Big plans, even bigger dreams

DAP has asked Penangites to deliver ‘telor’, meaning eggs or zero seats, to Barisan Nasional. But is this state, once known for its taste for check-and-balance in government, prepared to put more power in the hands of DAP?

It looks like DAP is no different from its Barisan counterparts when the latter was in power. All that power has gone to the head. DAP holds 19 of the 31 state seats that Pakatan won. It is the “big bro” of Penang Pakatan and that may explain why some of its leaders have become “so action”, as Huan put it.

Joceline Tan, The Star

LIM Guan Eng was not exaggerating when he claimed to have the support of 90% of the Chinese in Penang.

The Chinese did make up about 90% of those who paid between RM60 and RM100 per head to attend the DAP’s election fund-raising dinner on Tuesday night.

The Chief Minister also claimed that 90% of Indians in Penang are with him, although that was not so apparent.

The Chinese have the money power in Penang and the dinner, whose organising chairman was Guan Eng’s younger sister Hui Ying, raised RM500,000. Every DAP wakil rakyat had to bring in RM15,000, and Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi upped the ante and raised a cool RM30,000.

Power overload: DAP is building a war chest to defend its hold on Penang and the fund-raising dinner of which Guan Eng’s younger sister Hui Ying was the organising chairman raised a whopping RM500,000 last week.

After years of playing underdog to Barisan Nasional, this general election will see DAP at its most confident in history. It is positioned to win the most seats among the Pakatan Rakyat parties. The party has access to state government facilities, it is much better organised and, according to Ooi, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of branches.

The party may be on the way to being more powerful than it already is but, said Penang politician Huan Cheng Guan, its leaders have become too cocky.

“Before 308 (March 8 election), they were down-to-earth; you could talk to them like they are your neighbour. Now their heads are so big because they have all this Chinese support. Just listen to the way they talk – so action (boastful),” said Huan, who is vice-president of Parti Cinta Malaysia (PCM).

PCM is one of those mosquito parties but Huan is no mosquito going by his Tweets and Facebook. He has opinions which he delivers with a punchy flair.

It looks like DAP is no different from its Barisan counterparts when the latter was in power. All that power has gone to the head. DAP holds 19 of the 31 state seats that Pakatan won. It is the “big bro” of Penang Pakatan and that may explain why some of its leaders have become “so action”, as Huan put it.

Karpal: Visibly absent at the DAP’s election fund-raiser in Penang.

“Guan Eng is asking Penang people to give Barisan telor (eggs), that means kosong (zero seats). You wait and see, they will be even more action after that,” said Huan.

The DAP fund-raiser also saw the return of Deputy Chief Minister Dr P. Ramasamy who had, just a day earlier, been cleared of breaching discipline in the “Warlord versus Godfather” dispute with party chairman Karpal Singh.

Banners outside the dinner venue featured Karpal alongside that of other Pakatan leaders but the man himself was conspicuously missing that night. He claimed he had a court case in Shah Alam but everyone knew he was cheesed off that Dr Ramasamy had been let off by the disciplinary committee.

To rub salt into injury, Dr Ramasamy was asked to fill in Karpal’s speaking slot – ouch! The Warlord-Godfather issue is far from over because two of Karpal’s boys, assemblymen R.S.N. Rayer and A. Thanasekharan, have appealed against the decision.

It will take a miracle for the party to get 90% of the Indian vote for as long as this issue hangs over the party.

The dinner was also seen as a debut event for Zairil Khir Johari, whose father is former Umno veteran Tan Sri Khir Johari. Zairil is being touted as the new Malay DAP face.

He is being groomed to contest the general election and he demonstrated his trilingual skills as the emcee that evening.

Zairil joined the party last year and was made special officer to the Chief Minister. Earlier this month, the 29-year-old was appointed CEO of the state think-tank, Penang Institute.

Dr Goh: ‘Don’t make assumptions about the Indian vote.’

But parachute politicians tend to evoke jealousy in a political party and they are calling him “teacher’s pet” behind his back. They agree that he is sweet and likeable but is too much of a “yes-sir!” type of chap.

The Malay faction in the party calls him budak mentah (greenhorn) and resents the preferential treatment that he has been getting.

“How many Rocket (newsletters) has he sold? Has he brought in members, set up a branch? He does not go down to the ground but he has a nice air-cond room in the CM’s office. Zero contribution and we’re told he’s going to be a candidate,” said one Malay party official.

DAP is less confident about the Malay support. But one DAP leader claimed they could secure 45% Malay support in the polls. It sounds like hot air because that would mean Umno strongholds like Kepala Batas and Tasik Gelugor will fall – and no one can see that happening.

“People in leadership should not make this kind of declaration. Where is the data coming from? But they are not wrong about Chinese support although it is probably not as high as 90%. There is what I call the ‘teacher-mentality’ among Penang voters, people who don’t like to rock the boat, and we should not make assumptions about the Indian vote this time,” said Dr Goh Ban Lee, a research fellow in a Penang think-tank.

He said the Chinese support is high not because DAP is doing such a fantastic job but because they are still angry with Umno.

Guan Eng’s Malay dilemma in Penang is like that of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s Chinese dilemma – their support among the two respective groups stand at roughly 20%. The Malays cannot relate to Guan Eng while the Chinese still have issues with Umno.

Ooi: ‘Higher quality of candidates needed in the next round.’

“The other side tortures him till today and his Chinese base rallies around him because of that,” said Dr Goh.

DAP’s Ooi claimed that the party has built up a strong support base after four years in Penang.

“You could say some of our supporters don’t care about issues, they are blindly loyal to us. Penang voters will give us two terms but they will be very hard on us in the third term,” said Ooi.

All of this is pretty ironic because Penang has a reputation for voting in the opposition for a check-and-balance in government.

Last weekend, the party moved one step towards the sorting out of seats. The party’s central leadership finally caved in to Karpal’s demand on the “one man one seat” policy in the polls. The only exceptions are Guan Eng and the candidates in Sabah and Sarawak.

This will affect dual seat holders Dr Rama­samy (Batu Kawan and Prai) and state chairman and exco member Chow Kon Yeow (Tanjong and Padang Kota). It is understood that national Wanita chief and Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng will go for a state seat and be appointed to the state exco in recognition for her loyal service.

Karpal may have lost out to Dr Ramasamy in their recent dispute, but he is in the elite three-man committee that also includes Guan Eng and Kit Siang which will decide on the final selection of candidates. The elderly lawyer will have a lot of say about who gets to contest and who will be dropped.

Guan Eng is still learning to be Chief Minister. He is good at attacking, opposing and criticising but he does not take criticism well.

“They have become too powerful. They say the people are the boss but they are behaving like the big boss,” said Huan.

Huan: ‘Power and position have made DAP leaders big-headed.’

Guan Eng is also sensitive about the fact that he is not a Penangite. He is from Batu Pahat, made his political mark in Malacca and is still unable to master the sing-song Penang-style Hokkien. Penangites like to joke that when southerners like him try to speak Hokkien, it sounds like two chopsticks clicking.

Some think ordinary Malays in Penang have trouble warming up to him because he is from Johor. The Malays like hometown boys as their wakil rakyat, what more, their Chief Minister. Moreover, they are still getting used to the DAP’s politics of confrontation after the gentle mien of Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Power is a great feeling and DAP supporters mean to hold on to it whatever it takes. The pro-DAP cybertroopers are among the most active and belligerent on the Internet.

The Consumers’ Association of Penang president S.M. Mohd Idris found himself the target of racist and abusive commentary by these cybertroopers after he objected to the Chief Minister’s proposal of the mega projects. People like Idris do not mind being criticised or corrected but they do not deserve insult and abuse.

The party has built up immense expectation among their rank and file about the general election. The stage is set for another Pakatan victory in Penang but most analysts are of the view that Pakatan will have to struggle to maintain its two-thirds majority. They think that PKR and PAS will not be able to deliver the Malay seats.

But that has not stopped Guan Eng from talking about taking over Putrajaya.

“Penang has changed, the people have changed, the Chief Minister has changed. But Penang is not enough, we must win the whole nation, the whole of Malaysia,” he said, as the dinner crowd roared and applauded.

He also used the occasion to get the crowd to get on their feet and endorse the mega projects that he is proposing for Penang. It was his way of telling critics of the controversial project – look, the people support my idea.

Is Pakatan on its way to an even more stunning victory and, as Huan put it, “too much power”? Or is it about to be humbled?