Looks like the Gerakan has started its walk down the froggie path, again, after a lapse of 35 years.
Born in 1968 and then touted to be the greatest multiracial political party for Malaysians, it brought about, as part of the loose pact comprising itself, DAP, PPP, and even PAS, the 1st tsunamic wave in the 1969 general election against the Perikatan, the BN’s predecessor.
It won rule of the great State of Penang, where the cry at that time in Penang was ‘Hor P’ang Choon Tiam*’ (sink the sailing boat), where the party logo of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Perikatan was a sailing boat.
* for decorum I omitted the prefixable Karn Neen Nair (best translated in the presence of sweeties as ‘blast it’ ;-)
Together with DAP and PPP, it also threatened the dominance of the Perikatan in Perak and the likely (legal, through the ballot box) seizure of power in the then premier prize of all, Selangor. The threat to the latter was to lead to the May 13 incident.
The accusation regarding May 13 was that (and it's a historical fact) the Gerakan Party celebrators diverted from their planned route to make provocative forays into Malay areas to jeer at the residents (majority of whom were UMNO supporters).
The popular myth amongst the Malays (especially after Gerakan joined the Barisan Nasional), and continuously perpetuated, was that the provocateurs were DAP members – yes, 'twas jolly good not to have a fellow BN party (Gerakan) as the hated biadap Chinese party.
The reality was that certain leaders in UMNO (not Tunku but reputed to be Tun Razak) had initiated the riots to wrestled back full control of the nation, placing it under emergency rule (dictatorship for more than 3 years). Indeed, Tun Razak used the process as a quiet coup d’etat against the Tunku in the immediate aftermath of the May 13 racial riots.
In 1972 Tun Razak formed the Barisan Nasional (BN) to ‘absorb’ (or bring under UMNO’s stewartship and control) the once mighty and highly admired multiracial Gerakan Party, and PAS and PPP.
Only the DAP refused to compromise on its Malaysian Malaysia principles of absolute equality and meritocracy. It wisely remained as the main opposition party - there was no overnight 'Road to Damascus' bull of reformasi.
But essentially, the powerful and great Gerakan Party was effectively ‘neutralized’ or if you want to be cruel, ‘neutered’. As another example of Tun Razak's brilliant castration plan, look at the PPP, once King of Ipoh and that part of Perak, but now a pathetic party which fits Tun Dr Ismail's immortal words of 'mati ta'mahu, hidup pun segan'.
Then the foundation of the Gerakan party was shattered when many founding stalwarts of Gerakan Party left in disgust at the party's entry into the BN – people like its president Professor Syed Hussein al-Alatas, Wang Gungwu (Emeritus Prof of the Australian National University), Dr Tan Chee Khoon, etc.
Wikipedia tells us that Syed Hussein left to help Dr Tan Chee Khoon form Pekemas (Parti Keadilan Masyarakat Malaysia, or Social Justice Party of Malaysia), based on similar principles that Gerakan had been formed on.
But alas, such a party like the 1969 Gerakan party could only come once in a blue moon, because erstwhile supporters of Gerakan diaspora-ed across to the more disciplined and resolute DAP, leading to the collapse of Pekemas. Poor wonderful Dr Tan Chee Khoon was its only MP.
Oh, just in case you anwaristas are thinking of laying claim to inheriting the legendary legacy of the 1969 Gerakan Party, forget about it as my Uncle told me there was then a total absence of racist consciousness unlike PKR, where even the formation of the Selangor exco had so much trouble, let alone having PKR members like the Kulim Wonder or Penang’s deputy CM who wants PKR to be involved in the UMNO-PAS pan-Malay unity talks.
Then two other calamities befell the Gerakan – (i) it degenerated into a Chinese-based party with just a symbolic sprinkling of Indians to continue claim to its multiethnic heritage, and (ii) to Penangites like my family, it was terrible that Gerakan’s power base shifted over to Perak when once-MCA-member Dr Lim KY joined the party to become its president –alamak, how low could it have gone.
In the aftermath of the recent March tsunami, Dr Toh Kin Woon left. Though he didn’t physically froggy over to PKR, he achieved the same effect when he endorsed Anwar Ibrahim.
Then the final blow came yesterday (a sweetie told me about it then) as reported by Malaysiakini in its Out of Gerakan, into PKR.
Yesterday Dr Tan Kee Kwong stated his intention to join PKR and was photo-ed during the announcement with gleeful PKR leaders like Dr Wan Azizah and Khalid Ibrahim.
As Malaysiakini mentioned, Tan’s announcement did not come as a total surprise because he was not only dropped by his party as a deputy minister after the 2004 general election but sidelined from meaningful involvement in party matters just because he had backed Kerk Choo Ting against Lim KY.
I would have respected him more if he had then left before the March general election because he did have a good reason, but to leave after his party had been gutted in the 2008 general election would be seen as opportunistic.
Anyway, the consequence of Tan leaving the Gerakan has a huge symbolic significance for the older generation members as this man is the son of one of its great legendary founders, Tan Sri Dr Tan Chee Khoon (notwithstanding the fact that Dr Tan Senior left Gerakan to form Pekemas).
Dr Tan’s departure is far more significant than Dr Toh, not only for the just mentioned reason but for the fact he is joining PKR.
I am not sure what Koh Tsu Koon would do now. But it’s a lesson, that when the going gets tough, while the tough gets going, the towgeh gets goreng.
If the entire Gerakan Party were to leave BN and join PKR, the two BN component parties that will be most delighted would be the MCA and PPP.
The former had suffered continuous backstabbing by the Gerakan (just as it had backstabbed Gerakan in return), and knows that UMNO has used Gerakan as a very effective 'divide & conquer' tool to sabo (undermine) any ambitious aspiration of the Chinese based party that wasn't to UMNO's liking.
So the possibility of Gerakan Party's leaving BN will spell for the UMNO more than just the loss of a member party - it will see a far more assertive MCA.