Consolidation & Growth, 1973-1979

After the internal schism had finally come to an end, the party was left with only about 15 active branches in the country with its headquarters in Penang. Party stalwarts under Dr. Lim Chong Eu soon began a strenuous exercise to put the wrecked organization into shape, and at the same time energize the rank and file to face greater challenges in future. They also set themselves the formidable task of setting up new branches and divisions which could only be accomplished through perseverance and hard work. Finally, when reorganization was completed, a new constitution was unanimously adopted at an Extraordinary Delegates Conference held on 14th January 1973. It was subsequently approved by the Registrar of Societies on 15th June of the same year, heralding the beginning of a reborn Gerakan.

Meanwhile, the National Delegates Conference scheduled for October was delib erately postponed to March 1974 awaiting the announcement of an important development in the party. On 19th December 1973 it was announced by the Acting Chairman that Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, Paul Leong Khee Seong, Alex Lee Yu Lung, Dr. Tan Teong Hong, Soong Siew Hoong and thousands of former M.C.A. reformists had joined the party. As a result, during the years 1974 and 1975, a total of 71 new branches and 39 new divisions were established in the West Coast states of Peninsular Malaysia, chiefly Perak, Negeri Sembilan and Selangor, and were assimilated into the party structure. As a party fully committed to a Malaysian political philosophy, this orderly and disciplined expansion was certainly an invaluable asset to its struggle to create a just and prosperous society. Before long, many of these young and dynamic political activists were elected to important positions in the new Central Committee.

As the 4th General Election drew near, coalition politics in Malaysia became institutionalized to reduce undesirable communal politicking. On 1st June 1974, the Barisan Nasional was formally registered to gear up for the forthcoming elections. On nomination day, a total of 8 party members were fielded on the Barisan ticket to contest for parliamentary seats and 18 others for the State Assemblies in Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kedah. The party campaigned on solidarity, equality and justice. In Penang, it focused its electioneering strategy on the state’s development performance and inter-ethnic co-operation. Despite the heavy attack launched by the Opposition, the party continued to be supported by the electorate and won 11 out of the 13 Penang state seats it contested. In the Parliamentary Election, it won all the 3 Penang seats allocated by the Barisan. Elsewhere, the returns were equally encouraging. It won 1 each in Perak, and Kedah State Elections, and 2 parliamentary seats in Perak.

With the new mandate given by the people, the party required its members to work more closely with the masses in order to represent their interests. And at all times, they would also provide guidance and leadership to unite the people of the country irrespective of their ethnic origin and to live and think together as brother citizens sharing a common Malaysian destiny. 12 branches and 1 division were added after 1975. Thus by 9th October 1976 when the National Delegates Conference was held at the Dewan Sri Pinang, Penang, more than 150 branches had been set up and registered in Peninsular Malaysia.

In the period leading to the 1978 General Election the internal cohesion of the newly expanded Barisan Nasional was first jolted by the political developments in UMNO after Tun Razak’s untimely death in 1976, and then by the expulsion of PAS from the Barisan Nasional in March 1978. Relations between our party and the MCA had also deteriorated over seat allocations in Penang. When Elections were announced, the party had not only to counter opposition allegations on the NEP, the Merdeka University and general administrative inefficiency, but also to face a treacherous ‘Gang of Seven’ put up by the MCA in Penang to stand against Gerakan candidates. The results made known on the night of 8th July 1978 showed that the party had lost 3 of the 11 state seats, and 2 of the 3 parliamentary seats assigned to it in Penang. Nonetheless, Penang survived as the Gerakan bastion and Dr. Lim Chong Eu was appointed as the Chief Minister for the third term.

In the ensuing years, while envisaging and practising political co-operation in the spirit of Barisan Nasional and the Rukunegara, the party, however, ceaselessly urged the national leadership of the Barisan Nasional to grant more representation to Gerakan members in the District and Town Councils, in the JKKKs and in other statutory organizations throughout the country. Such measures were considered necessary to train emerging party activists to endear themselves to the public through selfless service, and also as a means to spread the party’s message of creating an integrated society. The new Central Committee elected in May 1978 had weathered the storm of the General Election. It had now another arduous task of bargaining for wider representation of the Generasi Rakyat Malaysia Baru at all levels.

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