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Mah speaks his mind

PETALING JAYA: Gerakan president Datuk Mah Siew Keong does not mince his words when he says the party's relationship with Umno is less than cordial.

In an interview with Oriental Daily News published today, the relatively new helmsman tasked with reinvigorating the party after two consecutive dismal general election outings said the two Barisan Nasional partners' leaders had frequently argued in the media over various topics.

This had affected the cooperation between the two parties, he pointed out.

Citing the example of the recent Teluk Intan parliamentary by-election, he said the remarks and actions of certain Umno leaders had indeed given problems to Gerakan, which had to spend time and energy to clear the air.

He said two issues hit Gerakan hard in the run-up to the by-election – Umno Youth members gate-crashing the Penang state assembly sitting and Umno vice-president cum Home Minister Datuk Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi's remark that the Chinese were not grateful by supporting the Opposition.

Pointing out that extremists exist in any political party including Umno, Mah said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak needs the people's support to continue with the implementation of his moderate policies.

He said Najib is a great proponent of the 1Malaysia and moderate policies but these need to be accepted by the rakyat.

But after the 13th general election in May last year, the 1Malaysia slogan was less audible due partly to the drop in Chinese and Indian support for BN, he noted.

Mah, who was appointed minister in the Prime Minister's Department in the Cabinet reshuffle last week, said another reason is the tipping of the BN balance as a result of Umno's over-dominance and the relatively "small voice" of MCA and Gerakan in the coalition.

He said the result of the Teluk Intan by-election was a boost for Gerakan as the party had succeeded in turning the tables on DAP after losing in the constituency by more 7,000 votes in GE13.

He said had he lost, he would have no choice but to step down as party chief.

"But winning the by-election is by no means enough. It's just the beginning, and what is more important are the tasks for the next three years (before GE14)," he said.