DAP’s thumping Bagan by-election victory is a severe warning to Barisan National that it could face its worst result in the next general election before the year 2,000 if the government ignores the people’s desire for both democracy and development

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, at the opening of the Penang DAP State Convention held at the Towne House Hotel, Penang Road, on Sunday, October 1 , 1995 at 10 a.m.

DAP’s thumping Bagan by-election victory is a severe warning to Barisan National that it could face its worst result in the next general election before the year 2,000 if the government ignores the people’s desire for both democracy and development.

In the April 1995 general election, the DAP faced its worst general election defeat in the 29-year party history, raising the question whether there is a future for the DAP in particular and democracy in general.

From 20 Parliamentary and 46 State Assembly seats before the April dissolution, the DAP was thrashed and left with nine Parliamentary and 11 State Assembly seats.

In Penang, DAP’s Tanjong 3 Plan to capture the Penang Estate Government was crushed and only Sdri . Chong Eng managed to scrape through to the Penang State Assembly to become the lone Opposition Assembly representative.

It was natural that there should be a sense of gloom and doom inside the DAP at such dismal election result, but what was most, significant, and noteworthy was that in the country, the people as a whole were in a daze of disbelief, shock and trauma at the general election result, and its possible long-term conse¬quences ..

Four-and-a-half months later, on September 9, 1995, when the Bagan parliamentary by-election result was announced, there was another nation-wide disbelief but this time accompanied with relief and joy – for the DAP had won with 11 802-majority, which was 100 times greater than the majority the DAP won in April general election.

The DAP result in the 1995 general election is worse than the 1982 general election, our previous worst general elec¬tion debacle, but the DAP has managed a turn-around which is faster than after the 1982 general election.

The DAP Bagan “turn-around” after the dismal April 1995 general election result, is faster and greater than during the Kepayang by-election “turn-around” after the 1982 general election

The “turn-around” for the DAP in 1982 was the Kepayang by-election in Perak. In the April 1982 general election, the DAP won the Kepayang state assembly seat with a 161vote majority but in the by-election on October 16. 1982, the DAP won with A 9,764 majority.

The “turn-around” for the DAP after the April 1995 general election in the Bagan by-election – fighting a lower general election majority of 118 as compared to 161 in Kepayang -was faster and greater than he Kepayang by-election “turnaround”, taking place four-and-a-half months after the general election and securing a majority 100 times that, during the general election.

The message of DAP’ s thumping Bagan by-election is very clear and should serve as a severe warning to the Barisan Nasional that it could face its worst result in the next general election before the year 2,000 if the government ignores the people’s desire for both democracy and development

Just as with the Kepayanq by-election in October 1982, the Barisan Nasional leaders know that, the Bagan “turn-around” is no fluke.

After the 1982 general election the DAP’s “turn around” in the Kepayang by-election was confirmed in two subse¬quent by-elections, the Raub State Assembly by-election in Pahang -and”the Seremban parliamentary by-election, both in 1983.

What Barisan National leaders are most worried now is to have more-by-elections in the traditional heartland of the DAP which, until the Bagan by-election, Nasional leaders believed had been converted into Barisan National heartland.

This is why the Gerakan leadership quickly announced that it would stop the defeated Gerakan candidate for Jelutonq-Rhina Bhar, from proceeding with her election appeal to demand for fresh election against Karpal Singh in Jelutong. The night¬mare of the Gerakan leaders will begin should Rhina Bar win her appeal against Karpal Singh to call for a new election in Jelutong!

There are of course two other interpretations to the Bagan by-election apart from seeing it as a “turn-around” for the DAP after the April general election.

One is to interpret the DAP’s Bagan by-election tory as of no political significance – that it was just a sympathy vote”
The other is to interpret the DAP’s Bagan by-election victory as a “-temporary halt” to an unstoppable decline of the DAP in the Malaysian political arena.

Everyone is entitled to their interpretations about the Bagan by-election, but I must warn the Barisan Nasional Government that it disregards the -unmistakable demand of the people of Bagan for both democracy and development at its own peril – and for instance, if it refuses to support the motion which the DAP Assemblywoman for Batu Lanchang, Chong Eng will table in the next Penang State Assembly to rename Bagan as “Bagan Democracy City”, it must, be prepared to face the wrath of the people in the next general election.

While I regard the Bagan by-election as a “turnaround” for the DAP after the dismal general election results in the April polls, it will be a. great mistake for anyone to misread the Bagan by-election in concluding that, the DAP has fully recovered.

Even before the Bagan by-election, the DAP at all levels had agreed that there is a need for a radical programme of party reform to renew and revive the DAP.

The Bagan by-election victory must be regarded as a catalyst, to embark on this three-year programme of party reform and rejuvenation, which must involve the following elements:

*Re-thinking of party policies, strategies and approahes
*Renewal of party leadership and membership;
*Talent-scout, nurture and develop a new generation of leaders to make over the future leadership and direction of DAP.

The greatest challenge for the party in the next three years is to re-invent the DAP to meet the aspirations of a new generation of Malaysians.
What I read recently in another context on change and renewal is relevant to this three-year DAP programme of party renewal and revival:

“Yesterday natural resources defined power. Today knowledge is power.
“Yesterday hierarchy was the model. Today synergy is the mandate.
“Yesterday leaders commanded and controlled. Today leaders empower and coach.
“Yesterday leaders were warriors. Today leaders are facilitators.
“Yesterday leaders demanded respect. Today leaders encourage self-respect.”

Recently, there were speculation that I would be leaving the Party and the country in six months’ time. It had never crossed my mind to leave the Party or the country at all and I must apologise to disappoint those who had hoped I would do either or both.

Firstly, let me state that I had never intended some of the contents of the news report which started off the speculation to be published.
I admit that I was entertaining notions of going off for a “sabbatical” for 18 months or so sometimes next year, but this will be subject to two provisos: firstly, the three-year DAP programme of party reform , revival and renewal must be able to get off the ground; and secondly, I must be able to find a satisfactory place where I can do the “sabbatical”

The idea of going off for a 18-month “sabbatical” is not to run away from the DAP or Malaysia, but in the spirit of the “Renewal of party leadership and membership” which I had listed as one of the elements which must characterise the DAP party reform and renewal programme.

We must constantly renew ourselves physically mentally and spiritually if we are to counteract entrophy- the tendency of all things to eventually break down. This is to renew our purpose in life and recharge our batteries.

While I have no intention of retiring from national politics, I had announced immediately after the April general election that I would be retiring from Penang state politics.

I am therefore withdrawing my candidacy for the Penang State Committee election today.

This does not mean however that I will not be concerned about developments in Penang as I am still Member of Parliament for Tanjong and Secretary-General of DAP, whose political responsibilities cover all states in Malaysia.

This was why after another “worst flood ever”‘ in Penang two weeks ago, I called on the Penang State Government to accept full responsibility for the damages suffered by the people as the Penang state, particularly the island, would not have been paralysed if the State Government had learnt from the lessons of the 1991 flood.

Immediately after the 1991 flood, the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon rushed to Kuala Lumpur to brief the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed about the flood and announced that the Federal Government would consider the implementation of the flood alleviation plan proposed by the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA).

Nothing came out of this promise, and this time, after another “worst flood ever”, nobody flew down to Kuala Lumpur to brief the Prime Minister and to ask for a RM300 million allocation for flood alleviation – as there is no more need for such actions, as the Barisan Nasional had scored an unbelievable landslide victory in the April general election.

Federal Government should not approve Tenaga’s new proposal for electricity tariff increase unless Tenaga agrees to bind itself legally to compensate industry, business and consumers for losses caused by power black-outs

The parliamentary record and performance of the eight Barisan Nasional MPs from Penang on the 10-da Penang Island power balck-out are also most disappointing.

In the June meeting of Parliamentary I had to raise the issue in Parliament as a matter of urgent, definite public importance because no Barisan National MP from Penang was bothered about the power black-out.

It was because of the poor parliamentary performance of the Barisan Nasional MPs in Parliament in June on the 10-day Penang Island power blackout that the Barisan Nasional Assembly¬men had tried to put up a “show” in the August meeting of the Penang State Assembly. Up to now, however, there is absolutely no sign of any compensation or “ex gratia” payment by Tenaga Nasional to the Penang Island, industry, business and consumers who lost, tens and even hundreds of millions of ringgit from the 10-day power blackout.

Recently, it was publicly revealed that the Tenaga Nasional had again submitted a new application to the Government to increase electricity tariffs, The Federal Government should not approve Tenaga’s new proposal for electricity tariffs increase unless Tenaga agrees to bind itself legally to compensate industry, business and consumers for losses caused by power black-outs.

I call on the Barisan Nasional State Government in Penang to convene an emergency meeting of the Penang State Assem¬bly to adopt this position and communicate its resolution to the Cabinet that the Penang State Government and people oppose any increase of electricity tariffs unless and until Tenaga Nasional agrees to assume the legal commitment, to compensate industry, business and consumers for losses suffered, as a result of power black-outs – including the 10-day power blackout on the Penang Island in June.

This legal commitment can either by way of a Parliamentary legislation or by Tenaga admitting such legal liability in its agreements signed with its consumers.