Sunday September 28, 2008 MYT 5:44:38 PM
Gerakan mulls quitting Barisan, may join Pakatan
By LISA GOH
KUALA LUMPUR: Gerakan is considering the option of leaving Barisan Nasional and joining the Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance.
Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said this was among three options for the party - the other two being to either stay with the ruling coalition, or leave and become independent.
“We are not ruling out any possibility at this moment. We have to assess the situation, but we are not closing any doors.
“Neither are we saying we will definitely leave. It’s something we need to assess but we cannot do it based on sentiments alone,” he told reporters after launching the KL-Federal Territory (FT) state delegates conference here on Sunday.
Dr Koh said the party was examining how the political scenario in the country would continue to change, and had been getting feedback from the grassroots.
“If you go on sentiments alone, I would say more than 60% (want us to leave), but we are taking a lot of factors into consideration, and a decision cannot be based just on sentiments.
“It’s a very trying time, and there is need for a lot of rational, objective analysis. It cannot be a straightforward simplistic decision,” he said.
In his opening speech, Dr Koh also announced that he would be contesting for the president’s post in the October party elections.
“I am offering myself for the post, but I also set a timeframe for myself, and it is unlikely that I will go beyond two terms. I would like to have younger and newer leaders to continue the process of political commitment,” he said.
Asked if he would name his deputy, he replied: “We will let the delegates decide.”
He was also asked to comment on some 20 FT Gerakan members who had defected to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), including former FT Gerakan information bureau chief Gan Kok Keng and former Setiawangsa Gerakan chief Li Tiam Chai.
“I feel surprised because it was only last week when Li Tiam Chai was with me in a meeting and there were no signs that he was not happy.
“We were talking about how to strengthen the party. So I am surprised but I will continue with the veterans, and new members are committed,” he said.
Dr Koh also commented on the Umno leadership transition, which he hoped would be “smooth and peaceful.”
“Even though the change in Umno leadership is an internal party matter, but we are also concerned because the Umno leader also becomes the leader of Barisan and the Federal Government,” he said.
Earlier this month, Gerakan became embroiled in the controversy over former Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s alleged racist remarks in which he purportedly described Malaysian Chinese as “squatters.”
Gerakan leaders had demanded an apology and for action to be taken against the Umno man, who in turn blamed Gerakan for Barisan’s poor showing in the March 8 general election, which saw the state of Penang fall to to the opposition.
The war of words even saw Ahmad’s supporters tearing down a picture of Dr Koh after a press conference.
The Umno Supreme Council subsequently suspended Ahmad from his party posts for three years, although he remains a member. No further action was taken against him.