The decision whether I recontest in Penang or accept the Perak DAP proposal to contest in Kinta Valley will be made in the next 24 to 72 hours – and the same applies to Karpal’s candidature
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Sunday): Media manipulation and machinations – one of the 3M abuses of the Barisan Nasional in every general election, apart from money politics and abuses of government machinery and resources – has started in earnest for the 2004 general election.
There is for instance the subtle and subliminal attempt of the Barisan Nasional media to paint me as aged, ancient, decrepit , fit for the political old folks’ home or even the junkyard.
One newspaper, for instance, kept reminding its readers that I am 63, failing to mention that the new Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is older than me by two years, as he was born on 26th November 1939. Going by the extended retirement age of 65 for judges, Abdullah would have to step down from public office in November this year. Would the electronic and mainstream media ever remind Abdullah and Malaysians about this, or to surreptitiously make such a suggestion?
Another newspaper pointed out that the MCA President and Minister for Housing and Local Government, Datuk Ong Ka Ting was only 13 when I contested in my maiden election in 1969, and quoted Ong as asking when I would be stepping down. My answer to Ka Ting is that I would retire from politics once comparatively younger politicians like him are prepared to speak up and stand up against corruption, abuses of power, injustices and inequalities in the country, and stop being party to all the abuses such as “black gold politics” in MCA – or the present hypocrisy of pretending that “black gold politics” in MCA does not exist although it was the MCA Youth Leader, Ong Tee Kiat, who had publicly made such a serious allegation, lodging reports even with Abdullah who was then the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister!
DAP National Deputy Chairman, Karpal Singh and I have also been accused of being “political runaways” hopping from constituency to constituency, and who are now shopping for “safe seats” to be elected to Parliament.
In the past three decades, I have moved four times from an incumbent parliamentary seat to another and three times from an incumbent state assembly seat with quite mixed results, but never for once had I made a move in order to run to a safer seat.
For Parliament, in 1978, I moved from Kota Melaka constituency to the Petaling seat to save the DAP stronghold which had become a high-risk seat as a result of an intense MCA attack. In 1982, I moved back from Petaling to the Kota Melaka seat when it became a dangerous seat. In 1986, I moved from the Kota Melaka seat to the Tanjong seat in Penang. I won in all the three moves, but in the fourth move, from Tanjong to the Bukit Bendera seat in 1999, I lost –a score of 3 wins and 1 defeat in the four moves.
For State Assembly, I moved from the DAP stronghold of Kubu seat to Bandar Hilir in 1982, to try to save the latter seat spoit by a DAP incumbent, but I was defeated. In 1990, I moved from Kampong Kolam to Padang Kota in Penang, where I faced the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, where I won. In 1995, I moved from Padang Kota to Tanjong Bungah and lost to the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon. This gives a score of 1 win and 2 losses for the three State Assembly moves.
For all the seven parliamentary and state assembly moves from incumbent seats, the score is 4 wins and 3 losses.
But running through as a constant and unchanging thread in all the four parliamentary moves and three state moves from an incumbent elected constituency is the primary objective to promote the cause of social democracy and a Malaysian Malaysia, to either the protect the hard-won gains or to take it to a higher level and climax.
In the 1999 general election, for instance, I moved from Tanjong where I had been MP for three terms, i.e. 1986, 1990 and 1995 to contest in a high-risk constituency of Bukit Bendera, formerly a DAP seat but which was lost to Gerakan in 1995 with a majority of 2,918 votes.
I made the move in order to try to win every possible parliamentary seat in line with the objective of the DAP and the Opposition in the 1999 general election to break the political hegemony of the Barisan Nasional and deprive its unbroken parliamentary two-thirds majority. In the event, I lost by 104 votes. I have no regrets about leaving a safe seat to contest in a high-risk seat for a larger political objective which is always larger that my personal win or loss, as this is not the first time that I had put my neck on the chopping block if this will advance the greater objectives of the DAP ideals of freedom, democracy, justice and good governance for all Malaysians.
This was why when news of my defeat in Bukit Bendera broke, I had snuffed out all suggestion of a by-election in Tanjong so that I could return to Parliament.
These were the reasons why I came to Penang in 1986 from the Kota Melaka constituency, where I was MP in 1969, 1974 and 1982 to contest in Tanjong.
In fact, after the 1974 general elections, where the DAP in Penang suffered an electoral debacle, Penang DAP leaders first came up with the proposal that I move to Penang to provide the political leadership for the DAP cause for a Malaysian Malaysia. In the DAP debut in the 1969 general election, DAP won one parliamentary and three state seats, but in the 1974 general election, we won only two state seats which was swiftly reduced to zero when the two Assemblymen defected to the National Front.
I did not accept the proposal to move to Penang until 1986,. more than a decade after the idea was first mooted, although this proposal was repeatedly broached by Penang DAP leaders.
One major reason prompting my decision to accept the Penang DAP proposal to contest in Penang was to make Penang the front-line state and spearhead a nation-wide movement to oppose the “One Language, One Culture” policy of assimilation which was proclaimed in Parliament after the landslide Barisan Nasional victory of the first general election of Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in 1982.
The Battle of Tanjong in 1986 had nothing to do with capturing the Penang State Government but was to establish Penang as the front-line state for the cause of a Malaysian Malaysia and to roll back the forces of communalism and extremism.
The Penang move was fully vindicated when in 1994, Mahathir publicly admitted the failure and abandonment of his earlier policy of assimilation and adoption of the policy of integration advocated by the DAP and which formed the core of the DAP battlecry for a Malaysian Malaysia.
It is equally unfair and baseless to allege that Karpal had been running from constituency to constituency, as his one move from the Alor Star state constituency in Kedah in 1974 to Jelutong parliamentary constituency in Penang in 1978 was in line with the party’s strategic objectives to make Penang the front-line state in the Malaysian cause for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
For me, with regard to the 2004 general election, the first constituency for me to consider is the Bukit Bendera constituency, where I had lost by 104 votes in 1999. There are suggestions that apart from the three incumbent DAP seats of Tanjong, Bukit Mertajam and Bagan, I should consider the other seats in Penang. There is the proposal by the Perak DAP that I contest in Perak to provide leadership for the state, particularly for the cluster of three parliamentary and nine state assembly seats in the Kinta Valley. There was also the proposal that I contest in Selangor.
The decision whether I recontest in Penang or accept the Perak DAP proposal to contest in Kinta Valley will be made in the next 24 to 72 hours, not on the basis of where I can find a safer and easier seat for me to contest, but whether it meets two criteria: Firstly, whether it serves the larger strategic objectives of the DAP ideals of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance; and secondly, whether at this late hour in the greatest crisis of the 46-year Merdeka “social contract” that Malaysia is a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State, whether ala-PAS or ala-UMNO, how to save and preserve the “social contract” from being consigned to the dustbin of history to embark Malaysia on the road of an Islamic State, whether the “929 Declaration” of UMNO and Barisan Nasional or the Islamic State Document of PAS.
If my biggest concern is my personal comfort, welfare and wellbeing, I would not have moved out four times from an incumbent parliamentary seat and three times from an incumbent state assembly seat since my first election as MP for Bandar Melaka.
Similarly, where Karpal contests in the 2004 general election, whether Jelutong, Bukit Glugor or Selangor will also have to be decided by the party in the light of the larger political and strategic considerations of the DAP’s commitment and ideals for social democracy, justice and good governance in Malaysia in the next 24 to 72 hours.
I believe that I can speak on behalf of Karpal that both of us thank and appreciate from the bottom of our hearts the messages and sentiments of support and encouragement after our defeats in the 1999 general election, and their expression that both of us are missed because of our absence from Parliament.
I believe that both of us are still capable of making contributions in Parliament. I for one had been watching with consternation the transformation of Parliament in the past five years. In my 30 years in Parliament from 1969 to 1999, the term “Islamic State” was never heard in Parliament for there was no dispute whatsoever that the mainstream nation-building agenda was the creation of a secular democracy with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State. However, in the past five years, Parliament had become the battleground between UMNO and PAS to out-Islam and “out-Islamic State” each other.
It is important that this process should be checked and the 2004 general election is probably the last general election if such a correction is to be made. It is in the light of these larger political and strategic considerations in the long-term interests of all Malaysians and future generations, regardless of race or religion, that the DAP leadership must decide the placement of candidates and the campaign strategy and objective for the 2004 general election..
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman