(Penang, Friday): Both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim should clarify whether they have given Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik and Gerakan permission to turn the Sungai Bakap by-election into a vote of confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister.
Although Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon has denied that the Gerakan is trying to turn the Sungai Bakap by-election into a single-issue by-election over confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister, he has admitted that it is the "key issue" for the Gerakan in the by-election.
The question is why should the Sungai Bakap by-election be turned into a national test of confidence for Mahathir to continue as Prime Minister, which would make the Sungai Bakap by-election not only a national but also international focus of attention!
It is political folly of the first magnitude to make the Sungai Bakap by-election a vote of confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister, unless Gerakan has full confidence not only of winning the Sungai Bakap by-election, but also to improve on the 5,327-vote majority of the Barisan Nasional in the 1995 general elections.
This is because any reduction of the 5,327-vote majority in the Sungai Bakap by-election would be regarded as a setback for Mahathir, allowing international media to write reports about Mahathir losing the national vote of confidence and losing the support and confidence of the people!
I want to ask Keng Yaik and Gerakan whether they are aware that by making a national vote of confidence on Mahathir as Prime Minister the key issue in the Sungai Bakap by-election, they would be causing extreme embarrassment to Mahathir and Malaysia - and this was why I had said that Keng Yaik and Gerakan are not showing their love for Mahathir or patriotism for Malaysia in preparing to mortgage the standing and credibility of Mahathir and Malaysia in this fashion just to get some votes in the by-election!
Gerakan should have no problem in winning the Sungai Bakap constituency as it had always been one of the Gerakan strongholds. However, it is also very certain that Barisan Nasional would not be able to maintain, let alone increase on its majority of 5,327 votes in the Sungai Bakap by-election in the 1995 general elections.
I will like to know whether Keng Yaik and Gerakan agree that there is no way Barisan Nasional could maintain or increase its 5,237 majority in the general elections, even if Mahathir comes to Sungai Bakap to campaign every day!
If Keng Yaik and Gerakan agree that there is no way for the Barisan Nasional to maintain or increase on its general election majority of 5,237, they should explain why they are still prepared to embarrass Mahathir by placing him in a "no-win" situation once the Sungai Bakap by-election is turned into a vote of confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister.
This is why I had challenged Keng Yaik to a public debate three days before the by-election polling on Nov. 8 whether the Gerakan was doing Mahathir and Malaysia a service or a disservice by making the vote of confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister the key issue in the Sungai Bakap by-election.
I reiterate that this series of public debate, which should be in Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin and English, should be held latest by Nov. 5, preferably in the Sungai Bakap constituency but it could be held elsewhere in Penang, even in Komtar.
I do not expect Keng Yaik to accept the challenge to a public debate, for he should know deep inside him that it was not only the height of political folly, a great disservice to Mahathir and a most unpatriotic act to turn the Sungai Bakap by-election into crucial vote of confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister, with the whole world watching - when the 5,327-vote majority of the Barisan Nasional in the 1995 general elections is going to be reduced in the by-election on Nov. 8.
Let Mahathir and Anwar publicly explain whether they have given Keng Yaik and Gerakan permission to make the issue of a national vote of confidence in Mahathir as Prime Minister the key issue in the Sungai Bakap by-election.
If Mahathir and Anwar had not given permission to Keng Yaik and Gerakan to turn the Sungai Bakap by-election into a vote of confidence in Mahathir to continue as Prime Minister, then they should immediately direct the Gerakan to stop such irresponsible politicking, which was prepared to undermine the international standing and credibility of Mahathir and Malaysia just to get a few votes for Gerakan in the by-election.