Malaysia's opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP), whose top leader has been charged with corruption, yesterday ruled out holding street protests even as the opposition is reeling from the graft case.
Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, DAP's secretary-general, and his party leaders were defiant at their leadership meeting yesterday, repeating their stand that the two corruption charges were trumped up by the Najib administration.
Asked by reporters after the meeting if the party would organise street protests, Lim said: "We are not going to hold any street demonstrations, but I do not think that you should underestimate the spontaneous reactions of the public."
He said he was touched by over 100 supporters who came out to support him when he was charged at the Penang High Court on Thursday. He said the support stems from Penangites having experienced a clean government under the opposition parties.
Instead of going to the street, the DAP plans to go around the country to explain to the public the "unfounded" and "malicious" charges made against its leader.
The two charges against Lim and a businesswoman, Phang Li Koon, involve accusations that Lim misused his position to buy a bungalow at below-market price and approved an application by her company to convert a piece of agricultural land for commercial purposes.
Lim bought the house last year from Phang for RM2.8 million (S$945,000) while its market value was RM4.27 million, according to court documents.
Both have claimed trial. The case will be up for mention on Sept 22.
Leaders of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition have taunted Lim, saying the party that often calls on government leaders to step down temporarily if they have been charged in court, should heed its own words.
"I don't want to challenge Guan Eng to take leave, because I know he will continue," said Cabinet minister Noh Omar. "That is his attitude. He doesn't practise what he preaches."
The fractured opposition is reeling from the graft case, with worries of being distracted from trying to reunite its ranks after doing badly in the Sarawak state elections and two by-elections in Selangor and Perak.
"This is a larger attempt by Najib to win by default the next general election. Malaysians saw through that," said Mr Liew Chin Tong, a prominent DAP MP.
Lim said his court case was "deliberately designed to further weaken the opposition".
There is already a debate in blogs and social media about whether the Lim case is similar to the 2010 court case involving Umno's ex-Selangor chief minister Mohamad Khir Toyo.
Dr Khir was released last month, after serving a one-year jail term for buying a bungalow for RM3.5 million, below its market value of some RM6.5 million, from a housing developer who had dealings with the Selangor government.
In a note written on Wednesday after his arrest by the anti-corruption agency, Lim said: "There have been attempts to draw similarities between my case and former Selangor menteri besar Mohamad Khir Toyo's. This is wrong.
"Unlike Khir Toyo's case, Phang did not make a loss... but recorded a small profit of RM300,000 from her original purchase price of RM2.5 million. Unlike Khir Toyo's case, Phang is not a housing developer that has to be reliant on state government to continue her business."
He promised his supporters: "I would rather die standing than live on bended knees."