Appoint Ronnie into committee

Teng, a long-time diehard rival of Ronnie, is sure to block the appointment, even if the top national leadership recommends it. Teng has already indicated that Ronnie should not be appointed, saying: “Lim Kit Siang himself said this morning (Sunday at the convention) that government leaders must have the mandate of the party. We can only obediently follow what he said.”

Thomas Lee Seng Hock

The anticipated battle royale at the Selangor DAP convention cum state party election last Sunday 28 November 2010 seemed to have dissipated into a meek and mild affair, albeit with a big casualty in spunky veteran party leader Ronnie Liu. But the composition of the newly elected state committee is a cause for concern.

The obviously partisan convention delegates gave the two identifiable contending camps led by two equally prominent seasoned leaders with nearly equal number of grassroots supporters almost equal representation in the new Selangor DAP committee.

On one side is the so-called Justice Reform Group, also known as the Rainbow Coalition, headed by independent-minded maverick DAP veteran Teng Chang Khim of the OMG fame.

On the other side is the team led by popular non-nonsense party stalwart Teresa Kok, a handsome matured sassy lady with absolute integrity and high moral probity.

Teng is the state assembly member for Sungai Pinang and the Speaker of the Selangor State Assembly. He is an elected member of the DAP national committee and was also a member of the previous Selangor DAP committee. He performed rather well in the Sunday poll by garnering the fourth highest number of votes, and managed to lay claim to a vice-chairman post in the new state committee.

Teresa is the state assembly member for Kinara and MP for Seputeh, and a Selangor senior state executive councillor . She is the DAP national organizing secretary and the Wanita DAP secretary. She did not hold any position in the previous Selangor DAP committee. She came in at the 11th position in the line-up of the 15-member elected state committee. As her faction obtained the majority of eight committee seats, she was declared the new party state chairman for Selangor.

The Teng camp comprised mainly disgruntled party old hands who felt that they had been left out of the mainstream after the DAP and its partners — PAS and the PKR — in the Pakatan Rakyat propelled to power in Selangor after the March 2008 general election.

Most of those in the Teng camp, who had been loyal members serving the party for years, resented the fact that many well-educated and articulate young upstarts recruited into the party were given positions and selected as election candidates over their heads.

What eventually sparked off their public display of their unhappiness and resentment was the sacking of veteran Selangor DAP organizing secretary Tee Boon Hock in August this year.

Tee was sacked from the party and removed as a Klang municipal councillor for issuing letters of support to companies applying for contract jobs in the local councils in the name of DAP stalwart and state executive councillor Ronnie Liu.

The Teng supporter claimed that Tee was made a political scapegoat to “save face” for the party, which has been preaching about integrity, credibility, accountability and transparency since its establishment.

Although Tee is no longer a DAP member, he still commands considerable influence among the party grassroots members in Selangor. He was actively campaigning for Teng and his team, going round drumming up support to oust Teresa and her group as he felt that they had abandoned him when he was in trouble. It is obvious from Sunday’s election results that Tee has the last laugh, especially when his former political ally and boss turned adversary Ronnie Liu was unceremoniously brushed aside by the delegates.

Since the March 2008 general election, Tee has been instrumental in increasing the number of DAP branches in Selangor in his capacity as the Selangor organizing secretary, and these branches have a soft spot for him and still harbour the hope of having him reinstated as a party member and restored as a leader.

Some of the big names in the Teng camp included, among several others, previous Selangor DAP vice-chairmen Kannan Thangarasu, previous assistant treasurer Batumalai Malinaidu, previous assistant secretary and Sekinchan state assembly member Ng Suee Lim, Senator S. Ramakrishnan, and influential veteran James Ooi. Although Klang MP Charles Santiago was not publicly identified with the group, he is said to be on very friendly term with Teng, and is looked upon as an ally by Teng.

The Teng group campaigned on the claim that the previous Selangor DAP leadership under state executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah had been weak, and had been giving in too much to the other Pakatan Rakyat partners PAS and PKS, allowing them to grab many big posts and positions in the state government and agencies. They alleged that the then incumbent Selangor DAP committee members, most of whom are MPs, state assembly members and state executive councilors, had failed to get for the party a fair share of local council posts, village development jobs, and positions in government-linked companies and agencies..

They had pledged that Teng and his team would be able to reform the party culture and practice into a more fair and dynamic movement.

The Teresa camp, on the other hand, had campaigned on the unity theme, saying that a strong and united DAP state leadership was essential for the Pakatan Rakyat to retain control of the Selangor state government, and for the alternative coalition to succeed in the Battle for Putrajaya. The unity team, comprising mostly elected representatives, was said to have the endorsement and support of the top national party leadership.

Nearly a thousand delegates from 144 branches attended the state convention opened by secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, and graced by highly respected party guiding light Lim Kit Siang.

Some significant facts emerged from the party elections which indisputably reflect the current and immediate future direction of the DAP.

First of all, despite the quality of the Teresa Unity team members, most of whom are elected representatives, they failed to win considerable substantial support from the party delegates. Teng appeared to be a formidable force with wide grassroots support, coming in fourth in the 15-seat line-up, winning more votes than Teresa, who managed only to finish in the 11th place..

Teng is known to be a non-conformist independent-minded go-it-alone character, whose relationship with other party leaders is merely an impersonal functional one. In other words, he is not a team player. Yet, he is a hero among the Selangor grassroots, as it is generally the nature of the anti-establishment people to look up to a rebel. Teng had once even asked iconic party stalwart Kit Siang to step down from the party leadership, a sign of sheer arrogance.

Hence, with the strong-headed Teng having a very legitimate and powerful say in the Selangor DAP committee now, with support from his four team members, and perhaps Charles Santiago too, Teresa is sure to have a hard time in running the state committee. This can even be seen in the election of the state chairman in which Teresa got only eight votes, just one more than Teng.

The big crunch will come when the next general election is called, and Teng is expected to demand a big say in the selection of candidates.

The immediate critical dilemma for Teresa, however, is the decision on the fate of Ronnie Liu, whether to co-opt the defeated state executive councillor into the state committee as an appointed member.

Teng, a long-time diehard rival of Ronnie, is sure to block the appointment, even if the top national leadership recommends it. Teng has already indicated that Ronnie should not be appointed, saying: “Lim Kit Siang himself said this morning (Sunday at the convention) that government leaders must have the mandate of the party. We can only obediently follow what he said.”

Within the Teresa camp, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, who retained his post as the state deputy chairman, was quoted as saying that “in the past, it has always been a 15-member committee”, hinting that it is not necessary to make the appointment.

Ronnie is obviously in real big trouble, with his mainstream political career becoming obliviousness to ending, a part and parcel of the alienation process by both foes and friends within his own party.

Ronnie lost in the party election, not just because of the Tee Boon Hock factor, but simply because some of the rising stars in the party, the young upstarts in the Teresa camp, perceive him as an irritant and a liability with his brash firebrand type of politics. He could have won if the Teresa supporters did not abandon him. In other words, Ronnie was a victim of political betrayer.

Another significant fact that emerged from last Sunday’s Selangor DAP election is that a positive regeneration of leadership is gathering momentum in the party, with the impetus for change taking place at a very fast pace. The top two candidates with the highest numbers of votes are two young ladies – Teratai state assembly member Jenice Lee, who garnered the highest number of votes with 703, and Subang Jaya state assembly member Hannah Yeoh, who polled 664 votes.

Within the Selangor DAP, Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua, Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching, and Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo are also among the emerging leaders on which the party can depend on to lead it to greater height.

Their election into the state committee is an endorsement by the general grassroots members, albeit with some sulky and grouchy discontent from some malcontent veterans who resent being sidelined in the mainstream party affairs.

It is most unfortunate that these veterans should want to rock the boat sailing towards Putrajaya when their prime time is over. As veterans, they should allow the youngsters to lead the charge, supporting and guiding them, instead of making life difficult for them by challenging them and running them down.

The Battle for Putrajaya is crucial for the future of democracy and human rights in our country, and the DAP has a very vital role to play in bringing about the realization of a New Malaysia, where truth, righteousness, honesty, justice, fairness, equality, and human, civil and constitutional rights reign supreme.

Hence, Teng Chang Khim and those in his camp should leave aside their personal agenda, and give their wholehearted commitment and co-operation to work together with the other party leaders to make the Putrajaya dream come true.

For a start, appoint Ronnie into the Selangor state committee. The party cannot afford to lose this honest, transparent and hardworking grassroots leader, who has given nearly 20 years of loyal dedicated service to the party and nation.