On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

The Rocket seems to be lost in space

In the 1999 polls, his party detractors said he had eyed
the PJ Utara parliamentary seat but it was given to another young upstart,
Ronnie Liu, who failed to win the seat.

The critics said Teng had felt he was being sidelined and that Liu was being
favoured at his expense.

Teng's outburst in criticising the leadership surprised many but for party
insiders, especially those in Selangor, it reflected a situation that had been
simmering for a while.

Fingers have been pointed by supporters of Teng. One target is central
executive committee member Lim Guan Eng. Last week, Teng alleged that a CEC
member from Malacca had pressured party members to issue statements against him
but did not name Guan Eng.

The ruckus has worsened with Johor DAP Youth chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau joining in
the fray by expressing the same sentiments. He, too, has asked Kit Siang to
retire from politics.

In the case of Dr Boo, he openly defied the CEC warning that there should be no
more statements from party members on the issue.

It isn't clear how much support Teng can garner. The last attempt, called the
Knock Out Kit Siang (KOKS) plan, failed miserably when those behind the move
were booted out of the CEC.

History seems to be repeating itself in the DAP. Teng is not the first DAP
leader to call for reforms. Others have tried and paid heavily for challenging
the party elders.

The list includes founding secretary-general Goh Hock Guan, who drew the Rocket
symbol, Yeap Ghim Guan, Lee Lam Thye, Hu Sepang, Dr Eng Seng Chai, Chan Teik
Chan, Gooi Hock Seng, Teoh Teik Huat, Sim Kwang Yang, Dr Kua Kia Soong, Chin
Nyok Soon and Seow Hun Khim.

Others like Wee Choo Keong, Liew Ah Kim and Fung Ket Wing have set up the
Malaysian Democratic Party, which seems to be heading towards oblivion like the
now defunct Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) formed by DAP dissidents.

There have been promises of reforms by Kit Siang previously but nothing much
has been done. No one can argue that Kit Siang is a political icon. He has done
more than others in the party. But his contributions have also led to the party
being identified as a one-man show. So strong is his aura and presence that
despite having given up the secretary-general's post to Kerk Kim Hock, he
continues to eclipse Kerk.

The chairman's post, previously held by Dr Chen Man Hin, used to be advisory,
but under Kit Siang, he is regarded, rightly or wrongly, as more powerful than

But Kit Siang cannot be faulted entirely. His absence from Parliament should
have been used by the young MPs to bring up high-profile issues, as he had done
in the past, but none have followed in his footsteps.

After so many years, there are plenty of grievances in the DAP, including its
poor organisational structure. No one is sure of the membership size; the party
has branches but no divisions, unlike other parties.

There are also no direct elections in the DAP. Under its constitution, the
party elects 20 CEC members, who then decide among themselves who should hold
what positions. Ten others are appointed. At grassroots level, members
virtually have no say on who they want to lead the party.

The main grouse is that Kit Siang has been around too long. Although he
regularly tells Barisan Nasional leaders to quit, the former Opposition Leader
has held on to his post longer than his political nemesis.

His defenders, however, said that besides Karpal Singh or Dr Chen, there are no
DAP leaders charismatic enough to fire the imagination of voters. One possible
successor was Guan Eng but he is now almost inactive politically after being
jailed for breaching the Printing Presses and Publications Act.

For Teng, his priority is to get elected to the CEC because a place will mean
he has the sympathy of the delegates.

If he fails to get in, it means the beginning of the end of his political
future in the DAP.

It would possibly mean not being picked by the DAP to defend his seat in the
next general election. His options would be to quit the DAP and be an
independent, join Parti Keadilan Nasional as many DAP leaders have done or
defect to a component party of Barisan. His brother, Chang Yeow, is a Gerakan
assemblyman in Penang.

The DAP, without doubt, is at its lowest ebb. Its fortunes seem to have taken a
heavy beating after the 1999 polls when Chinese voters punished the party for
working with PAS.

When the congress meets, it has a chance to put things right. It can pull out
from the opposition front and regain its credibility in the eyes of its core
supporters. If it stays put, then it should never bring up the Islamic state
issue again. Any attempt, however feeble, would only invite flak from others.

It should forget about asking PAS, the dominant party in the opposition front,
to leave. The suggestion by Karpal Singh is ludicrous.

The DAP needs to show that it can win enough seats in the next polls if it
wants to attract talents into its ranks.

The reality of the game is that no one respects a loser. At this point, the
Rocket is fast running out of steam.