This is taken from the Starits Times of Singapore. This article was also posted in MalaysianInsider.com. even foreigners think that Gerakan is a Chinese based party, which goes to show how much Gerakan has veered from its original nonracial objectives.
BN’s Chinese Parties in a dilemma
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 4 — When an Umno grassroots leader in Penang recently described the Chinese as squatters and immigrants in Malaysia, it expectedly sparked a firestorm of protests.
But what came as a surprise was the ferocity of the protests from Umno’s Chinese partners in the Barisan Nasional.
A Parti Gerakan leader even lodged a police report against Datuk Ahmad Ismail, the Umno divisional chief who made the comments during the Permatang Pauh by-election.
“Statements like this will render our hard work for the people worthless, especially if the people are gauging us from the remarks made by other component parties,” said the usually meek Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.
That sums up the dilemma faced by the two biggest Chinese parties in the BN — Gerakan and the MCA.
Gerakan is ostensibly multiracial but essentially Chinese.
Its voters abandoned it in the March 8 general election, angered by its impotence against the shrill Malay rhetoric of Umno. Six months later, the situation is unchanged.
The Permatang Pauh by-election showed that a whopping 78 per cent of the non-Malays voted for opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
This is even higher than at the March polls, when it was around 70 per cent. Even then, the MCA and Gerakan lost many of their Chinese-dominant seats.
“They no longer have legitimacy in their own political base,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng, who recently published a book on Gerakan.
Both parties are now under pressure from their grassroots to take reform measures, the most drastic of which is simply to walk out of the BN.
A Gerakan division leader in Kuala Lumpur, Dr Hsu Dar Ren, recently wrote in his blog that the party had become a square peg in a round hole.
“No matter how good the reform undertaken by Gerakan, if it is still perceived to be subservient to Umno and impotent to push for changes within the coalition, it is signing its own death sentence,” he said.
Such voices are set to grow louder as both parties head into their separate election seasons. Their national elections will be held next month.
This is undoubtedly going to be the main election issue, and Umno can expect to come in for some bashing. Umno, facing its own leadership tussles, is not making it easy for them.
It is in too weak a position to accommodate minority demands as it is banking on shoring up its Malay base.
But the Chinese grassroots may be running out of patience.
“Between their own survival and that of Umno, which do you think they will choose?” said Khoo.
There appears to be no imminent danger yet of either party pulling out of the BN, but political observers do not think it impossible.
Of the two parties, Gerakan is the hardest hit. Its Penang base was wiped out, and it lost talent to the DAP that now helms the state.
The frustrated members in Perak and Kedah have demanded a pullout from the BN, and similar calls can be expected when cadres in unsettled states such as Penang and Kuala Lumpur meet soon.
It could culminate in a leadership challenge against Koh for the party presidency.
No challenger has emerged, but speculation is rife that younger leaders may come forward on a platform of change and reform.
In the MCA, its president Datuk Ong Ka Ting has decided to step down. He has endorsed his successor Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat, who is seen as an outspoken reformist.
So far, no one else has declared his candidacy for the top job, but it is widely speculated that former Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek may do so. His biggest problem is the sex video which forced him to resign in January.
The fight, if there is one, will be painted as one between reformists and the old guard.
Gerakan and the MCA are entering turbulent times, and the problem will become more acute after the party elections, when the focus will be wholly on their role in the BN.
It will not be easy to leave the BN as both parties have major business interests and cannot afford to be in the opposition.
Besides, both parties are now far weaker than the opposition Chinese-dominant DAP, which has 28 MPs. The MCA and Gerakan will become minor partners in the opposition, or if they remain independent, a voice in the wilderness.
This is their dilemma that is now coming to a boil. — The Straits Times Singapore