Specific instructions were given to the guests, particularly the
politicians, not to turn the party into a political forum. But when the karaoke
session started, some guests went on stage to sing the DAP elections theme
song, Must Fight to Win, a popular Taiwanese Hokkein song then.
There were thunderous applause from the ground and, by the time the party
ended, some guests had to be carried out because they were drunk, while some
Barisan politicians left fuming.
Lim was the darling of Penangites. He was the fearless hero in a state, known
for its independent-minded voters, and they voted strongly for him – knocking
off Chief Minister Dr Lim Chong Eu in Padang Kota, in what was known as Tanjung
Two, by 706 votes. He also retained his Tanjung parliamentary seat by a
majority of 17,469 votes.
Caught up in the euphoria in Penang and the political turbulence of the times,
I, too, felt the government deserved a kick on the chin by the DAP.
That was not all. The DAP won 14 state seats, denying the Barisan of its
two-thirds majority and nearly formed a new state government by a whisker. It
was just three state seats short.
Lim had made his move to Penang in 1986, in what was dubbed the Tanjung One battle,
when he wrested the Tanjung parliamentary seat from the Barisan, beating Dr Koh
Tsu Koon by 4,690 votes. Besides winning the Kampong Kolam state seat, he also
helped his party win nine other state seats.
By 1995, the DAP was convinced it was ready for power. Taking a swipe at Chief
Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon for being "submissive" to Umno, the people of
Penang was asked to vote in a Chief Minister With Power – the theme of the DAP
Caricatures of Robocop, a popular movie then of a robotic character, was put up
all over the state to project Lim as the protector of the weak. But the Barisan
hit back, saying Robocop was also a killing machine.
The DAP's Try Five Years slogan to Penangites met with Barisan's Die Five
Years. In the end, Dr Koh easily defeated Lim in Tanjung Bungah by 7,487
The DAP campaign strategy was a flop. It won only one state seat against
Barisan's 32 and fingers were pointed at Penang party chief, lawyer Gooi Hock
A fallout in the DAP soon started. Attempts were made to topple Lim, in what
was known as the Knockout Kit Siang (KOKS) campaign and soon one DAP leader
after another left the party.
The internal squabbling took its toll on the DAP and when the reformasi
movement started, the DAP thought a windfall had dropped on their laps. Through
the influence of some young turks in the party, Lim was convinced working with
PAS was the best option.
They had him believed the Chinese community supported the opposition front of
PAS, DAP, Keadilan and Parti Rakyat Malaysia. But they were wrong. The DAP was
punished by the Chinese voters in the last general election.
In a commentary, I questioned the wisdom of the DAP-PAS pact. Lim, upset with
my criticism, issued a press statement and
telephoned me to express his feelings.
In the end, I was proven right. The DAP retained only one state seat in
And now, in 2004, Lim is pleading with the voters of Ipoh Timor to give him a
He has travelled to Penang and Selangor telling the Chinese voters if they
reject the DAP candidates again, as they
did in 1999, the party would have to close shop and they would never be able to
hear them again.
The Islamic state issue, which worked against the DAP in 1999 because of its
pact with PAS, has been ironically repackaged to suit the times – vote DAP to
stop the setting up of an Islamic state ala PAS or Umno.
Parliament, the DAP leaders are saying, is filled with PAS Members of
Parliament with beards and serbans, who only extol religious virtues although Barisan
candidates are reminding their listeners the PAS MPs are there because of DAP
Feedback shows the tactics have worked to some extent. Barisan campaigners have
expressed their worries that the kesian-the-DAP strategy may snowball and cause
the Barisan, especially the MCA and Gerakan, some votes.
The biggest headache for the DAP is Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi who is the
Barisan's biggest draw. When MCA and Gerakan candidates go on their walkabouts,
they are often asked by the people whether they will get to see the Prime
Pak Lah, remains the Barisan's trump card, and his call for a strong mandate to
continue his fight against corruption and to instil integrity, accountability
and credibility has left the opposition in the corner.
No doubt, there is still plenty of fire inside Lim and DAP deputy chairman
Karpal Singh. Their ability to articulate their views on numerous issues has
put to shame many of the younger DAP leaders.
But much has changed since. The man they criticised for overstaying as Prime
Minister – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – has left after 22 years in office but Lim and Karpal, both 63, are still around,
reluctant to retire.
Their political rivals have also changed with Abdullah leading the Barisan
Nasional into a general election for the first time. One of their favourite
targets, MCA's Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik has stepped down and taken over by
Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, who is also, for the first time, heading his party
PAS president Datuk Fadzil Nor has passed away and replaced by firebrand Datuk
Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who seems bent on turning Malaysia into another
Lim and Karpal Singh earned their reputation fighting against corruption. That
thunder has been stolen from them by Abdullah, who is also fighting the same
issue this time. In Karpal Singh's own words, there are no big national issues
Even the architects of the early successful DAP campaigns are gone. They are
now in different parties such as Penang's Gooi Hock Seng and Teoh Teik Huat,
who are in Keadilan or Datuk Lee Yuen Fong @ Tiger Lee of Negri Sembilan who
had joined the MCA.
A new generation, who are more concerned with the video clips on MTV, have
grown up and they know little about Lim or Karpal Singh.
As Lim walked away from us to board the plane at the airport, my daughter
enquired about Uncle Kit.
I told her that he was a brave man who dared to speak out, especially against
the corrupt, and willing to fight against the government.
But she then asked: "Isn't that being done by the Prime Minister and why would
anyone want to fight a nice man like Pak Lah?"
For the voters of Bukit Glugor and Ipoh Timor, that would be the dilemma as
they turn up on Sunday to cast their votes. Do they want to return the DAP
veterans and say no to Abdullah's agenda at the same time?