Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sarawak Election - the Chinese Factor

Sarawak has 71 state seats for its recent elections. The results are as follows:

Party – Contested – Won
BN – 71 – 62
DAP – 12 – 6
PKR – 25 – 1
IND - ? -1
PAS – 1 -0

The New Straits Times (NST) commented that the BN had ‘won by a mile’ yet its leaders aren’t that elated. Needless to say, one of its component SUPP, a Chinese based party, was devastated by a nearly 50% loss, all to the DAP.

While on the surface the BN had won by a landslide the DAP’s significant success has shaken its confidence and hopefully its arrogance. It’s a tiny foot in the door for greater opposition representation at state level.

DAP usually doesn’t do well in states’ seats because of the Chinese factor. On reading this, you may just wonder whether KTemoc might have gotten it wrong or I had accidentally included the word ‘doesn’t’ due to a botched job of editing.

No, the reality is DAP won't do well in state elections because the Chinese won't allow them to be State governments. The Chinese community realises that ever since the DAP came close to seizing Selangor in the 1969 election - see my posting The Real Cause of the May 13 Riots - that things can turn fairly nasty.

The post May 13 situation saw Dr Lim Chong Eu taking his highly popular Gerakan party quickly into the BN. The party's official website has this to say:

"With a rapidly changing political environment, Dr. Lim Chong Eu had gradually come to grasp with the realities of the day. First, political confrontation was not only not to be tolerated but was detrimental to national unity. Secondly, co-operation with the Federal Government was deemed necessary to obtain financial assistance for the many economic projects that he had planned to deliver during his tenure of office. Thirdly, co-operation would also ensure stability and the early revival of parliamentary democracy."

That's the polite and diplomatic version. If May 13 hadn't occur, who knows, today the Gerakan could well be the federal government with Professor Syed Hussain Alatas as the PM. Also, The Penang Chinese have been aware that the federal government would deliberately hinder the development of opposition ruled states, as can be seen in Kelantan and previously Sabah and Terengganu.

Because I am a true blue Penang ‘born & bred’ bloke, I can tell you that the Penang Chinese election strategy has always been to ‘send DAP to the federal parliament to make noise, but keep BN at home for development’, basically a win-win outcome for them. Don't believe me - just ask any Penang bloke, even an UMNO guy.

The Penang Chinese want Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh and company, whom they know have the balls to raise Cain in parliament, to speak out on behalf of the non-Malays. But they also know if the DAP becomes the ruling state government, Penang will be shafted real good and proper. Their reasoning is that if the BN government could shaft the Malays in Kelantan (and previously Terengganu) what hope would they as Chinamen expect, other than real deep shafting.

Lim Kit Siang had at one time dreamed the DAP could win the state, and he was right, hence he initiated the Project Penang. But the catch was he was only theoretically correct because for that theory to be factual, Malaysian parliamentary democracy must first be practised as is in Western countries, say, like Australia.

If one examines Australia, one can see that Australia enjoys wall-to-wall carpeting of Labour Party controlled states while the Commonwealth (or federal) government continues for a decade to be the Coalition. But unlike Malaysia, the sharing of financial resources follows proper order and strict governance. While of course some biased decisions had occur from time to time, these had been minor and did not adversely affect the State residents significantly, unlike the poor Kelantanese, or once the Sabahans.

That’s why after the DAP’s Project Penang turned out to be a disaster, Lim Kit Siang has accepted the unwritten truth, that he won’t ever be the CM of Penang because Penang Chinese won’t allow him.

Now, I am not sure whether the Sarawakian Chinese have the same secret formula (in truth, not very secret). Perhaps they have been so pissed off as to risk the wrath of the BN in development in urban areas (populated by Chinese) or they feel it’s worthwhile punishing the SUPP for tactical advantage.

One issue that cannot be denied as disadvantageous to the SUPP has been the land premium issue. The 60-year long land lease, including on town and suburban areas, is ending this year. Many Chinese landowners suspect they will be made to pay premium as high as 75% of the land value. The frightening expectation is that a premium as high as RM750,000 may have to be forked out to renew the lease for a piece of land worth RM1 million. Most Chinese businessmen and traders are landowners.

Despite BN’s assurance that it would not seize the people’s land, the opposition pointed out to the people that the state Government skirted the land premium issue. In other words, the Chinese in urban areas suspect that the BN is playing a game of ‘I say, you say, he says, she says’ bullshit ending up after the elections with them paying hefty lease renewal premiums. Mind you, they could still be punished with the hefty land lease premium for the SUPP's massive loss.

The DAP has certainly won big beyond its expectation. I wonder whether the Sarawak example would change the Chinese Penangites’ minds?

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