(Penang, Thursday): Let the Sungai Bakap by-election be the occasion for the voters in Sungai Bakap, on behalf of themselves, the people of Penang as well as Malaysia, to pass a mid-term verdict on the Barisan Nasional government after their landslide victory in the April 1995 general elections, and not a vote of confidence as to whether Mahathir should step down as Prime Minister.
This is the occasion for the all Malaysians, regardless of whether they are Malays, Chinese or Indians, to speak out loud and clear their unhappiness, frustrations and disappointments with Barisan Nasional government and leaders in not appreciating the unprecedented landslide victory which the people had given to the Barisan Nasional in the 1995 general elections - to the extent that the DAP was almost completely wiped out in the Penang State Assembly, except for the lone DAP State Assemblywoman, Sdri. Chong Eng in Batu Lanchang.
I greatly admire, for instance, what the independent candidate for Sungai Bakap, K. Ganesh had said about the reasons for resigning as Rantau Panjang MIC branch chairman and Nibong Tebal MIC division treasurer.
Ganesh said he was contesting because the State Government had not rebuilt the Sungai Jawi Tamil school which was razed two years ago; there was unfair dispensation of Government funds for Hindu temples; and a Gerakan leader had derided the Indian community by claiming Indians could be bought over by providing alcohol and food.
I fully support Ganesh's unhappiness and call on the Gerakan leaders to explain why the Sungai Jawi Tamil school had not been rebuilt although it was razed two years ago and to give a full public disclosure and accounting of the dispensation of government funds not only for the Hindu temples, but for all purposes in the constituency in the past 30 months, covering both development funds for the Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman for the area.
Ganesh's allegation that a Gerakan leader had derided the Indian community by claiming Indians could be bought over by providing alcohol and food is very serious. It is open knowledge that this allegation had been making the rounds in Nibong Tebal for some years and those who know about the allegation know the Gerakan leader being referred to.
As a MIC division treasurer and branch chairman could feel so strongly about such an attitude by a Gerakan leader as to resign from the Barisan Nasional and stand as an independent candidate in the by-election, this matter must be given all the seriousness and gravity it deserves.
The Gerakan leader concerned should step forward and clarify whether he had derided the Indian community by claiming Indian votes could be bought over by providing alcohol and food, and if so, he should publicly apologise to the Indian community, not only in Sungai Bakap, but in Penang and Malaysia and withdraw from all by-election activities.
If the Gerakan leader concerned had not been guilty of such conduct highly insulting to the Indians in the constitutency, he should declare his innocence, challenge Ganesh to prove the allegation and take all other necessary actions to clear his name.
It is also time for the national and state Gerakan leadership to declare their stand on this issue, and they should not try to bury their heads under the sand.
The Sungai Bakap by-election is very significant as it is taking place during Deepavali - the festival of light to celebrate its triumph over darkness and of good over evil.
Let Deepavali give special meaning to the Sungai Bakap by-election in bringing to light and to justice, once and for all, this serious stigma on the Indians in the constituency that their votes could easily be bought with alcohol and food - by establishing the veracity of the allegation and getting to the bottom of the whole matter.
I am giving the Gerakan leaders 48 hours to give a responsible and proper response to the issues raised by Ganesh.