Can Mah's new leadership help Gerakan find its way?

After being reduced to just one parliamentary seat, Gerakan once again finds itself soul-searching for direction, as it did during its 2008 national delegates conference (NDC).

Then, as it did now, the delegates convened for a party election, as well as to discuss an electoral defeat months before. There are many parallels between the NDC of 2008 and that of 2013.

Once again, the suggestion to leave BN was placed on the table, and then shelved for the time being.

In 2008, then-president Koh Tsu Koon said it needed to stay on to help then-prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi push for reforms.

Today, Kohs successor Mah Siew Keong said, We feel that we have a role to play in BN and we wish to play a bigger role, adding that Gerakan will help put forward Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razaks 1Malaysia agenda.

He also downplayed the urgings to leave BN this time round, saying that it does not necessarily constitute the partys opinion, though he promised to look into this.

However, amid the usual urgings to set up more service centres and to continue the fight for non-race based policies this year, the Umno-bashing and proposals to leave BN and Umno have become more impassioned.

We can no longer give excuses - that if we are given a (government) position, then Umno is treating us well. This cannot be accepted, said Johor delegate Tan Lai Soon.  

Another delegate, Lee Hui Seng of Selangor, suggested yesterday that the party should become a third force in politics so that it would no longer be Umnos lapdog.

Today, some of the partys leaders, such as outgoing acting president Chang Ko Youn (left), tried to play down such talk.

He pointed out that Malaysias first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system makes it difficult for a third force to make any headway, unlike in a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system such as in Germany and Italy.

Even the Liberal Democratic Party of the UK, which Lee had used as an example, took over 100 years just to have some achievement, he noted.

Nevertheless, the far more important factor that makes us stay in BN is because of Najibs policies.

Yesterday, once again, he announced his commitment to the five principles (moderate, progressive, centrist, inclusive and fair). These five principles are also the priciples of Gerakan, Chang said.

Five options for the party

Meanwhile, outgoing vice-president Chia Kwang Chye laid out five options that the party could take.

These are:

·         Stay within BN, but reassert its position as a coalition partner without deriding other component parties.

·         Join Pakatan Rakyat. He warned that there had been parties that left BN and are now history, but said this should not give pause to Gerakan.

·         Become a third force, possibly pushing of MMP in Malaysia because it would be difficult to win under the FPTP system.

·         Dissolve the party. However, Chia immediately ruled out this option.

·         Return to the partys original struggle for a just society, so that it would be respected regardless of whether it stays in BN.


We are at a crossroad. Many are asking what are our options. Some say we should leave BN; some say no. Some say join Pakatan Rakyat.

We need to form a committee or groups to take in all suggestions and ideas so that we can decide which junction to take, Chia said.

Thus far, as of the end of the two-day NDC, it is still unclear which path Mah would lead Gerakan to.

Anti-BN sentiment, particularly anti-Umno sentiment, had been higher in Gerakan before, such as when Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Ahmad Ismail tore a portrait of the partys previous president, Koh.

This fizzled out after Koh spent weeks on a whirlwind tour meeting grassroots leaders to explain Gerakans position with and without BN, just ahead of the 2008 NDC.

Can the new party leadership under Mah help Gerakan find its way, or will it only find itself having the same conversation after the 14th general election?

For now, if Mahs winding up speech is anything to go by, we will have to wait until 2016 to find out.

While promising tough changes, he said, Help me, give me cooperation. Do not make a judgement so quickly on me, this is a three-year term. I have many weaknesses, but I always try to think long-term.

I will have to make changes for the next few months. There will be many (people) unhappy with me, but do not make judgment so fast.

Do not see how I start, but see how I finish my term as president. Can? he asked, for which he received a round of applause from the delegates.





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