DAP federalises Johor with MP Liew as chairman for GE14 battle


Cindi Loo, The Ant Daily

The DAP central leadership must have been much relieved that the recent keenly contested Johor party elections have ended as planned.

A good mix of locals and “national outsiders” led by Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong were picked to captain the state DAP to prepare for the next national polls.

The party’s initial fear was that the state delegates may not be ready to accept a mixed leadership, featuring outsiders, to help consolidate the DAP to face the next electoral battle.

Liew, who is also the DAP political education director, had nearly “missed the boat”, securing 14th spot in the election of the 15-member state committee.

In contrast, Dr Boo Cheng Hau, who had helmed the state for three terms, polled more votes than Liew to secure the 10th spot. Boo had thrown his hat into the ring in the very last minute to try and defend his position.

Party insiders said the keen contest is a “warning” to the central leadership to exercise “extreme caution” when making decisions concerning state party matters.

It will do well for central leaders not to be seen overly interfering, lest agitating the locals to react negatively and derailing the party’s ambitious plan to expand in Umno’s bastion state.

In the run-up to the state party elections, Boo had initially announced that he would not defend his position after the 13th general election (GE13).

Party insiders saw this as a “protest” following the central leadership decision to “parachute” several leaders to contest in Johor.

The “parachute” candidates in GE 13 included Liew (former Bukit Bendera MP in Penang), Kulai MP Teo Nie Cheng (former Serdang MP in Selangor) and DAP supremo, Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang (formerly Ipoh Timur MP in Perak).

Johor DAP grassroots see these leaders as proxies aligned to party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, the Penang chief minister.

This is not the first time the DAP leadership had engineered such an “intervention” in a state. Last year, Malacca DAP chairman Goh Leong San had quit his position as Opposition leader over remarks that he seemingly praised the BN-led state government once too often.

However, Kit Siang was seen as moving in as a “peacekeeper” in Johor to settle an escalating Pakatan Rakyat crisis over the Gelang Patah parliamentary seat.

Boo and his henchmen had launched a protracted attack, via the Chinese media, on Johor PKR chairman Datuk Chua Jui Meng for the right to contest Gelang Patah.

According to a Jan 14 Sin Chew editorial, the problem with Boo and Liew’s lack of support could be attributed to Kit Siang’s presence amongst Johor DAP leadership.

“DAP locals described the party election as ‘losers also Kit Siang, winners also Kit Siang’ in the battle between Boo and Liew. Voting patterns were influenced after Kit Siang publicly declared support for Liew.

“Delegates who originally were with Boo switched while Boo’s die-hard supporters voted to ‘punish’ Liew, resulting in the unusual phenomenon of low votes for both Boo and Liew,” the editorial stated.

However, as sagely as Kit Siang is to the party leaders, they were more cautious towards Guan Eng’s move to consolidate his position. Guan Eng, who is completing his final term as secretary-general, is placing his trusted “lieutenants” in key positions in several states.

Kit Siang, as Guan Eng’s father, will find it difficult to shake away accusations of nepotism and that the DAP is essentially a political legacy for the Lims.

This could also work against Liew who is seen as a rising star and formidable strategist.

Liew had also topped the list of the 20-member central executive committee line-up at the DAP Special Congress and elections last September. So how did he fare so badly in the Johor DAP polls?