Tsu Koon and Taib Mahmud: Too Selfish to Step Down

By Aidil Syukri, Malaysian Digest  

After a humiliating defeat in the last general election, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon had contemplated on stepping down as president of Gerakan. The former Penang chief minister said he intends to quit the post because he wants to be responsible for Barisan Nasional (BN) losing Penang – the party’s stronghold – to the Opposition. However, he had to do away with this intention because Gerakan’s supreme committee had rejected his resignation on the grounds that it was not a suitable time to blame anyone and that the party instead needs to remain united to restore people’s confidence towards the perturbed party.

That was three years ago. Now, Koh’s party members have decided to voice out their demand for their president to give up office. What makes it even more ironic is that he was asked to resign on the same reason that he was asked not to three years ago; to restore people’s confidence in the party.

Those who had openly criticized him were the party’s Woman Chief, Datuk Seri Tan Lian Hoe who suggested that he should not contest in the next elections. Previously, most of the criticisms that were hurled at Koh mostly came from those outside the party such as former AMK Chief Ezam Md Nor as well as Independent MPs Tan Tee Beng (Nibong Tebal) and Datuk Seri Zahrain Hashim (Bayan Baru).

In 2008 General Election, Penang BN only managed to defend 11 seats while 29 seats fell to Pakatan Rakyat. Koh himself lost in the election to the DAP candidate, Prof Dr P Ramasamy in the Batu Kawan parliamentary seat with a majority of 9,485 votes. However, despite this embarrassing defeat, nobody suggested for Koh to resign at that time. These sentiments went public only recently.

In fact, Koh was not the only chairman from a BN component party who faced this sort of situation. There were other BN leaders that face similar pressure such as former MIC President, Datuk Seri S Samy Vellu and PBB President who’s also Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud. In the case of these two veterans, Samy, who lost his Sungai Siput seat to PSM’s Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, bowed to the pressure and passed his leadership on to his deputy, while Taib still remains as chief of his party, Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB).

Actually, there are pros and cons regarding to this issue. One might suggest that based on the situation that hit BN on the last elections, new leadership might help in ‘rebranding’ the party’s image, like what we can see in Umno and MCA. However, in case of MIC, honestly I can say that the new leadership has not brought any changes to the party, let alone the Indian community. It’s also very noticeable that the party’s current president, G Palanivel, who himself lost his Hulu Selangor seat to the late Datuk Dr Zainal Abidin in the last election, is less popular than a junior by the likes of  P Kamalanathan (the present Hulu Selangor MP). This is obvious from the fact that Kamalanathan was chosen over the then MIC deputy president as a candidate to contest for the Hulu Selangor constituency, denying Palanivel the chance to redeem himself by taking a crack at reclaiming the seat he lost. Not only was newbie Kamalanathan favored by BN’s big bosses, as a matter of fact, the then PKR opponent he overcame in the Hulu Selangor by-election last year was a former law minister, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim.