The Asian Voice

DAP leaders still stunned by Malacca mutiny: The Star Columnist

Democratic Action Party (DAP) adviser Lim Kit Siang reacts during a press conference at Petaling Jaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Feb 7, 2017.
Democratic Action Party (DAP) adviser Lim Kit Siang reacts during a press conference at Petaling Jaya, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Feb 7, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

Joceline Tan

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - "Cancer", "Gang of Four" and a "gift for Barisan Nasional" - these were some of the brickbats thrown at the four Malacca politicians who resigned from Malaysia's opposition party, the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Party leaders have tried to downplay the Malacca mutiny but their resignation on Sunday was a stunning blow to DAP.

DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang soft-pedalled it, saying it is "not the fire that everyone is talking about". But it is major for any political party to lose an MP and three assemblymen at one go, and it caught the party off-guard.

Moreover, they are not exactly nobodies.

Kota Melaka MP Sim Tong Him comes from a well-known family in Malacca. He has been with the party since he was a young man and is a well-liked and respected figure in the community.

Another one of them, Duyong assemblyman Goh Leong San, was for many years the state DAP chairman until he was ousted in the last party election. Goh has a Master's degree in chemistry and his supporters like his fighting spirit.

Bachang assemblyman Lim Jack Wong was the former party secretary while the youngest of the quartet, Kesidang assemblyman Chin Choong Seong, was someone the group had been grooming.

In particular, Sim and Goh, had over the years become synonymous with the DAP brand in Malacca.

Sim, who has often been described as the "smiling Buddha" because of his smooth head and serene demeanour, had described his DAP years as a "43-year marriage".

But very few marriages are made in heaven and it looks like an acrimonious divorce.

The party leadership sees it as a betrayal hence the "Gang of Four" label borrowing from the act of treason committed by Mao Zedong's wife Jiang Qing and three others during the Cultural Revolution.

But running them down with terms like "cancer" and "disloyal" has not gone down too well with some party members.

Many in DAP are quite reluctant to condemn them because these are individuals who have taken the hits for the party during its dark and difficult years. They had endured arrests and spent time in the police lockup on behalf of the party.

The perception is that Former Malaysian premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had done and said worse things about DAP, is getting the star treatment from DAP leaders while former party stalwarts come under attack.

They wonder why Kit Siang is able to forgive and accept Dr Mahathir but cannot reconcile with his own party leaders.

Sim's group said they disagreed with the direction the party was taking and that they had lost confidence in the party leadership, singling out secretary-general Lim Guan Eng for mention.

Their apology for misleading the Chinese voters to support Malaysia's Islamist opposition party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), in the last general election also did not sit well with the top leaders because that is something the leaders prefer not to talk about.

The group's fallout with the party leadership was not an overnight thing. It had been building up, layer by layer like an odourous onion, starting from when Guan Eng was based in Malacca.

Sim, 68, is a contemporary of Kit Siang, but Sim and his protégé Goh had problems with Guan Eng.

Guan Eng was hoping to take over the Malacca party leadership in 2005 but he and his then politician wife Betty Chew lost badly in the state DAP polls.

Goh's team won and he became the state chairman, taking over from Sim. The split never healed and things between them and Guan Eng spiralled downhill. Although Guan Eng moved to Penang and became Chief Minister, the power struggle in Malacca continued between those aligned to Goh and the faction loyal to Guan Eng.

In the run-up to the 2013 general election, the two factions fought over seats to contest and Kit Siang had to step in to avert the crisis.

Last year, the party suspended Sim and Goh for a year on grounds that they had smeared DAP's name in a lawsuit against a fellow party member. That was probably the last straw.

Their suspension ended on Feb 8, the 12th day of Chinese New Year. The group did not want to disrupt the festive mood and waited till a day after Chap Goh Meh to drop the bombshell.

Kit Siang was in Malacca yesterday to do some urgent damage control. It was a homecoming of sorts for him even though he has been all over the place since his Malacca days.

The concern among some DAP politicians is not only about defending the Malacca seats but also about containing the fallout. Malacca is not a big state and there could be a rippling effect if not well-managed.

It is always sad when a relationship comes to an end.

Malacca was where the careers of the father and son began. The Chinese enclave in Malacca had long been a political sanctuary for the party through good and bad times.

The departure of the group has cast doubt as to whether the sanctuary will remain intact in the next general election.