sungai Bakap by-election could provide an invaluable vehicle for the government to hear the peopleís unhappiness and discontents about the many things that have gone very seriously wrong 30 months after the landslide Barisan Nasional victory in the April 1995 general elections.
In any event, the DAP CEC will await the recommendations of the Penang state leadership in the next two days on the Sungai Bakap by-election, before the party takes a final decision.