Mahathir’s “ultimatum” to Liong Sik has catapulted the intense Barisan Nasional inter and intra power play over the Penang MCA duo to “white heat” temperature and confirmed the DAP analysis it has nothing to do with PORR, party discipline or the welfare of the people
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has as good as given the MCA President Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik the “ultimatum” that the MCA abide by the Barisan Nasional stand to discipline and expel the two Penang MCA State Assembly members Tan Cheng Liang (Jawi) and Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Keramat) for abstaining in the motion by the DAP Assemblyman for Batu Lanchang, Law Heng Kiang in the recent Penang State Assembly to defer the RM1.02 billion Penang Outer Ring Road (PORR) project, or be out of the Barisan Nasional.
Responding to Ling’s statement that the Barisan Nasional should not get involved in the MCA’s decision on the disciplinary action against the Penang MCA duo, Mahathir conceded that while Ling was right that BN deals with the parties and not individuals and that disciplinary matters pertaining to individual members of a party should only be dealt with by the party concerned and not by the BN, Mahathir nonetheless said that it is the BN which has the power to decide which party becomes a member of the coalition and that if a party is not able to abide by the BN’s stand, that means the party is not fully in support of the BN’s system of consensus.
The implications of the veiled threat in Mahathir’s ultimatum cannot be clearer, although its logic is most faulty in more places than one – but in a final power showdown, being logical is the least of all concerns.
What is significant and ominous for Ling is that in one fell swoop, Mahathir has virtually legitimized the series of most unprecedented and improper developments in the Barisan Nasional, viz:
The decision of the UMNO Supreme Council on November 29 that the Penang MCA duo should be sacked for breach of Barisan Nasional discipline even before the MCA leadership had met on the issue - which was as good as public arm-twisting if not putting the pistol to the head of the MCA leadership to expel the two.
The insistence by the Barisan Nasional secretary-general Tan Sri Mohamad Rahmat that the Barisan Nasional has the power to act against the errant Penang MCA duo, in support of what the Gerakan secretary-general Chia Kwang Chye accused as a “political manoeuvre amounting to a delay tactic” by the MCA Presidential Council in referring the issue to the MCA Disciplinary Committee. (New Straits Times 7.12.2002)
The statement by Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the second day of Hari Raya Open House expressing the hope that the MCA Disciplinary Committee will fulfil the Barisan Nasional's aspiration when deciding on the case of the Penang MCA duo, hinting ominously that the Barisan Nasional could override the MCA leadership if the decision against the Penang MCA duo is “inappropriate”.
Mahathir’s ultimatum climaxed the 48-hour political skirmishes in the Barisan Nasional, starting with the demand by the MCA disciplinary committee for clarification from the Penang Chief Minister; Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon; Koh’s protest that the MCA was “kicking the ball” to him and putting him on trial; the strong reactions to Ling’s statement with Mohamad Rahmat demanding to know whether Ling was challenging the BN to act against MCA itself and the UMNO Youth outburst that Ling had “insulted” the BN component parties.
What is unusual about Mahathir’s ultimatum to Ling is that although for the first time in BN’s 28-year history, it opens up the possibility of MCA being expelled from the coalition, not all MCA leaders are dismayed – in fact, MCA Team B leaders are positively elated by the turn of events although they do not see themselves inheriting a MCA which is outside the BN!
Mahathir’s “ultimatum” to Liong Sik has catapulted the intense power tussle inter and intra Barisan Nasional component parties in Penang State and the nation, purportedly over the Penang MCA duo, to “white heat” temperature and confirmed the DAP analysis that it has nothing to do with PORR, party discipline or the welfare of the people
The people of Penang should know why PORR and the welfare of the people do not feature at all in the ballooning Barisan Nasional crisis culminating in Mahathir’s ultimatum to Ling to the delight of the MCA Team B leaders, and this will be one of the important issues the DAP will explain at the DAP public political dialogue to be held at Chew Association, Kimberley Street, Penang tomorrow night.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman