Commentary Politics

The dog-eat-dog world of DAP


Shahrum Sayuthi
Written by Shahrum Sayuthi

Feb 17 2017

THE resignation of four Malacca DAP elected representatives from the party last Sunday was not totally unexpected.

They are after all known to have not been in the good books of the party leadership for quite some time.

Kota Melaka member of parliament (MP) Sim Tong Him and assemblymen Goh Leong San (Duyong), Lim Jack Wong (Bachang) and Chin Choong Seong (Kesidang) are all members of the defeated faction in the party’s 2015 election.

Sim and Goh were even suspended for a year from Feb 7 last year by DAP’s disciplinary committee for smearing the party’s name through a lawsuit against a fellow party member.

Sim, who is the apparent leader of the group said they had lost confidence in the party and were disappointed with the current leadership.

He also said DAP had deviated from the party’s goals and objectives.

Sim was the sole DAP MP in Malacca after he successfully defended his Kota Melaka seat in 2013. The other DAP candidate was Damian Yeo Shi Li who lost in Alor Gajah. There are six parliamentary seats in Malacca.

As for the assemblymen who resigned, they are three of six DAP candidates who won in the 2013 general election.

The others who are still with DAP are Lai Keun Ban (Kota Laksamana), Tey Kok Kiew (Bandar Hilir), and Khoo Poay Tiong (Ayer Keroh).

They are known to be loyalists of party secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, with Lai being the replacement candidate of Lim’s wife, Betty Chiew, who declined to defend her seat that year.

As elsewhere in the country, Malacca DAP did relatively well in 2013 by increasing its seats in the State assembly from three to six, losing only two of the eight it contested. There are 28 State seats in Malacca.

Considering the trend of DAP having no qualms replacing its State-level leaders over the past few years, it could safely be assumed that Sim, Goh, Lim and Chin were actually already on their way out when they decided to resign.

Whatever the problems the four had with DAP, the party was almost certain not to name them as candidates in the next general election which will be held latest in August next year.

From that perspective, the Malaccan quartet’s resignation was actually another reminder of the firm control exercise by Lim and his DAP supremo father Kit Siang.

Those who do not tow the line are promptly replaced or gradually forced to resign as in the case of the quartet. It does not matter how popular the person seemed to be as the rule applies to everyone in DAP.

The same “spring cleaning” exercise also happened in the run-up to the general election in 2013.

In the “front line State” of Johor, Lim and his lieutenants made their move on the already established State DAP leadership by mostly excluding them from the final decision making process, including the selection of candidates for the impending polls.

Johor DAP at that time was led by the locally popular Skudai assemblyman Dr Boo Cheng Hau. The party’s other holdings in the once bastion of Umno and Barisan Nasional were the parliamentary seat of Bakri held by Er Teck Hwa and State seats of Gwee Tong Hiang (Bentayan), Ng Lam Hua (Mengkibol) and Ong Kow Meng (Senai).

Only Dr Boo and Er were named as candidates to defend their seats and even that was actually a compromise to enable the DAP headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to name the rest of the party’s candidates in the state. The Johor DAP existing leadership at that time was virtually purged.

The outcome of the general election in the state however indicated that the Chinese-dominated DAP was not only negatively unaffected by the move, but it in actual fact flourished by winning 13 of the 14 state seats and losing only two of the six parliamentary seats that it contested in Johor.

There are 56 state and 26 parliamentary seats in Johor

The contributing Chinese tsunami factor was however hard to deny as all of the Chinese DAP candidates in Johor won. The single state seat DAP did not win was in Paloh where the candidate was Shanker Rengganathan, while the two parliamentary seats it failed to win were contested by its candidates Ramakrishnan Suppiah (Labis) and Mahathir Ibrahim (Tanjong Piai).

The DAP leadership had in fact solidified its preferred State leadership line-up in the following party elections after the last general election with the “old guards” being replaced by those who are unquestioning of orders and directives coming from the top.

Most of those sidelined in the process quietly disappeared into obscurity.

Other personalities, such as Dr Boo, who had since been replaced by Kluang MP Liew Chin Tong as leader of Johor DAP appeared to be waiting with resignation for the day when their name are eventually dropped from the party’s line-up.

Nonetheless, not everyone was taking it lying down, such as in the case of the Malaccan quartet.

Despite it being obvious that their days as DAP elected representatives were numbered, their act of collectively resigning from the party before they were “disposed off” raised quite a few eyebrows.

Speculations are now rife that more acts of rebellion are in the offing as others, set to be sidelined by the party leadership may follow the example of the Malaccan quartet as the general election draws ever nearer.

However, whether the impact of such resignations would really be felt on the core support base of DAP is still questionable.

It was negligible in 2013 and it may still be so now, but DAP may nowadays be more careful as the political atmosphere is no longer the same as in the run-up to the last general election where support for the party, especially amongst the Chinese community was almost unbreakable.



About the author

Shahrum Sayuthi

Shahrum Sayuthi