Tan and Lim victims of four political factors ranging from internal UMNO politics, Gerakan-MCA rivalry, MCA leadership cowardice and blatant refusal to put people’s interest above BN interest

Media Statement
Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Friday):  The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has given the MCA the Hobson’s choice of taking disciplinary action or the Barisan Nasional  will take disciplinary  action against the two MCA  Penang 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 until the RM400 million Jelutong Expressway is completed. 

Tan and Lim are victims of four political factors, viz:


  • Internal UMNO politics – Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who will be taking over as UMNO President from Mahathir next October, needs to send a clear message in particular to all strata of UMNO leadership of the need for party discipline and blind loyalty, especially as his hold and  command in UMNO will be regarded by many in the party as  tenuous and untested. 

  • Gerakan-MCA rivalry, particularly in the run-up to the next general elections, whether over leadership of Penang Barisan Nasional or allocation of electoral constituencies. 

  • Cowardice and subservience  of MCA leadership vis-à-vis UMNO in the Barisan Nasional; and 

  • Blatant refusal of the Barisan Nasional and its component parties to put the people’s interests above  party interests – as  removing the party whip to allow State Assembly  representatives to fully play their role as the elected representatives of the people to take a stand on development issues and to vote according to their conscience and the dictates of the interests of the constituents and the people.


Is the controversial RM1.02 billion PORR project an effective long-term solution to the  nightmarish traffic congestion on Penang Island or a great money-making opportunity for a privileged few at the expense of the larger public?


Why should the Barisan Nasional impose a party whip to compel all its Penang State Assembly members  to support PORR, regardless of the views and interests of the people – especially when both the national and state governments have not been able to  even convince the Penang Barisan Nasional state assembly members of its suitability and   legitimacy and  that it is in the best interests of the people of Penang? 


This is why the Penang Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon could not get even two-thirds of the Penang Barisan Nasional State Assemblymen to vote against Law’s motion, as apart from the two abstentions from Tan and Lee, nine other Barisan Nasional Assembly members were absent from the vote  for one reason or another.


If the demand for disciplinary action, including expulsion, for Tan and Lim succeeds, it will be another example of double standards in the Barisan Nasional – where there is one set of rules for UMNO and another set for other Barisan Nasional component parties.


This is because the four Terengganu UMNO State Assemblymen violated the party directive to vote against the Terengganu PAS Syariah Criminal Bill (Hudud and Qisas) in the Terengganu State Assembly on July 8, 2002.


The decision by the UMNO leadership that the four UMNO Terengganu State Assemblymen  oppose the Syariah Criminal Bill (Hudud and Qisas) was announced two days before the vote.


As explained by the UMNO Terengganu Assemblyman for Ajil, Rosol Wahid at the time,  the decision taken by the UMNO party leaders to oppose  the Terengganu PAS Syariah Criminal Bill was in contrast to the stand taken by the two UMNO Assemblymen in Kelantan on a similar bill in the Kelantan State Assembly in 1993.


Rosol said:


“The situation in Kelantan was different. The UMNO representatives in the Assembly had supported the Bill then as we wanted to see how sincere and committed PAS was in enacting the Syariah laws.


“But over the years, we have seen that PAS is merely using hudud for political gains. And that is the reason why we have decided to oppose the Bill when it is tabled tomorrow.”


Rosol said the decision was made after discussions among party leaders and the Assemblymen. (New Sunday Times 7.7.2002).


However, when it came to the vote in the Terengganu State Assembly two days later, three Terengganu UMNO Assemblymen abstained, namely Rosol, Datuk Abdul Rashid Ngah (Seberang Takir) and Datuk Abu Bakar Ali (Kemasik) while the fourth Tengku Putera Tengku Awang (Telemong) was absent.


There was no disciplinary action or even demand for disciplinary action against the UMNO Terengganu Assemblymen for violating the party directive to oppose the PAS Terengganu Syariah Criminal Bill in the Terengganu State Assembly, whether from UMNO, MCA, Gerakan or any other Barisan Nasional party.


Would the MCA leadership dare to mention the case of the breach of party discipline by  the  UMNO Terengganu Assemblymen to argue for an  end to all talk and demand to discipline Tan and Lim, who should be commended for drawing the  attention of the BN national leadership  to the widespread public opposition to PORR and that what the Barisan Nasional leadership should be concerned about is a full review of PORR and not a Hobson’s choice to discipline the two.


In actual fact, the MCA leadership should formally request for the convening of a  special State Assembly meeting where the party whip is removed to allow all State Assembly members whether in government or opposition  a free vote on the PORR project putting the people’s interests above party or personal interests.  



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman