Power play in Selangor DAP polls


DAP is the most powerful party in Selangor now but the man to watch is not its chairman Tony Pua. It’s a pair of powerful warlords who had a big hand in the outcome of the recent state party polls.

Joceline Tan, The Star

TONY Pua is a superstar in DAP but he found himself almost at the mercy of the warlords during the Selangor party election on Sunday.

Pua, who has been making news every day on issues ranging from 1MDB to Deepavali bazaars came in at No 8 in a line-up of 15 in the state party election while others who are perceived as less remarkable were well ahead of him.

He also slipped down two slots from the last state election in 2013 when he came in at No 6.

It was quite a shocker and it was not good news for him considering that he was the incumbent state chairman, Petaling Jaya Utara MP and one of the names being bandied about for DAP secretary-gene­ral when Lim Guan Eng’s term expires.

Moreover, those aligned to him lost or ended up in the bottom half of the elected line-up.

His ally Hannah Yeoh, the State Assembly Speaker, was No 1 in 2013 but dropped to No 6 this time. Another ally, Serdang MP Dr Ong Kian Ming, barely made it, coming in last.

But the problem had less to do with him per se than a pair of po­­werful party warlords, Ean Yong Han Wah and Ronnie Liu, who call the shots on the ground and who had a big hand in the election outcome.

Ean Yong, who is a state executive councillor, came in at No 3 in the election and Liu, hailed as the “comeback king”, came in at No 4 even though he was dropped as a candidate in the last general election.

It was obvious that their aim was to get Pua out of the way. Pua, who got 495 votes, was 241 votes behind the top scorer Gobind Singh Deo and only 81 ahead of Dr Ong, who was placed last.

The pair and their supporters had campaigned hard and their efforts to set up new branches over the last few years enabled them to send more of their delegates to vote this time around.

Their faction now dominates the Selangor DAP leadership line-up. The DAP election system involves electing 15 members who will then elect the key office-bearers.

During the closed-door meeting to elect the office-bearers, Ean Yong’s faction acceded to Pua being retained as state chairman.

However, they tried to push Liu for one of the two vice-chairmen posts against Yeoh and senior state executive councillor Datuk Teng Chang Khim. Yeoh won easily but Teng beat Liu by only one vote.

Most of the key committee posts also went to those aligned to the two warlords.

The coveted organising secretary post went to Eddie Ng Tien Chee, the Balakong assemblyman who was suspended earlier this year after pictures of him gambling went viral.

The controversial Kuala Kubu Baru assemblywoman Lee Kee Hiong was appointed political education director.

Ean Yong, who took the all-po­werful secretary’s post, is the man to watch. The tall and reed-thin politician has been seriously underestimated by opponents. He is very ambitious and is eyeing the senior executive councillor post now held by Teng.

His chief ally Liu, whom Chinese reporters call “sky ball” because of the sound of his Chinese name Tian Khiew, is said to be planning a bigger comeback – in the next general election.

Ean Yong’s group had also co-opted state executive councillor V. Ganabatirau to deliver the Indian votes.

The Malay candidates lost be­cause they only got support from Pua’s group.

Reporters covering the election joked that the DAP rivalry in Selangor is between the “Oxford group” led by Pua and the “pasar malam group” led by Ean Yong.

Pua, a product of Oxford University, has been trying to elevate the image of DAP by grooming more professionals and thinking types. The “Oxford group” has brain power but they do not have the na­tural people touch and there is some disconnect with the party grassroots.

The “pasar malam group”, for want of a better term, are not intellectual but has street smarts and people skills. They are not thinkers but they speak the common man’s language and know how to “yamseng and karaoke”, as they say.

Liu, for instance, makes it a point to attend funeral wakes. He knows that dead men cannot vote but their relatives and friends can.

DAP’s grassroots and hardcore supporters are largely working-class Chinese. They are not into high-minded issues and they relate to the “pasar malam group” who speak their lingo and are familiar with their rough-and-tumble ways.

Elections in DAP have been getting hotter given their success in the last two general elections. It will probably get even hotter in Selangor because the mega state Budget announced recently will make it the most happening state in the country.

But the moral of the story is that brain power gets you noticed but people skills can take you further.