Saturday, June 6, 2009

Ahem...I think article deserves a reading...

Gerakan playing second fiddle to UMNO? Ask Penangites and they answer is unanimously yes. Ask UMNO and they say Gerakan is playing politics. Hence, for 30 years the reign of Gerakan led government has put Penang into a doldrum situation. While the country continues to reinvent itself and started to recognize the viability of the service industry, Penang led by Gerakan continued to labor on for manufacturing industries to invest here. Bear in mind, the Shared Services and Outsourcing business has started to evolve in Penang and the long forgotten Bi0-tech. Sigh....I think Dr. Neil Khor summed it well enough

Neil Khor Jun 6, 09 11:52am
Gerakan, the party of Lim Chong Eu and Lim Keng Yaik, is going through a rough
patch. It has been some 14 months since the last general elections but party
reforms have yet to bear any tangible results.
MCPXIn terms of governmental
influence, Gerakan has a full minister and two deputy ministers. Its president,
the low-key and ever diligent Dr Koh Tsu Koon, is in-charge of national unity.
He is also monitoring ministerial performance through the setting-up of Key
Performance Indicators (KPIs).This appointment, whilst attracting much criticism
from detractors, is seen as a lifeline for Gerakan to exert some influence over
national politics.It is still too early to tell if this strategy – of the
president having a ministerial position – will help Gerakan gain lost ground
after the last general elections. At this point anyway, most people still
remember Dr Koh’s announcement that he would not become a minister by way of the
senate. Few people, except perhaps Gerakan members themselves, have cheered him
on when he assumed his ministerial position.There are three main problems that
is plaguing Gerakan. Firstly, the party is suffering from an image problem. The
urban electorate still see the party as an appendage of the race-based parties
of Umno, MCA and MIC. Dr Koh’s consensual style, which the BN thinks will help
calm ruffled feathers, is not helping much in the party’s efforts to re-build
its public image. Koh needs a more vocal postureBoth Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu (left)
and Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik (below) had an air of the rebel about them. A rebel, by
the looks of Koh’s political career path, he certainly is not. Dr Koh needs to
chart a credible, independent and more vocal posture.The second problem is that
Gerakan is still trying hard to carve out a role for itself in national politics
post-Penang. From 1969 to 2008, nearly forty years, Gerakan was “in-charge” of
Penang.Control of this largely non-Malay state, with its vibrant
manufacturing-based economy, gave it an edge over its non-Umno rivals within the
BN. Other than Umno, it was the only BN component party that held the reins of
government. In fact, the political reputation of the party as innovative, clean
and efficient was built mostly on Penang’s success.The loss of Penang may be a
problem but the process of losing that state is even more demoralising for the
party. For this was not just losing by a seat but a clear and decisive
“wipe-out”. To date, few Penangites regret voting the way they did. Gerakan’s
chances of single-handedly winning back the state is almost nil.Dr Teng Hock
Nan’s stewardship of Gerakan in Penang will be crucial for reform efforts. But
so far, he has been less than sterling. Calls to take the Pakatan state
government to task on the tennis affair and more recently, his humanitarian
appeal for Chin Peng’s return have not earned Gerakan any positive points. There
are also very wide rifts between Gerakan and Umno in Penang that Dr Teng needs
to close.He may be a more vocal and assertive personality when compared with Dr
Koh but his track record in the previous government leaves him open to
criticisms. Then there is the MCA, eager for a leadership position in Penang at
the expense of Gerakan. Pakatan likely to hold on to Penang in 2013Penang Umno
is still unhappy over its secondary role to Gerakan despite it consistently
winning most of its allotted seats. Gerakan’s inability to galvanise the BN
through the leadership of Dr Koh will almost guarantee a Pakatan victory in
2013.Without Penang, Gerakan has been forced to re-examine its party ideology,
which is inherently non-sectarian and therefore a source of its third problem.
How can the party ignore developments on the ground calling for an end to
race-based policies? Many of Pakatan’s goals, including means-tested and
merit-based economic policies, were championed by Gerakan in the late
1960s.Gerakan used to call itself the “conscience of the BN”. It was the party
that asked difficult questions and temper the race-based policies that the
coalition promoted to secure equitable development and nation-building. That
Malaysia is only partially successful in this area speaks volumes for Gerakan’s
inability to influence governmental policies. The party may have the right
values but these are not shared even within the BN.Today, Gerakan is in the
strange position of having to reach back into its past to be relevant again. Dr
Koh has been made minister in-charge of national unity and this in the midst of
the shared aspirations for “1Malaysia” where Malaysians are all equal. It should
be a good opportunity for Gerakan to lead in this programme. The only problem is
that not every BN component party agrees or share the same interpretation of
1Malaysia.Playing second-fiddle to UmnoIn short, Gerakan like the PPP are going
through a rough patch because both non-sectarian parties find themselves
anomalies in a race-based coalition. Gerakan’s political role was shaped by a
strong BN and a weak non-sectarian opposition. Now that the political ground has
become more even, supporters of non-sectarian politics have new champions in
Pakatan Rakyat. Is the role of Gerakan and PPP been played out?What is
surprising is that Gerakan leaders have taken so long to act. Dr Koh has yet to
state publicly what sort of role Gerakan will have in the new political
landscape. Playing second-fiddle to Umno will not win back lost ground. Trying
to be broker between non-sectarian interests and the race-based parties is not
viable especially when the party simply does not command the votes. Gerakan’s
inability to swing non-Malay voters to the BN in Bukit Gantang, a seat it used
to win, is evidence of its diminishing role.Perhaps, Dr Koh has a new game plan
for the party. If he has, he is keeping things close to his chest. It would be
simplistic to expect these smaller but important non-sectarian parties to leave
the BN. What role would they have as a “third force”? In today’s
political scenario, third parties like independent candidates, have little
chance of winning elections.Whatever new strategy Gerakan may have for itself,
it must put into effect sooner rather than later. One way to become a viable
political party again is to stick to its guns when it comes to governmental
decisions it does not agree with. The BN government in Perak, the unfolding PKFZ
scandal, the on-going revisiting of the ISA, rising crime, corruption in the
police force, and the shaping of new economic strategies for Malaysia; all are
opportunities for Gerakan to provide thought leadership.A ministerial position
may be a much needed lifeline but it can be a liability soon enough if the KPIs
are not met, national unity becomes more elusive with the radicalization of
race-based parties and Gerakan’s inability to find new ways of thinking that
will once again return it to its fundamental non-sectarian values.As things
stand today, support for the party is quickly diminishing. Image problems and
the loss of Penang aside, Gerakan’s hope for recovery lie with its ability to
embrace and advocate its founding values. But if the BN does not move in the
same direction, it may find itself a party with the right values but in the
wrong coalition.
NEIL KHOR (PhD) (Cantab) is the co-author of 'Non-Sectarian
Politics in Malaysia: The Case of Parti Gerakan Rakyat'.

1 comment: said...

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