Gerakan’s fall from grace

IN OCTOBER 2011, Gerakan president Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon declared to a packed press conference after its 40th National Delegates Conference that he would "sacrifice himself" for the party if necessary.
It seemed at the time he would resign from his post in order to take the blame for the party's dismal showing in the 2008 general election, when it won only two out of 12 parliamentary seats and four out of 31 state seats it contested nationwide.

Five years later, and after yet another bruising general election, Gerakan has seen no sacrifice except itself.

The once-vocal and influential multi-racial BN component party was put on the chopping block by the rakyat themselves to make way for a wave of change, both in Penang (once a Gerakan fortress) and nationwide.

Even its leaders have been stunned into silence by the situation they now find themselves in.

The embattled and much-criticised Koh has stayed silent since the May 5 polls amidst all the backlash, where its grassroots leaders are shutting down service centres and closing up shop as they believe the party is no longer needed to represent the people.

Gerakan secretary-general Teng Chang Yeow, too, has quit all posts.

The rakyat had overwhelmingly rejected the party at the polls, and Gerakan fared worse than in 2008 – winning only one parliamentary seat out of 11, and three state seats out of 31 – and even that was by a hair's breadth.

Their vote count was embarrassing – only 205,067 (32.53%) votes out of a total of 630,410 cast for 11 parliamentary seats Gerakan contested.

Gerakan, it would seem, is all out of moves.

How did a party, founded by the much-admired and respected late Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, and which once ruled for 39 years as the Penang state government, fall so far from grace?

Gerakan clearly needs to think long and hard about its relevance in the Malaysian political scenario, and if they should, as some have proposed, merge with MCA or pack up and leave.

However, Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan warned that for Gerakan to wind up would be the worst possible move.

"Gerakan is still relevant. It offers the best vision for the nation within its party constitution and is truly multi-racial and multi-religious," he told theSun, adding that it is important Gerakan is revived.

He was of the opinion that the party should withdraw from Barisan Nasional (BN) and stand as an independent party instead.

"They should work to garner support as an independent party, as an independent voice separate from BN or Pakatan Rakyat, where they should support matters that are right, and criticise when wrong.

"Unfortunately, the space in Malaysian politics for an independent voice is small, teeny really, as Malaysians expect you to be always on one side or the other. But while the truth is black and white, Malaysian politics have many grays in between," he said.

So where does this leave Gerakan?

With little space for an independent or neutral voice in local politics, Gerakan may find itself in ignominy for many more years until it can revive itself and find a place in the political sphere.





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