This is from Bernama’s news analysis today:
Is Gerakan’s iron Triangle Breaking Up?
By Alan Ting
PENANG, Sept 28 (Bernama) — For the past 20 years, Gerakan’s top three leaders — acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, vice-president Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nam and secretary-general Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye had always formed a formidable team.
So much so they were dubbed as the “Iron Triangle”, reflecting their closeness, with some party members even likened their bonds to the party’s emblem, which is triangular in shape.
The trio also built up their respective political career in the Bukit Bendera constituency.
Dr Koh was previously the state assemblyman for Tanjung Bungah, Dr Teng was the Pulau Tikus state assemblyman — both are in the Bukit Bendera parliamentary seat — while Chia was the MP before his defeat in the March 8 general election.
“Once, they were also called the ‘Dream Team’ as they had built up such a formidable political force in Penang and in the party,” a retired senior Gerakan leader told Bernama.
Lately however, some party leaders and insiders said they began to detect signs that the Iron Triangle was breaking up.
Cracks seemed to have appeared after the March 8 general election and some party members even interpreted that the cracks meant that the trio might no longer be on the same ship.
“Their public appearance is very superficial. I think the ‘triangle’ had actually started to collapse sometime in February and early March when two of them (Dr Teng and Chia) started to lobby to become the next Penang chief minister,” said a grassroots member from the Bukit Bendera division.
Lending further credence to the perception was the fact that Dr Teng decided to contest against Chia for the Penang state Gerakan chairman’s post — a move, according to some Penang Gerakan members, that had upset Chia.
“There has been an arrangement earlier that when Dr Koh steps down as the Penang Gerakan chairman, Chia would be given a chance to take over. However, at the last minute, Dr Teng came in and challenged him,” a Gerakan divisional leader said.
Differences between Chia and Dr Teng began to surface when Chia, just a day before the Penang Gerakan state elections, suggested that the party break away from Barisan Nasional.
“This was a calculated move by Chia to win the delegates’ support after some personal attacks were hurled at him,” one of Chia’s supporters said, claiming that the “pull out from BN” statement had prompted Dr Koh to hold an unscheduled closed-door briefing just before the start of the party’s state elections last Sunday.
During the briefing, Dr Koh had said that there was no doubt that some would want to see Gerakan leave the BN but at the same time, they did not indicate whether they would continue to support the party after the pullout.
This seemed to have jolted the delegates to their senses and forced them to ponder about the fate of the party if it were to be out of BN and with support eroding.
And because of this, the Chia supporter claimed, some delegates threw their support to Dr Teng, who won by a mere 10-vote majority.
Dr Teng secured 166 votes, Chia obtained 156 while another candidate, Bukit Gelugor division chairman Cheang Chee Gooi, only managed to secure 21 votes.
But for former Penang state executive councillor and Gerakan Youth chief Teng Chang Yeow, the rift had not reached a level of breaking, only at the point of “loosening up”.
“After a while, corrosion will set in. So you need to put some oil. Whether this would smoothen the whole thing again, it remains to be seen,” he said.
But the latest development has given some veteran party leaders a cause for concern.
For instance, one of them, Tan Sri Dr Chin Fook Weng, said, “Whatever happens, the Iron Triangle cannot break as it holds a very significant power play and balancing act in the party.
“If the triangle breaks, the consequences are that any one of them may break away from the party, bringing with them a substantial number of supporters.”
Results in the recent Penang Gerakan elections showed that both Dr Teng and Chia still wield considerable support.
“Some members have said that it was a proxy fight but as a keen watcher, I would rather say that each one of them has a different personality, with their own ways and ideas,” Dr Chin said.
“It is how we get these people to come and work together. Chia coordinates well, that is why he is always regarded as a good coordinator. You get maximum result,” he said.
Dr Teng, on the other hand, is a person who has a good appearance and good public relations skills, including the ability to speak various languages, including Tamil, said Dr Chin.
“Each of them has strengths and weaknesses and they need each other’s strengths to cover their respective weaknesses,” he said.
Now it would be interesting to see whether Dr Teng, the elected Penang Gerakan state chairman, would bring Chia to sit on the Penang state liaison committee (SLC).
“Chia has lost and he is not a division chairman. How to have him at the SLC when he is not even one of the six delegates voted in?
“But that can be done by bringing Chia to the SLC through the Central Working Committee (CWC), which has a provision to appoint a central liaison officer to sit in the SLC,” said Dr Chin.
Dr Chin explained that the CWC could appoint anybody to be a central liaison officer and that the state chairman had to consult the officer whenever important decisions were to be made.
“We can also appoint three persons as central appointees in the SLC. This has been used to stabilise the party in the past,” he said.
For Bayan Baru division chairman Wong Mun Hoe, the trio is not breaking up as Chia is known to be a team player and party leaders normally closed ranks after the election is over.
“The Iron Triangle is not easy to break. The triangle members understand the Gerakan way of doing things. Gerakan does not usually practise the winner takes all and loser loses all concept.
“Once the election is over, the rivals will close ranks and those who have been elected will usually bring in those who did not make it,” he said.
Wong said it would be something unexpected if Chia decided to break away from the triangle as suggested by some.
There are talks that Dr Teng and Chia will fight it out again for the deputy president’s post in the party’s elections scheduled for Oct 11.
Some even predicted that Chia might go for broke by contesting against Dr Koh for the party’s presidency.