(Penang, Tuesday): Tonight, with a new Penang DAP State leadership announced by the Penang DAP State Chairman, Sdr. Karpal Singh, marks a new milestone for the DAP in Penang.
The gathering tonight is to send out a message that despite the recent party turmoils in Penang, Penang DAP is determined to set out again with a new-found sense of unity and purpose in the political journey for a more just and equal Malaysia.
The DAP is indeed going through our worst crisis in party history in 32 years and it will be a test and challenge as to whether we are going to come out of it stronger or weaker.
I wish here to clarify a few matters which had been raised as a result of the DAP crisis in Penang.
Former Penang DAP State Chairman, Sdr. Teoh Teik Huat and former Penang DAP State Deputy Chairman, Sdr. Gooi Hock Seng, had in their joint statement referred to their contributions to the party’s struggle in Penang.
I confirm that Gooi and Teoh had indeed made great contributions to the DAP in Penang in the past. It is open knowledge that in the 1986, 1990 and 1995 General Elections, they were in full charge and control of Penang DAP whether in party strategy, direction, slogans, policy on the slate of candidature and even the choice of candidates.
Gooi was responsible for coining the election slogan Enough Is Enough, which is a powerful slogan. I had full confidence and trust in them to run Penang DAP although sometimes some of their ideas may not be the best.
One example is the use of Robocop in the 1995 general elections to symbolise the Tanjong 3 campaign, which was used by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and other Barisan Nasional leaders and mass media to belittle and attack me as a robot and a soulless person.
In actual fact, the first time I know about the Robocop slogan was when I saw a front-page photograph of a mammoth Robocop mounted on top of the Tanjong Bungah DAP election headquarters. I was shocked at the use of the Robocop strategy as I felt immediately that it was not proper and could be counter-productive.
I was criticised and ridiculed during the 1995 general elections, and even after it, because of the Robocop image, but I did not say anything because I trusted and had full confidence in them, as well as because of the principle of collective leadership and responsibility although I was never consulted or asked for my views beforehand.
Gooi and Teoh were in full charge of election strategy including the positioning of candidates. It was their election strategy for Tanjong 3 campaign to position strong candidates in difficult seats and weaker candidates in safer seats on the principle of trying to win every winnable seat so as to have a majority to form the Penang State Government.
This was why I agreed to contest in Tanjong Bungah against the Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, why Karpal Singh and Lim Hock Seng came out of their own constituencies to contest in weaker areas. I was at the receiving end of many allegations as a result of such an election strategy, as for instance accusation that I have a special agenda to "kill off the best and brightest" of the Malaysian Chinese political leadership, like Dr. Lim Chong Eu in the 1990 general elections and again to knock out Dr. Koh Tsu Koon in the 1995 general elections. I was accused of wanting to "kill" Lim Hock Seng, who was then Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman, by not allowing him to re-contest in Bagan parliamentary seat and further sending him to a dangerous seat to contest.
I really cannot understand why Gooi and Teoh should be doing what they are doing now.
In a recent statement, Teoh referred to our "two to three decades of friendship to trust us enough to believe our public statement" or that something is very wrong in the party. I agree, and something is clearly very wrong in the party when despite "two to three decades of friendship", such a statement have to be made through the mass media!
On May 30, when we were having several Sympathy, Support and Solidarity with Lim Guan Eng programmes in Penang, Sdr. Cheah Teik Ho came to my house and expressed his concern at what he described as the "rift’ between Gooi and me.
I told Teik Ho that I had no rift with Gooi, as I have no problems with him whatsoever. May be Gooi had a rift with me, but I could not understand the cause of such "rift". I agreed with his suggestion of a dinner with Gooi and Teoh to thrash out any problem and to clear the air, and I asked him to arrange for such a dinner the following Friday on June 5, as I had to leave for Petaling Jaya the very next morning and had a daily programme of activities on the campaign of sympathy, support and solidarity with Lim Guan Eng in various parts of the country.
On 4th June, I phoned up Teik Ho to inquire about the proposed dinner the following night, but Teik Ho said that the proposed dinner was off.
On 9th June, 1998, DAP National Chairman, Dr. Chen Man Hin, National Deputy Chairman, Sdr. Karpal Singh and I met Penang DAP branch leaders to brief them on the Central Executive Committee decision to remove or suspend three party leaders. Dr. Chen suggested that after the party briefing, Gooi, Teoh and I should meet and have a discussion about the party’s problems. I agreed but after the party briefing, Dr. Chen said Gooi and Teoh did not want to have any discussion.
I still cannot understand why Enough Is Enough has suddenly become 32 Is Enough. I have said that it is not a breach of party discipline to join or lead a KOKS (Knock-out Kit Siang and in Penang, also Knock-out Karpal Singh) campaign, as it is the democratic right of anyone inside the Party to support or vote out any party leader.
What is bad for the party however is a surreptitious underground campaign spreading lies and falsehoods against party leaders.
Of course, I feel very hurt by the KOKS campaign slogan of 32 Is Enough, comparing me to Suharto, that I should go the way of Suharto. Suharto accumulated wealth to be listed in the Forbes magazine as the sixth richest man in the world worth US$16 billion. I do not have even 0.001 per cent of Suharto’s wealth. In my 32 years of politics, I have been twice detained under the Internal Security Act, charged and convicted under the Official Secrets Act, apart from other trials and tribulations. At the recent meeting which DAP leaders had with the Inspector-General of Police, I pointedly asked him whether the Police were preparing for a second Operation Lalang of mass detentions under the Internal Security Act, and I remarked that if there is a second Operation Lalang, I would be top on the list and that I was prepared for it.
But my hurt over the KOKS campaign slogan of 32 Is Enough is my own personal matter and does not curtail the right of anyone in the Party to adopt it as a campaign slogan - except that in all fairness, they should own up openly and justify the grounds for such a slogan.
I have nothing against Gooi and Teoh. If they are prepared to see the error of their ways, I am prepared to welcome them back to the mainstream of the leadership any time.
Barisan Nasional leaders are hoping that the DAP will self-destruct as a result of the worst crisis in the DAP history, as the KOKS campaign has spread to many states.
DAP must prove these prophets of doom wrong. Penang DAP can and must show the way, that we will not allow ourselves to be distracted from focussing all available energies to the national movement for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
I had said last month that if there are clear signals from the DAP and the people in Penang, I am prepared once again to help lead the campaign to make Penang the engine-head of the movement for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
I thank Sdr. Karpal Singh and the Penang State Committee for the invitation to help lead the Penang DAP into the new millennium. Let me make it clear that we are not talking about capturing state power in the next general elections. What we want is that the Penang DAP should emerge as a strong, articulate and even powerful opposition in the next general elections to represent the rights and interests of the people of Penang and Malaysia in the very difficult and challenging years ahead.