Thursday February 21, 2013
Difficult to fix a ‘broken bracelet’
By JOCELINE TAN
The quarrel between DAP and PKR in Johor is centred around the parliamentary seat of Gelang Patah which means ‘broken bracelet’ in Malay – an apt description of the ties between the two parties in the state.
THE war of words between DAP and PKR in Johor has grounded to a stop – for now, at least. Or as Johor reporters put it, Johor DAP chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau has been “zipped up”.
DAP called for a ceasefire between Dr Boo and PKR’s Johor chief Datuk Chua Jui Meng but as some say, the “rice has turned to porridge” – the situation is beyond repair.
The slanging match between them the last few weeks has been quite astonishing and it is hard to see how the two of them can work together in the general election.
The last time there was this much tension between DAP and PKR was when Datuk Mansor Othman was caught calling Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng a “cocky, arrogant Tokong”.
The name-calling between Dr Boo and Chua has been worse. Chua has referred to his DAP counterpart as “amateurish” and “ridiculous” whereas Dr Boo has gone as far as calling for the PKR “overlord” to be replaced in Johor.
But the most amazing part about the heat and fury between Dr Boo and Chua is that it is centred around a single seat, namely, the parliamentary seat of Gelang Patah.
The Pakatan Rakyat thinking these days is that any seat with a sizeable number of Chinese voters is winnable and every one of them wants to contest in a Chinese-majority seat.
Gelang Patah, near Johor Baru, is one of those so-called winnable seats because it is 54% Chinese, 34% Malay and 12% Indians.
This is despite the fact that MCA had defeated PKR in 2008 by almost 9,000 votes.
Dr Boo’s argument is that DAP has a better chance of winning the seat than PKR. One version has it that he wants the seat for his party colleague Liew Chin Tong who is looking for an exit plan from Bukit Bendera in Penang.
The other version is that Dr Boo is eyeing the seat for himself because he is already the assemblyman for Skudai, one of the two state seats located in Gelang Patah.
The tension between the two Johor big guns had simmered for months before it boiled over.
For instance, everyone had noticed that Dr Boo and his clique did not show up for Pakatan’s Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat in Johor two months ago.
Dr Boo first highlighted it on his Facebook page a couple of weeks ago. Then, he issued a press statement to the Chinese media where he bared his frustrations about Chua whom he labelled as “arrogant” and accused of “turning PKR into another MCA”.
Chua is very sensitive about his history as a former MCA leader and he is furious about the attacks.
But his aides have projected their boss as the victim. They said he has never issued any statements about seats in Johor because the decision lies with the top Pakatan leadership.
“Google it, check his Twitter. Jui Meng has not said a thing about contesting in Gelang Patah. These DAP people are greedy for seats. We told our boss to focus on the campaign because Dr Boo is acting like a small boy,” said an aide.
The PKR side also accused DAP of being too possessive about the Chinese vote.
They said DAP wants to monopolise the Chinese vote because it wants to be the “tai kor (big brother) of the Chinese”.
But a DAP insider has suggested that the quarrel may be more than just the Gelang Patah seat or the clashing egos of Dr Boo and Chua.
He pointed to the way DAP leaders have directly or indirectly defended Dr Boo on the issue.
DAP chairman Karpal Singh did not hold his punches in putting Chua in his place, whereas Lim, who ordered the ceasefire, had commiserated with Dr Boo regarding his “frustrations on being dictated to” in Johor.
Another DAP leader Tan Kok Wai said no disciplinary action would be taken against Dr Boo because what he said “is true”.
The Johor dispute basically reflects the discord over seats in several other states, including Penang and Perak, which, as many have noted, used to happen only in Barisan Nasional.
Chua’s problem boils down to credibility and baggage.
The DAP side does not respect him because of his history.
He had enjoyed the fruits of power in Barisan and it was only after he failed in his last comeback attempt in MCA that he turned against the hand that had fed him.
DAP does not think he is a winnable candidate and they say Chua, who will be 70 this year, should make way for a younger face in the general election.
The tussle for Gelang Patah is also a sign that Pakatan is not as confident of winning well in Johor as it is makes it out to be.
The fact that DAP and PKR are fighting each other for a handful of Chinese seats suggest that they know that the bulk of Malay and Indian votes have returned to Barisan.
DAP managed to win the Bakri parliament seat by only 722 votes and that was during a perfect storm when everything went their way.
Yet, Pakatan leaders have been telling their supporters that they can increase their Johor seat count from one to 10 parliamentary seats in the general election.
“I am wondering if their prediction is based on the 2008 headcount. A lot of things have changed since 2008, big things are happening in Johor and for their information, we have not been sitting around shaking our legs. We have been addressing issues and we are taking nothing for granted,” said Johor Umno deputy chairman Datuk Dr Latiff Ahmad.
For Pakatan to win more seats in Johor, it would require an even more perfect storm than the one in 2008. Nothing is impossible these days but, unfortunately, the only storm on the Johor horizon is the one blowing between DAP and PKR.
Gelang Patah means “broken bracelet” in Malay and that, quite ironically, describes the ties between the two parties in Johor at this point in time.