Wednesday August 29, 2012
An inconsistent stand
By BARADAN KUPPUSAMY
Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is pushing for an anti-hop law in Penang but at the same time the DAP secretary-general is okay with the defections going on in Sabah.
IT IS ironic that while DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang and other senior leaders were in Sabah with Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to welcome two defectors from the Barisan Nasional into the Pakatan Rakyat fold, back in Penang the DAP wants to table an anti-hopping law.
Kit Siang and the entire Pakatan camp had, ahead of Anwar's Sept 16 fiasco in 2008, supported his attempt to rope in at least 30 Barisan MPs to make up the 112 elected reps that the PKR supreme chief needed for a simple majority to form the Federal Government.
Kit Siang's son, Guan Eng, who is Penang Chief Minister and DAP secretary-general, would have also benefited as he is also a Pakatan leader. Thus, Guan Eng chose to find justification in the move by the Sabah MPs.
He said Wilfred and Lajim (who was a deputy housing and local government minister) were unhappy and had felt they were unfairly treated by both the Sabah government and Putrajaya.
The courts had declared anti- hopping laws unconstitutional as these conflict with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of association.
Only DAP national chairman Karpal Singh stood his ground, opposing crossovers as a despicable act unworthy of elected representatives.
Despite that, he has suggested that the Federal Court can be asked to review the decision in the interest of justice.
Now, echoing Karpal's sentiments, Guan Eng will propose an anti-hopping law for Penang when the state assembly sits in November.
In a statement last week the Chief Minister said gaining political representation through defections was “immoral, unethical and unprincipled” as it was a contempt of the democratic choice of the voters.
Guan Eng wants elected representatives who choose to leave the party they had contested under and won to step down and seek a fresh mandate.
“Democracy, accountability and ethical conduct demand that the voters be given another opportunity to pass judgment whether such a decision by the elected representative to hop over is acceptable or not,” he said.
It brings into question his real motives for the anti-hop law.
How is it that Guan Eng can accept defectors and be a close partner of Anwar, yet calls defection despicable and unacceptable?
Many quarters have urged Guan Eng to clarify his stand, among them Penang Gerakan human rights and legal bureau chief Baljit Singh, who described defections from any party as “morally wrong”.
Baljit said representatives were chosen by the people and there should not be any political coup after an election.
Guan Eng's U-turn while unexpected and startling has not come as a big surprise, considering the dilemma he is in currently.
Is he trying to play safe and keep Penang his “fiefdom” on the eve of a general election, just as PAS had tried in Kelantan and Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan had once done in Sabah?
The indication is that all is not well in the Pakatan in Penang, with DAP out to protect its fiefdom come what may while allies PKR and PAS try to outdo it.
DAP appears to be out to protect its turf in Penang, not only from the Barisan but also from its Pakatan partners from any post-election defections. What happened in Perak in February 2009 that saw one DAP and two PKR representatives crossing and handing over the state government to the Barisan is still a fresh reminder.
Such a possibility is real as the electoral contest in Penang is expected to be closely fought.
DAP, which won all 19 seats it contested in Penang, wants to add two more Chinese-majority seats to enable it to have a simple majority on its own in the 40-seat state assembly.
But neither the PKR, which contested 16 state seats (and won nine) nor PAS, which contested five seats (and won one through a by-election) are willing to surrender any to the DAP.
In this context, any law the DAP can pass to bar elected representatives from crossing over provided the Federal Court is agreeable is an added bonus in its quest to keep Penang.