2nd December 1999

Dr. Chen Man Hin,
National Chairman,
Democratic Action Party.

Dear Sdr. Dr. Chen,

If the tenth general election had been free, fair and clean and not the dirtiest in the nationís history, the DAP would have the strongest parliamentary team in the 33-year party history of from 30 to 35 MPs, and together with PAS, KeADILan and PRM, the Barisan Alternative would have a total of at least 70 to 75 MPs, breaking the Barisan Nasionalís political hegemony by ending its two-thirds parliamentary majority.

The end of the Barisan Nasional political hegemony by the Barisan Alternative  would have resulted in a paradigm shift in Malaysian politics in the new millennium, ushering in a new Malaysian politics less dominated by race and religion but by issues of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance as the Barisan Nasional would have to respond to the political  challenges of a multi-ethnic and  multi-religious opposition front rather than to that of any single ethnic-based or religion-based political party.

However, by conducting the dirtiest general election in the nationís history, starting with the disenfranchisement of 680,000 new voters, the Barisan Nasional had robbed Malaysians of this historic opportunity for a political and nation-building breakthrough.

Instead, we have now the new bi-polar Parliament where both poles of power are Muslim-based, with on the one side an opposition dominated by  PAS, whose ideology is Islamic,  and on the other, a ruling Barisan Nasional dominated by UMNO, whose ideology is racial.

Despite the statement by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi that UMNO will not embrace "Islamic radicalism" to recapture parts of the Malay heartland it lost to PAS in Mondayís general election, UMNO will find it very difficult to  desist from increasing Islamisation policies in its competition for influence among Muslims who dominate 75% of the parliamentary constituencies in the country.

Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad claimed after Mondayís general election results that the Barisan Nasional had won more seats in Parliament than it did in 1995 general election, this was not true.

In 1995, Barisan Nasional won 161 Parliamentary seats but on Mondayís general election the Barisan Nasional only won 148 Parliamentary seats - a reduction of 13 seats.

Barisan Nasionalís defeat on Monday is basically UMNOís defeat, as UMNO lost 16 Parliamentary seats as compared to 1995 when it won  88 Parliamentary seats.  On Mondayís election, UMNO won only 72 Parliamentary seats.

For the first time in UMNOís history, Barisan Nasional had to depend on the other Barisan Nasional component parties to bring in the Parliamentary seats, as shown by the following comparative figures:

Parliamentary seats

                    1995      1999

UMNO                  88        72
MCA                   30        28
Gerakan                7         7
MIC                    7         7
PBB                   10        10
PBDS                   5         6
SNAP                   3         4
SUPP                   7         7
SAPP                   2         2
LDP                    1         1
UPKO                             3
direct candidate       1         1

Barisan Nasional     161       148

UMNO was totally wiped out in Trengganu (8 parliamentary seats), retained only one out of 14 seats in Kelantan and in Kedah, PAS won more parliamentary seats than UMNO - 8 PAS and 7 UMNO.

UMNOís defeat at the state assembly level is even more devastating, losing a staggering number of 55 seats as compared to 1995. UMNO won 231 state assembly seats in the Peninsular Malaysia states but could only win 176 on Mondayís election.  A breakdown of the state seats won by the Barisan Nasional parties in the last two elections is as follows:

State Assemby seats (Peninsular Malaysia)

                        1995    1999

UMNO                     231     176
MCA                       71      68
Gerakan                   22      22
MIC                       15      15

Barisan Nasional         339     281

A closer study of the election results show that UMNO nearly lost Perlis and Kedah state governments.   In Perlis, where PAS won three out of the 15 seats, PAS would have formed the Perlis state government if it had won another five seats, which it lost with narrow majorities ranging from 248 to 819 votes.  In Kedah, where PAS won 12 out of 36 seats, it would have formed the Kedah state government if it had won another seven seats, which it lost with narrow majorities ranging from 261 to 2,922 votes.  Even in Pahang, where the Barisan Alternative won eight seats out of 38, the Barisan Nasional could have even lost the state government, as BN won 11 seats with less than 1,000-vote majority (with six seats having razor-thin majorities ranging from 86 to 321 votes) and another  six seats with majorities ranging between 1,038 to 1,305 votes.

UMNO Ministers fell like nine-pins and even those who  survived scraped through with wafer-thin majorities, like the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak whose majority was 241 votes.

The danger of the  historic electoral setback for UMNO in the 1999 general election and the emergence of PAS as the dominant Opposition in Parliament with 27 seats and a very marginalised DAP with ten seats  is that  Parliament in the next five years will principally become the battleground between UMNO and PAS for the hearts and minds of the Malays in the Malay heartland, resulting in a spiral of Islamisation policies - threatening a democratic secular Malaysia and  sidelining all other great issues of the Malaysian people.

There are four circumstances where such a spiral of competitive Islamisation policies between UMNO and PAS to take the centre stage of Malaysian politics  in the next five years could be avoided:

As these four circumstances do not seem likely to exist, Malaysia is set on a very uncertain and perilous future.

In the tenth general election, DAP suffererd a catastrophic defeat with our traditional non-Malay and Chinese support abandoning the party, explaining for the defeat of the three top DAP leaders, namely Karpal, yourself and myself as well as  our defeats in the two Ipoh parliamentary seats.  Even in the Federal Territory, where we managed to retain our four parliamentary seats, the swing of the Chinese voters against the DAP was  very strong.

Although the DAP suffered a catastrophic defeat, DAPís decision to join forces with PAS, KeADILan and PRM to form the Barisan Alternative to break the Barisan Nasional political hegemony and two-thirds majority was a politically correct one.

If DAP had stood alone, we could have won 20-25 Parliamentary seats without fear of a backlash of associating with PAS in the Barisan Alternative, but DAP did not come into being just to win 20 to 25 Parliamentary seats but to realise our vision of a new Malaysia with justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

The temptation to blame the Barisan Alternative or even PAS for the DAPís catastrophic defeat must be resisted.  DAPís electoral defeat is not because of the Barisan Alternativeís Common Manifesto "For A Just Malaysia" but because of the success of the Barisan Nasional campaign of fear and falsehoods, confusing, misleading and scaring traditional DAP  voters into believing that a vote for DAP is a vote for PAS and an Islamic State.

Our immediate task is to remind our traditional voters and supporters that the final objective of DAP is that Malaysia shall forever remain a democratic secular nation.

The Barisan Alternative Common Manifesto offers a new vision of a Malaysia of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance and we must seek to get all parties who have subscribed to it to keep faith with the policies and programmes set out in the common manifesto.

I accept full responsibility for the partyís catastrophic defeat in the 1999 general election. I am tendering my resignation as Secretary-General as I cannot continue in this office as a result of Mondayís election result.  Personal ups and downs are not important, but the DAPís political cause for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance must go on.

Although I will no more be Secretary-General, rest assured that I will continue to serve the party and our cause for a new Malaysia in the new millennium.

Yours fraternally,

Lim Kit Siang