Guan Eng: Pakatan will not break apart

(The Straits Times) – Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng expressed confidence yesterday that the three-party Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance will not break up despite the pressures of “growing under a magnifying glass” of its political enemies.

He said that even if opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the glue of the disparate opposition alliance, is somehow removed from the political scene, PR is unlikely to come apart.

“Nothing can be further from the truth than to say that the political obituary of Pakatan Rakyat can be written,” he said.

Lim was speaking to journalists from Singapore Press Holdings, at its auditorium, on the topic Winds Of Political Change In Malaysia: Can The Opposition Alliance Hold? He spoke on a wide range of topics in the two-hour session that included questions from the floor.

PR won the state assemblies of five of Malaysia’s 13 states in last year’s general elections, the best-ever showing by the opposition parties. The alliance comprises the multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat, the Chinese-based DAP, and PAS.

Several questions from the floor were about the state of the opposition alliance after a series of intra-party and inter-party disputes in recent months.

Lim, DAP’s secretary-general, said that differences in opinions were normal in any political organisation and did not portend a break-up as predicted by leaders of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN).

He was also asked whether PAS will stay loyal as some of its top leaders seem keen to get close to Umno. Lim predicted that a firm move by this group towards ethnic-based politics would cause a break-up of PAS because a “significant” number of its other leaders and members want to stay with PR.

There have also been questions on what would happen to PR if Anwar, who is facing a sodomy trial, is found guilty and thrown into jail.

Lim’s reply: “The legacy of Anwar will be that even without him we can go on. We have gone past the initial stage of fragmentation.”

Lim also explained the strength of the opposition alliance in another way: “We are growing under a magnifying glass (of BN). Any shred of suspicion (of wrongdoing) and they will throw the whole kitchen cabinet at you, yet nothing has stuck.”

He said that in the end, the administration of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak would have to accept that a two-party system has emerged in the country.

Chief Minister Lim said PR wants to replace the concept of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) promoted by Umno, with its own Ketuanan Rakyat (people’s supremacy), in which leaders help the public without looking at ethnicity.

The Umno model, he claimed, merely distributed wealth and shares among its members, not among the Malay masses.

Asked whether a state run by a non-BN government, like Penang, could expect much help from the federal government, Lim said the Najib administration knows that it cannot allow Penang to fail.

Penang is the second most industrialised state in Malaysia, after Selangor, which is also controlled by a PR state government. Some of the biggest industries in Malaysia are located in these two states.

“There is a realisation that you cannot play politics in these types of national issues. We have to work together,” he said.