Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Penang UMNO's "2 for me, 1 for you"?

One of the abbreviations for Penang is PG. It would not be entirely inappropriate if we claim it probably stands for pork barrelling and gerrymandering.

We know what’s pork barrelling – we’ve seen that happened in Machap and Ijok recently where in the immortal words of one rather shameless minister, '10 years of development were compressed into one single month’s work'. Well, we aren’t Malaysia Boleh for nothing.

But gerrymandering, while familiar to us, may be worthwhile revisiting briefly.

The aim of gerrymandering is to advantage or disadvantage particular constituents, and we know who and what, don’t we. As an example of the two common techniques of gerrymandering, we could see 'packing' of opposition voters like sardines into unwinnable seats, and 'cracking' potential opposition voters (like Indians) over a number of seats where they would only be only useful under MIC guidance

A typical target could be members of a racial or linguistic group. The most vulnerable voting system is the single winner voting system such as our British-inherited ‘first past the post’ system.

A variation to the ‘first past the post’ would be one like in, say Australia, where the candidates may well have to depend on preferential votes, if they fail to get at least 50% overall. If we had that, then PPP's Kayveas would probably not have won in Taiping in the last election.

The term ‘gerrymandering’ came from the state of Massachusetts in the USA and was named after its governor in the beginning of the 19th Century, Eldridge Gerry. The other component of the word was ‘salamander’, a lizard-like newt, which shape looked like the constituency delineated in ridiculous fashion to favour the ruling party – so hey presto, the ‘gerry’ with ‘mander’ gives us ‘gerrymander’

Well, we must be acolytes of those Americans because we learnt from an article in
malaysiakini that the DAP is complaining about our Election Commission (EC).

The complaint has to do with the alleged EC's ‘manipulation’ of the electoral boundaries in Penang to increase Malay-winning state seats to enhance UMNO's chances of taking over the state.

Hmmm, I thought UMNO is already in control of Penang with a front man (guess who’s the keris waving bloke?).

Law claimed that the ‘salamander-ing’ strategy is similar to UMNO tactics conducted in Sabah in recent years and Malacca about three decades ago. The two states are now in the firm claws of UMNO.

He concluded: "Leadership changes, but not its dirty politics". Amin to that.

Law lamented that Penang is the only state left in Malaysia without a Malay-Muslim chief minister, yet now has to suffer this nonsense. That is quite debatable [considering UMNO is already de facto in charge in Penang] if you know what I mean. Have you guys heard of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo? No? Here’s a picture of its emperor to help you understand what I am talking about – and if there is any resemblance to someone we know ;-) hey, it’s purely a coincidence.

Emperor of Manchukuo - from Wikipedia

Law alerts us to the composition of the present state seats, namely the voter ratio between the Malay-dominated constituencies and non-Malay poll boundaries. The expected outcome is obvious.

According to him, we should expect changes in favour of UMNO even with the Chinese making up more than 70% of Penang’s estimated population of 1.3 million. He pointed out that only 22 state seats or 55 percent are Chinese-majority constituencies. But the Malays (meaning UMNO), who constitute less than 25% of the population, dominate 15 state constituencies or 40 percent of the state seats.

Another observer (a veteran MIC aneh) said that EC had not only controlled the increase in Chinese-majority seats but also precluded the formation of any Indian-majority state seats when it re-drew the electoral boundaries.

He lambasted the EC for failing to uphold democratic principles, which would have created at least three Indian-dominated state seats, given the population of Indians in Bukit Tambun, Prai, Bagan Dalam and neighbouring constituencies of Bagan Jermal, Sungai Puyu and Bukit Tengah.

Law showed that those seats with Chinese-majority have an average 20,000 voters while the Malay-dominated constituencies have an average of 11,000 voters – for example, the Chinese-dominated Paya Terubong is the biggest state seat with 23,490 voters while the largest Malay seat, Permatang Berangan has only 14,049 registered voters.

On the basis of these figures, the EC has made each voter in the Chinese-majority electoral constituency (including minority non-Chinese ones) having only half the 'voice' of their neighbours in a Malay-majority constituency (including the minority Chinese and Indians there).

If we were to compare Paya Terubong (23,490) to UMNO-controlled Teluk Bahang (10,791), the ratio of state representation is 2 to 1 in favour of those who vote for UMNO.

And it gets even worse when the ‘1’ waves a giant keris for the ‘2’.


  1. Hi KT,
    The official Penang government statistics list the ethnic composition of the state (2005) as 43% Chinese, 41% Malay, 10% Indian, 6% Others. With the population trend, in about 10 years (1 or 2 General Elections) from now, the Chinese will be a minority population in Penang.

    Actually, what's a lot more important is to have a CM and State government which can govern effectively and address the concerns of ordinary people, not just keep the seat warm and pander to vested interests. If an UMNO CM can do the job, I'm OK with that. But most of the UMNO blokes in Penang make my skin crawl..

  2. May your Raja Bodek end up like Pu Yi of Manchukuo-- a traitor dying as a gardener.

  3. What do you mean MIC *aneh*? You debase your blogs and yourself with remarks like this. (In case you are wondering, I am ethnic chinese).

  4. Anon, I believe you when you averred you're ethnic Chinese because you obviously don't know what 'aneh' means. What about 'mamak'? would that be a derogatory remark too?

    Please find out from your Indian friends what aneh and mamak mean before you condemn me for using the respectable address of 'aneh'.

  5. Bay is also repectable. All Punjabis like to be called that?
    Ask Karpal Singh. Kalinga was a great Indian civilization. All Indians like to be called keling (apologies to all Indian readers)?
    This justification was actually used in Parliament.

  6. Words like these are actually worse than plain insults because people can refer to their original context and claim that you are either ignorant or over-sensitive. This is the technique that some MPs use and justify. Some bloggers have joined in too. Imagine a white Australian calling you a slant-eyed rice-eater - it would be factual and on the face of it containe no insulting words, but how many people who are on the receiving end of this would take this as not being insulting? You are using sophistry to hide bigotry.