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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pakatan and Kit Siang Take the Offensive

By Kee Thuan Chye | from Yahoo! Malaysia

It looks like Pakatan Rakyat is driving the 13th general election. As this most crucial of Malaysian elections draws near, the Opposition coalition is the more gung-ho in leading the way into battle. It is initiating the charge, taking the offensive, scoring the psychological points.

While the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition is led by a leader who has been tardy in calling for the general election partly because he has been humming and hawing about wanting the rakyat to feel the effects of his transformation programmes first, Pakatan has already shown its preparedness by coming out with its manifesto a few weeks ago, way ahead of BN.

In football terms, this is like the away team, despite its disadvantageous position, taking the play to the home team and attacking its goalmouth. Sometimes, this can end in a victory for the outsiders.

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang’s decision to stand in Gelang Patah – in BN’s impregnable state, Johor – is another courageous offensive. It is a risky move by the DAP veteran who has never fought shy of engaging in difficult battles.

In the most famous of his encounters, he took on Lim Chong Eu, the Chief Minister of Penang then, at Padang Kota in 1990 and won. Nonetheless, it was a huge gamble for Kit Siang, who has not always been victorious. He lost when he came out of his comfortable position as Kubu state assemblyman in 1982 to try and capture Bandar Hilir, and again when he took on the risky seat of Tanjung Bungah in 1995 against yet another chief minister, Koh Tsu Koon. In fact, throughout his political career, Kit Siang has lost five times.

More than its just being another manifestation of his penchant for rushing into areas where angels fear to tread, Kit Siang’s current foray into Gelang Patah is a forceful demonstration of psychological one-upmanship. It is sending out the signal that Pakatan is not afraid of BN. It is a demonstration of sheer confidence.

Granted, the voter composition of Gelang Patah is 54 per cent Chinese, but it also has a sizable Malay electorate at 33 per cent, many of whom are either staunch BN supporters for the sake of Umno or racially inclined ones who might vote for an Opposition candidate if he or she were Malay. The 2008 election result for that constituency indicates this. The PKR candidate then, Zaliha Mustafa, managed to secure 27,779 votes against incumbent Tan Ah Eng’s haul of 33,630. Contrast that with the landslide 41,001 votes won by Tan in 2004 when the Opposition candidate was Chinese and managed to get only 9,335 votes.

In 2013, even if 85 per cent of the Chinese voted for Kit Siang, there is no guarantee that he can romp home the winner. And getting that many is not going to be easy as Gelang Patah is known to be an ultra-safe seat for the MCA, which has been serving the people there diligently for nearly two decades. Furthermore, BN has been running a campaign instilling in Malays the idea that the DAP is poison to them, so Kit Siang might not be able to count on their support to carry the day. And the other 12 per cent of Indian voters could either be split between the two candidates or lean more towards BN.

In response to Kit Siang’s move, MCA President Chua Soi Lek has come out to call Kit Siang a “touch and go” politician. And this, he says, is the rude way of putting it, as compared to the polite one of “hit and run” politician.

Soi Lek is one to talk. He hasn’t even stated where he is going to stand. Will he even stand?

He said, “Serving the people is never in Lim Kit Siang’s dictionary.” But in saying that, he must be deliberately trying to appear ignorant. Throughout his career, Kit Siang has been consistent – indeed even one-track – in championing the cause of justice and democracy for Malaysia. Any Malaysian who is educated enough about Malaysian politics knows that.

For his untiring efforts, he has been detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) twice – in 1969 for 18 months, and in 1987 for 17 months. And in 1979, he was convicted under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) for exposing the Government’s purchase of four navy vessels.

Indeed, instead of disparaging Kit Siang, Soi Lek should stand against him in Gelang Patah. This would be a real test of whether the Chinese have high regard for him as MCA president.

Even one of MCA’s division chiefs is calling for that. Tan Cher Puk of Pasir Gudang said recently, “So far nobody knows whether the president will contest in the coming general election or not. The MCA (members) in some areas are experiencing low morale.” Well, if Chua decided to take on Lim, he would show that the MCA was not afraid, and that would certainly boost party morale.

As it is, the person touted to be MCA’s candidate is Teoh Sew Hock whom observers feel is too lightweight for Kit Siang. So it makes sense for the MCA to field a more worthy opponent.

There will be a real clash of titans if Soi Lek should go for it instead, even if it is viewed as such only because Soi Lek is MCA chief, and not much more. It will be one of the great highlights of the 13th general election that will be talked about long after the voting is over and done with.

The big question, however, is, would Soi Lek be brave enough to take on the man he so bravely belittles verbally? Or would he delegate it to someone else and opt for a safe seat himself?

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