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TOC Special Report : Opposition creating a buzz in Penang elections

Posted by theonlinecitizen on March 7, 2008

By Andrew Loh

The Democratic Action Party (DAP) of Malaysia is quietly confident of its chances in the upcoming General Elections, the 12th in the country.

Although it managed to win only one seat in the Penang state assembly in the last elections, DAP members told theonlinecitizen (TOC) that they are confident of creating a severe dent in the ruling Barisan National’s (BN) hold this time round.

The DAP, founded by Mr Devan Nair who later became Singapore’s 3rd president, is now led by Secretary General Mr Lim Guan Eng, son of the former leader, Mr Lim Kit Siang. The junior Lim was first elected as a Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka in 1986, defeating ex-Malaysian football captain Soh Chin Aun with a majority of 17,606 votes. (DAP)

The senior Lim is now the chairman of the Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission of the party. (DAP)

TOC paid a visit to the DAP’s headquarters in Penang on Sunday and Monday.

Issues of concern

TOC managed to speak to five of the candidates contesting seats in Penang island – Jeff Ooi, Chow Kon Yeow, Ng Wei Aik, Liew Chin Tong (DAP’s Chief Election Strategist), and Koay Teng Hai. What is clear is that all five felt that change is in the air. Indeed, the party’s election slogan is “Just Change It”, a call for Malaysians to deny the ruling coalition a two-thirds majority.

“People are tired of the corruption, the indecisiveness of the Badawi government”, says Mr Ng. Asked what the people of Penang are concerned about, Mr Ng said the economy is one of the top concerns. “We used to be number one in Malaysia. Now, we’re number three. The government is not doing enough for Penang.” Along with the state of the economy, corruption, education and rising inflation are the other issues they’re fighting on in the elections.

One of its election leaflets is headlined, “Corruption, Sleaze & Rising Inflation”. The text says: “BN claims that inflation rate is only 2%. Can BN be trusted when it is more than 20%?”. A few of the candidates repeatedly asked the assembled ceramah (i.e. rally) attendees that night if they believe the official figure of 2%. They were met by a resounding “NO!” response.

The perception we got was what matters are not government statistics but how the common man and woman on the street perceive things.

The Singapore government’s scheme of giving ‘progress packages’ is also cited in the leaflet: “For 50 years, the people have not received a single cent of Petronas profits. If a non-oil producer like Singapore can give S$2,500 to poor families yearly, why can’t BN do the same for Malaysians?”

In its party newspaper, The Rocket, Sec Gen Lim accused the Malaysian government of refusing to “restore the teaching of Math and Science from English to mother-tongue or refusing to build new Chinese primary schools or not giving fair development to Chinese and Tamil primary schools.”

Turning apathy into participation

Blogger-turned-politician Mr Jeff Ooi’s participation in the elections was spurred by another cause – that of trying to reverse the apathy among younger Malaysians.

One of the most popular bloggers in Malaysia at the moment, Mr Ooi says, “I hope to inspire younger people to take part in politics here. Even if I lost, I hope it will inspire younger people to come forward. And if I won, I’d have another platform to air national issues and push for changes.”

Asked about how Malaysian bloggers have taken to his “Jeff For Malaysia” campaign and his candidacy in the Jelutong seat, he said they were supportive. Donations through Mr Ooi’s blog has totaled RM113,000.00 thus far. Mr Ooi says on his blog:

“With the latest tally of about RM113,000.00 in total, that’s about 113% of the target for this online campaign, i.e. to raise RM100,000 from readers of this blog. Thank you very much.”

Mr Koay Teng Hai (picture left, first from left) is up against one of the heavyweights, Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan in the Pulau Tikus state seat. Teng is seen as one of the three men (the others being Mr Teng Chang Yeow and Datuk Lee Kah Choon) likely to succeed outgoing chief minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Although Koay’s chances of unseating Datuk Dr Teng may be an uphill task, many of what were previously regarded as safe seats for Barisan National are now being termed as “hot”, particularly those contested by Gerakan and MCA as the opposition has worked up a froth of anti-government discontent.

This is Mr Koay’s second elections. Aged 35, Koay is energetic and charismatic, judging from the rally speech he gave on Sunday night which had the crowd enthralled.

With his eloquence in Hokkien and Mandarin, and without any prepared script, his 50 minutes speech on Sunday took Barisan National to task over several issues. They included the controversy of awarding the construction of Penang’s 2nd Link to one of the companies under Khairy Jamaludin’s control, several other major infrastructural projects to entities with ties to UMNO, the state of minority tongue education in Malaysia, ways to truly reinvent (borrowing from BN’s/Gerakan’s campaign slogan), and revitalize Penang’s sluggish economy.

For this general election, the DAP itself has embarked on a concerted campaign – with posters, flags, leaflets, badges, stickers, buntings, umbrellas, t-shirts and even a campaign song (Just Change It), an election video (The Voice Of Democracy) and a website.

All this is an attempt to deny the ruling coalition of a two-third majority in the state assembly. (Penang has 40 seats. One-third would mean 14 seats.)

Sentiments on the ground

The buzz is quite evident on the ground as well. TOC spoke to several Malaysians and all of them were of the opinion that it is time for change in Penang.

“Abdullah Badawi is hopeless”, said a taxi driver. “Mahathir was a better prime minister. Badawi didn’t do what he promised. Corruption is now even worse! Now, Anwar is giving them a lot of headache also!”, he said. Another taxi driver opined that “we will see some changes in this election”. One lady offered that the people of Penang were now tired and ready for new faces to represent them.

The current Chief Minister, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon is leaving office. Speculation is rife as to who will replace him. The DAP has accused the Barisan National of putting out misleading information on this.

They are alleging that the bemusing charade of a new contender emerging every other day shows that the Gerakan is driven by factionalism and/or that the outgoing CM Tan Sri Dr Koh is weak and indecisive, ever ready to kowtow to UMNO and in particular Khairy Jamaludin – Badawi’s son-in-law and a Malay Ultra – who has publicly made known his desire to see an UMNO man take over as Penang’s CM at some future point in time.

How can a house divided, a leader that exercises no effective control over his own party and who caves in to UMNO’s whims and fancies be trusted with preserving the interests of Penangites and Penang as a whole, they asked.

A biased press

During the two days that TOC was there, it was evident that the local press was clearly taking the side of the ruling coalition parties, particularly UMNO. The front pages of the newspapers and the inside pages were dedicated to the coalition’s campaign. Bold headlines such as “BN will never neglect rural folk, says Abdullah” screams out at you, with a picture of a smiling Abdullah Badawi. Another report says, “BN’s Kelantan manifesto addresses needs of society” and many similar, positive reports on BN.

One would have to look hard for any positive – or at least, fair – reports of the opposition.

The New Straits Times reported the opposition thus, “Opposition in Sabah running out of steam”, “Opposition suffering ‘development envy’ and “DAP slammed over lawyer’s status”. As for Anwar Ibrahim, the press seems to have blanketed him out totally. There was only one small report on him, titled “Anwar cannot do anything for Permatang Pauh” – on page six of The New Straits Times on March 3rd.

“This is how it is”, says DAP’s Ng Wei Aik. The opposition thus have to depend on their own party newspapers to get their messages across to the electorate. For the DAP, there is The Rocket and DAP TV and their nightly rallies.

Soldiering on

Despite the obstacles, members of the DAP are giving their all in this elections, brimming with enthusiasm and confidence. Their campaign headquarters is abuzz with activities, candidates dropping in now and then from their walkabouts, schedules are confirmed and re-confirmed, phone calls are made, emails sent out, campaign vehicles are re-loaded with campaign paraphernalia, candidates wishing each other well for the night’s rallies, zesty, youthful as well as the not-so-youthful but nevertheless young-at-heart volunteers helping out in anything that needs their attention, etc.

There is a sense of camaraderie among the members and supporters. A sense of purpose, of a common end goal.

TOC met one ardent and long-time supporter of the DAP. Identifying himself as Mr Ho, he says he’s been a DAP helper for 50 years. “I do what I can. We need to help out even if we are not party members”, as he proudly relates his experiences and the history of the party.

Mr Ng Wei Aik, when pressed on how many state seats they hope to win, said that he hopes “6 to 10 seats” will fall this time – a sentiment echoed by those that TOC spoke to.

“BN will still win but with a smaller majority”, said one taxi driver. “But the opposition will win more seats this time.”

Verdict on March 8

All eyes will be on Polling Day this Saturday, March 8. The opposition is well aware that they will not win a majority in the elections. What they are hoping for is to deny the Barisan National a two-thirds majority.

In the state of Penang, such ambitions may have been laughed at in the past. However, this time it might just be a realistic goal.

Special thanks to Shaun Lee.

Read about the Malaysian elections here.

Also, visit Malaysiakini for the latest news on the elections.

Below is the DAP video titled “Voice Of Democracy”. You can find more of their videos on YouTube as well.

DAP candidate Koay Teng Hai’s rally speech:



26 Responses to “TOC Special Report : Opposition creating a buzz in Penang elections”

  1. This election in Malaysia will be not so good for the BN.

    First, election is to be held earlier to deny Anwar to participate. This is injustice.

    Seconly many racial problems are not solved yet. This unhappy Malaysians will vote for the opposition.
    The majority rule of Malay is getting into an intimidating rule over other races. Many Penang people are afraid UMNO might force a Malay Chief Minister there to take hold.

    It seems the trust is not there for the BN. So people might give them a thrashing in the vote.

    The way they conduct the election is not perfect. One day they rule the ink. Another they rule it out. Why can’t they just send voting cards to the voters ?

  2. Gary Teoh said

    I feel that election in malaysia is more lively and democratic. they have rallies and the oppositions can speak without fear of getting defamation.And most important, they don’t have GRC system.Oppositions in Singapore should learn from DAP.Their candidates should not necessarily be graduates, and they can wear sleepers too without any comments from the voters.So Singaporeans should learn from them, because our mentality is too low compare to that of the people in Malaysia.We will think twice of voting for the candidate if he wears sleepers or if he is not a graduate.But then again,we should point the arrow to the media which constantly brainwash our people.

  3. Shaun Lee said

    Gary, while I concur with you that elections in Malaysia are indeed livelier, I have to disagree with you that they are more democratic. The DAP, KeADILan, PAS and other opposition parties have time and again uncovered electoral rolls in many of the 222 parliamentary and some 505 state assembly seats packed with voters who are 110 years old or even older. Many of these upon further investigation, were found to have been deceased for decades. Also there have been allegations of regular busloading of BN supporters from other constituencies to alter the voting in ‘hot’ seats. And if you have not heard already, the use of indelible ink so as to prevent electoral fraud has been withdrawn by the Malaysian Election. Neither has the Malaysian media been fair in its coverage on the opposition.

    On the subject of fair access to media, if one had really read the above article in detail, one would have noted that the team found that generally, the Malaysian press (e.g. The Star, NST, Guangming Daily, etc) literally afforded the BN blanket coverage. I suppose we should not really be surprised given that both Singapore’s and Malaysia’s political systems stemmed from a common ancestor – British Westminster style parliamentary democracy. One can’t helped but suspect that leaders of the ruling regimes in both countries try their utmost to outdo one another in suffocating the growth of any sophisticated and/or popular opposition party. Some of the common tactics employ by the governing parties on both sides of the Causeway include the liberal use of draconian laws like the ISA (as evidenced in the recent arrests of several Hindraf leaders) and the OSA.

  4. antz said

    Whenever I travel to Malaysia, I always admired the vast land they had.Lots of mountains and even cows can be seen not forgetting the kampungs as the coach passed by going up north.
    The problem is that what has been laid in the past had in fact contribute to the racial.religion problem.Frankly, a loss of national identity crisis.
    Schools are being divided by race..a malay/Chinese/Indian school.
    There’s a hospital i remembered in KL that stand opposite Swiss Garden Hotel a Chinese Hospital.
    I don’t see school children mingling with other races.
    Even eating station are divided into categories of races..
    and i just hoped S’pore will NEVER be in the state of divided races.
    It’s a waste that M’sia with ample resource and land is indeed struggling with loads of racial issues.

  5. Gary Teoh said

    Ok Shaun,your article is true and another thing we can learn from them is having transparent ballot boxes to prevent any fraud.

  6. Gary Teoh said

    And over in Malaysia, podcast and video such as You Tube is allowed during election time whereas in Singapore they are banned,this is what I mean they are more democratic.

  7. Shaun Lee said

    Gary, for all we know, the government will probably relax some of the draconian controls they instituted on the use of the internet for campaigning at the next polls. I believe not all of the PAP thought the ban was a good idea at all for it restricted their own outreach. Keeping my fingers crossed. 😉

    While it may just have been but two days or so that the team spent in Penang, we were able to find enough similarities as well as dissimilarities between the two polities i.e. Singapore and Malaysia. Some of these are:

    1. In both countries, the ruling party/dominant coalition has >90% (91% in the instance of the BN in Malaysia and 98% for the PAP here in Singapore) of the seats in their respective Parliaments
    2. The media in both countries are less than objective in their coverage during a GE.
    3. Common to both countries too is the redrawing of electoral boundaries arbitrarily without consultation with the opposition, NGOs and other interested and qualified parties
    4. Pork barrel politics e.g. link between votes and upgrading here and the avalanche of announcement of mega infrastructural and other projects just prior to or during a GE
    5. The ubiquituous shadow of ISA and OSA

    1. There is no such thing as Party Political Broadcasts on RTM as there are on Mediacorp TV during a GE
    2. Election material e.g. posters, banners, flags, billboards need no prior approval from the Election Commission in Malaysia. The reverse is true for Singapore. All material designed for use in a GE have to have an Election Department sticker pasted at the top right corner before it can be displayed in a public place e.g. posters.
    3. Political parties aren’t restricted to a finite number of possible locations to hold election rallies/ceramahs in Malaysia. Whereas one is limited to but one location for all contesting parties in a SMC here and up to 3 in a GRC here.

  8. sad singapore student said

    Malaysia is nowadays a much more democratic country compared to Singapore. And the result of this is that they participate more in the cultural and political life of their country. Talk to Malaysian students overseas and you will see the difference. They have views and opinions that they are willing to defend, they are articulate. They have genuine pride and ideals for their country and keep in touch with burning social issues of the day.

    Singapore students in comparison talk about shopping and eating. They see you as “weird” if you try to question their anti-intellectualism

    They have no ideals. They just want to make money

  9. Goodwind said

    The Malaysian Opposition Coalition has won Penang, Kedah and Kelantan. As of now, 4 ministers from the UMNO-led United Front have lost their seats. MIC Chief is one of them. And the UMNO’s vetran Women Affairs Minister has lost her seat to Anwar’s daughter, who is only 27 years old and inexperience in politics.

    Anwar’s wife, Wan Aziza has retained her seat in Penang, which she campaigned base on the understanding that she would hand the seat over to her husband once he is eligible for holding official posts.

    MIC has suffered the biggest blow. The whole of the MIC Executive Committee has resigned. MIC itself has also resigned from the United Front (Barisan National coalition).

    This Malaysian GE result shows that Singaporeans should also pick up their courage and make effective change to deny the two-third majority of parliamentary seats to the ruling party, so as to ensure that the wishes of the people won’t be brushed aside so easily at will.

    Wake up, Singaporeans!

  10. Andrew Loh said


    Yea, we all hope something similar will happen in Singapore too. Thailand, Australia… now Malaysia… hopefully next will be Burma… and then maybe… maybe Singapore.

    When I was there in Malaysia, what was inspiring were those volunteers who gave of their time in helping the DAP, even though they were not members.

    I truly hope that Singaporeans who have had enough of the PAP will come forward and help the opposition parties in the next elections. It will no doubt be an enormous task for the opposition to go up against the PAP mammoth.

    But as the Malaysian elections has shown, it is not impossible.

    Impossible is nothing. 🙂

  11. bolumpah said

    hope singaporean wake up like what happen in Malaysian election. then it is majulah singapura !!!

  12. patriot said

    Read some in some blogs, commenters looking forward to have ‘Majullah Singapura’ changed, tune, lyrics and maybe even language. Is it an omen of coming events?

  13. antz said

    what happened in Malaysia from my point of view is an election that caused a major upset to the ruling party.
    From views from M’sia friends,it seems they were drove by feeling of emotions and grievances that eventually led to a denial of 2/3 of votes needed by BN to have an all round majority vote.
    Opposition have indeed came together from all parties to cause this upset.
    Malaysian is a large country with all natural resources that you can think of,but the main problem is the all important the welfare of it’s ppl of all races.
    a friend of mine from penang, a Malay told me DAP gave out leaflets that state s’pore a small country gave out generous handouts to it’s ppl and question the ruling party,BN of not looking into it’s ppl welfare as M’sia is the number one producer in the world of palm oil..
    and so the allegations continued till ppl of penang wonders where are they standing??
    Frankly, it will take i guess quite some time in term of years maybe to have a kinda upset by the opposition in Singapore.
    I do not see any credible opposition party or any domain opposition figure like Datuk Anwar ibrahim m’sia deputy PM.
    To have a sudden change in the govt/policy of s’pore is risky/complex due to non existence of natural resources and our position sandwiched unfortunately between two bigger countries.
    We can wish for change IF a credible and a potential opposition party that can led us to stability and a united ppl.

  14. Gary Teoh said

    In Malaysia the system is different,Cabinet ministers can be voted out,but in Singapore,cabinet ministers are adored like god.Some more the PAP propaganda always mention we can’t afford to lose even a minister, and the silly singaporeans always brainwash by them, so i think it is impossible to win more than 2 seats, not to mention to deny the PAP 2/3 majority.

  15. bimp said

    I salute ppl of Malaysia for taking the risk to be united to vote for opposition.
    Indeed quite shocking to see out of a sudden 5 states especially Selangor to fall to the opposition.
    Agreed with antz, for s’pore to have a sudden wave of change in politics will take years or maybe few generations.
    I do not think I will still live to see that day.

  16. Andrew Loh said

    Dear Antz and Bimp,

    The best and fastest way for change to happen is if Singaporeans step up to the plate. Otherwise, yes waiting for change to happen on its own will take generations – and it may never happen.

    We must stop thinking that we can’t do anything to help change happen. And just waiting or hoping for the opposition to somehow change things is not going to help either.

    I think Dr Chee says it best:

    “Great things happen to those who dare.”

    “Many of us in the opposition rejoice vicariously in the electoral victory of our counterparts in Malaysia. As we bask in the reflected glory from up north, many of you hope aloud that a similar change will take place in Singapore.

    Unfortunately, it will not.

    For change does not come with timidity. It belongs to those who dare. And the opposition and people in Malaysia dared greatly.

    More importantly, they worked – and made huge sacrifices – for the change they wanted to see. ”

    Thus, the question really is: For all those who are calling for and want to see change, how many are willing to put their money where their mouths are?

    How many are ready to step forth and help the opposition?

    The opposition, lest we forget, is only as good and as strong as the numbers in their ranks.

    The Malaysians had many who sacrificed and overcame their fear. How many Singaporeans are willing to do so?

    Andrew Loh

  17. Nicholas said

    bimp, I disagree with the use of the word “risk”. I dont see it as a risk for Malaysians to vote the oppositions. I mean, its not as if some states have not been under opposition rule before.

  18. bimp said

    A malaysian friend of mine told me indeed it’s a risk though a great triumph to trounce the govt arrogance.
    Selangor is a federal teritory that just a stone’s throw to KL,it has been in fact the most developed state apart from Johor after years of BN control.
    As in kelantan,PAS party ever complaining bout govt (BN party) that it has yet to be in full access to it’s own reserve (fund) to fully develop kelantan.In fact he told me in a frank manner,for the last 18 years under PAS rule kelantan population from all races seems to be loyal to them (PAS Party).
    As in the case of Selangor, It seems they are in danger of being deprived of funds/deveopment by the govt (BN) and in turn the serious declination of KL.Please take note that KL is indeed M’sia capital and over the years Selangor share the ecomomic prosperity as being the state that is closest to the capital.To make it simple just like Johor next to S’pore and due to our high currency Johor stand of living/expenses and necessities are one of the highest just after Selangor.
    As in the case of Penang,it seems to be on it’s own wanting to govern it’s way and is in danger of being left out of M’sia just like S’pore.penang is an island similar to S’pore.
    He pointed to me as in the case of Kedah and Perak,for now they are riding on the back of the opposition party.Over the years,maybe just like trengganu they will be won back by BN due to opposition parties lacking of experience in governing.
    What I have mentioned above is comments from a friend of mine,used to work in S’pore and now lives in Petaling Jaya,Selangor (that falls into Opposition hands)
    He as a Malaysian have indeed see it as risk.He see the 5 states that have fallen into the opposition hands as a gamble that was driven by compassion to change.Compassion and unity from the ppl from the 5 states that on 8th March all vote for change.
    nicholas-just a note from your stated comments – RISK

  19. Gary Teoh said

    To Bimp, If there is no risk, there is no gain.Lack of experience in governance is not the reason.A fresh graduate from Uni has no work experience, but given the chance to work,he will climb up the corporate ladder, same to opposition parties,Gerakan has no experience too when they won in 1969.And yet they govern almost 40 years.

  20. bimp said

    In fact i just want to share comments made by my malaysia friend.Comments that were mentioned above is purely his own personal comments that I just wish to highlight.

    Thks anyway.

  21. Daniel said

    All change incurs risk. With no risk, there is no improvement and status quo.

    In Singapore, the complacency, inaccountability and intransparency of the establishment posed greater risk than anything else after more than 4 decades in power.

    With change, at least there is hope.

    The establishment has corrupted the local mind with the incapability to discern what is right or wrong. Judgement is very impaired.

    It is time for a change just like other country.
    I would like to see a Singapore where everyone can call it home and be proud.

    Singapore = Citizen != PAP != Singapore Inc

    Would it come ? Hopefully before migration.

  22. ?? said

    I kudos to our malaysian brothers/sisters.
    They vote for a change.
    when will our turn be?
    Maybe i will not live to see the day comes.

  23. sigh said

    are singaporean ok with the policies dish out by PAP?if PAP continue to take charge for another 40 yrs, will they change the way they run the country? ( that is if you are happy with it ) are you people happy? if you are then PAP should continue. if not, we should change it. to grow, change is inevitable and there will be risk involved. why invest in shares when you can have safe returns in fixed deposit? – higher returns ,folks .but that comes with risk of losing yr principle amount. in my opinion, other than PAP, there are singaporeans who are better than them. that can think of better policies to run our country. let these people surface. there will be bad eggs among these people, but let singaporean decide who should stay or go. singaporean are the shareholders & boss of this country and not the people who are given the job to run it.

  24. shhhh... said

    LOL! Is that really DAP’s logo? What’s with the scud missile man? 😀

    I never expected our Pokemon to be setting fashion trends ;p

  25. Dead Poet said

    What I found really interesting is the extensive coverage given by CNA on the Malaysian election. Surprisingly they covered and interviewed more opposition than they actually did for the Singapore election. I wonder if the Malaysian press and the International press covered our election and the opposition with such gusto, would MDA allow it to be aired in the Singapore airwaves or would it be deemed as interfering in local politics. Afterall the official mantra is that Singapore politics is only for Singaporeans but its perfectly alright to go around the world and comment on everyone else’s politics

  26. Melvin said

    Talking about united opposition, DAP and PAS have started to encounter friction less than a week after the Malaysia GE and I believe many observers like myself are disappointed although not surprised. DAP has decided to boycott the Perak MB swearing-in as they wanted a PKR assemblyman as MB (although the difference in number of seats was just 1) and PAS has announced that they will retain the NEP.

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