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Gerakan Battens - MGG Pillai
By web aNtu

18/1/2000 1:58 am Tue


The Gerakan battens its hatches. Party stalwarts and their supporters walk out or threatened with expulsion, reminiscent of the MCA's crisis in the 1970s and 1980s. Two state a#semblymen resigned their whip shortly after the November re-election in a cynical MCA power play that backfired. The party splits irrevocably, the Penang crisis enveloping the national party. The party president, Dato' Seri Lim Kheng Yaik, suddenly discovers Gerakan ought to reform. As UMNO painfully finds out as others would in time. This is fanned by the MCA who encouraged the two state a#semblymen, sons of founders, to defect. The dissidents want Tan Sri Koh's head for their compliance, a situation as similar in UMNO.

More than 400 who left two days ago, with more to come. The Gerakan central working committee decided to expel the dissidents as early as 26 December, but delaying this ascerbated the crisis. Dr Lim now threatens to expel all dissidents -- Gerakan calls them "erratic" members -- in Penang. The Gerakan, like every member of the National Front, insists on total subservience to its leaders. Those who do not are to be rooted out and politically destroyed. The mere threat once was enough. But the paper tigers they now are cannot hurt any but themselves. Political parties in the National Front discourage free debate and open challenges to the leadership even in party elections. The monolithic face the world sees is, as it turns out, a facade. It papers over serious internal disagreements pushed out of the limelight and ignored. When it surfaces, usually as dramatically as in Penang, it often is too late. The party leaders, armed with dictatorial powers to remove any who challenge them, become impotent when the threat disappears. Gerakan's, and UMNO's, predicament is just that: the threat of dismissal only makes the divide permanent.

Gerakan's internal dissent, within a larger scramble for Chinese support, confirms the waning political strength of both. The MCA foolishly thought it deserved the chief ministership after the two state a#semblymen resigned from Gerakan. Both Gerakan and MCA thought they could forge a political life without UMNO, confronting each other not in backroom manouevres but in the public eye. And lost. Tan Sri Koh is chief minister by courtesy not of Gerakan or the Chinese community but of UMNO. As MCA learns its position is too. Gerakan now becomes irrelevant in the Malaysian political scene. It could linger awhile if it replaces the chief minister with someone more acceptable. That comes with inbuilt dangers. UMNO may not accept the man in mind, and MCA could well stake a fresh claim. Besides, Gerakan totters, as National Front parties, with geriatric leaders with antidiluvian mindsets and no desire to allow new blood in. Gerakan survives, as MCA and MIC, for the seats in cabinet, state executive and local government councils, deferring obsequiously to UMNO's dominant worldview. Gerakan's importance in the National Front is for its chief minister in the only Chinese-dominant state in Malaysia. Remove that, and Gerakan declines as the PPP irrevocably after the mercurial D.R. Seenivasagam died thirty years ago.

M.G.G. Pillai