Penang DAP Chow-Guan Eng ‘civil war’ brewing, say insiders, observers

Former CM’s continued criticism of ruling government’s Covid-19 management strategies ruffles onlookers, hints at rift between party’s top 2

(The Vibes) – DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng’s public rebuke of the Penang government’s Covid-19 management has tongues wagging over a possible “civil war” as the state is helmed by his party.

His lashings came as the state started recording more infections.

Lim had blamed it on the delay in vaccine supply, where he questioned why Penang did not emulate Selangor in purchasing its own jabs.

His successor Chow Kon Yeow had decided against purchasing vaccines despite the state being among the earliest approached by the private sector to procure jabs.

Lim, who was finance minister in the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, also singled out PKR’s Penang health exco Dr Norlela Ariffin.

Dr Norlela told The Vibes that she is unsure of the reasons behind Lim’s constant criticism of the state government’s Covid-19 handling.

She said she had addressed every question posed by Lim, submitting her answers to the state PH leadership.

Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman also highlighted that Dr Norlela is part of the DAP-led government.

Some of Dr Norlela colleagues in PKR feel that Lim’s criticism was aimed at Chow, who is in his fourth year of leading Penang.

The public rebuke has ruffled political observers and DAP insiders here.

Political scientist Sivamurugan Pandian said Lim has caused much anxiety in the Chow administration as the two are top dogs in DAP. Chow is DAP vice-president.

“I think Lim knows it and he is sending out a message that perhaps only Chow can digest. It has never happened before for DAP in Penang.”

Sivamurugan added that the issue is no longer just about Covid-19; it has taken on a life of its own politically.

He said there is a certain perception that DAP and its 43 parliamentarians stood their ground despite a seismic shift in Malay politics, with more parties now wresting for ground.

But over time, DAP has been bogged down largely because it could not hold its national polls due to the pandemic, and lacklustre output from its leaders who are hampered by the virus and its ensuing effect on politics and the economy.

This gives grounds to speculation that all is not well with DAP, particularly in Penang, Sivamurugan told The Vibes.

Meanwhile, state DAP committee member Syerleena Abdul Rashid said Lim’s criticism should not be overblown.

For her, it is a form of constructive criticism aimed at helping the state find solutions and work harder to overcome pandemic after-effects.

Putting aside egos and prioritising public service is her message.

But some DAP insiders said Dr Norlela is not a staunch ally of Penang DAP as she had stirred up issues in the past that undermined the state government, so there may have been a rift even before she was appointed health exco.

They said her style differs from the progressive stance of the state government, which just one year ago was beaming with pride that the state was a green zone for three consecutive months.

But now a nightmare has unfolded with cases averaging 1,500 in the state daily and its public health system overwhelmed.

Dr Norlela replaced former PKR Seberang Jaya assemblyman Afif Bahardin, who lost his role as a state exco when he jumped ship to Bersatu after PH lost federal power in late February 2020.

DAP insiders do not believe there is a rift between Lim and Chow, as both reached a compromise in the last Penang DAP polls where representatives of their factions won slots in the 15-member state DAP committee.

But there may be unease emerging as Lim faces an ongoing corruption trial that involves his role as then chief minister.

The prosecution has called up Lim’s former state exco members, such as Datuk Lim Hock Seng, to testify as witnesses.

It remains to be seen if Chow himself will be called up to testify.