On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Tough choice for Ipoh Timor folk

Kicking off his campaign to about 800 people, an
unusually small audience to Lim, who had spoken to crowds of at least 10,000
people in his Penang campaign, reminded the people of Perak to bring back ''the
glory of Ipoh of the 1950s and 1980s.''

In the 50s, the Seenivasagam brothers, both lawyers, were firebrands from the
People's Progressive Party while in the 1980s, the DAP through big names like
P. Patto and Lau Dak Kee spearheaded the opposition.

But for many young voters, the names mean little. PPP,  headed by Datuk M. Kayveas, is in the Barisan
Nasional now and Malaysians don't know much about the party.

The past week had been tough for the DAP. 
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang described Lim and Karpal Singh
as ''outdated            medicine whose
shelf life has expired'' while the Barisan has dismissed Lim's style of
confrontational politics, saying it was no longer  relevant.

As Lim walked the streets of Ipoh, he has been telling his listeners he has his
roots in Perak, reminding them of his stay at Kamunting in Taiping when he was
detained under the Internal Security Act.

Barisan Nasional's incumbent Ipoh Timor MP Thong Fah Chong has kept hammering
home the point that he is a local boy, born and bred in the state while Lim is
from Malacca.

The Barisan camp pointed out that Lim had contested in Malacca, Selangor,
Penang, and now Perak, with the DAP splinter group-Malaysian Democratic
Party-describing him as a ''political fly'' but Lim rebutted this, saying he is
fighting for the democracy of the nation.

There is another issue of concern for Lim. Last Saturday, as he attacked the
Barisan, he also had plenty of rockets aimed at PAS' leaders Hadi Awang and Nik
Aziz as well as Parti Keadilan Nasional.

There is good reason for it. The DAP, which lost badly in the 1999 polls
because of its pact with PAS, is taking great pains to dissociate itself from
the Islamist party.

Hadi, the Terengganu Mentri Besar, did Lim a great favour when he openly attacked
Lim.  That has put a spanner into the
strategy of the Barisan, especially the MCA and Gerakan, which wants to remind
the Chinese voters of the ''unholy alliance.''

The reminders include press cuttings showing DAP leaders from Terengganu who
said they had continued working for Hadi even after the DAP left the pact in
1999 and Selangor DAP leader Teng Chang Kim saying the DAP and PAS were still

MCA leaders are pointing out that the open bickering in the press between DAP,
Keadilan and PAS is nothing more than a sandiwara because the statistics showed

The Barisan has taken out advertisements in Chinese newspapers stating that the
DAP had continued to hold hands with PAS despite announcing that it had severed
ties with PAS after 1999.

The Utusan Malaysia reported on Sunday that at least 95% of the fights in this
general election are straight fights between the Barisan and the

The allocation of seats have been nicely carved out with PAS contesting 86
seats, DAP 44 and Keadilan 58 at parliamentary level while for state seats, PAS
has 262, Keadilan 118 and DAP 106.

The only problem for the DAP and Keadilan is that they are fighting each other
in constituencies with a Chinese majority.

While Keadilan Malay leaders have found it easier to get their seats,
especially in states where PAS is not strong, it is the other way round for the
non-Malay leaders from Keadilan.

They have been left to fend for themselves, having to square off with the DAP.
In short, it's a fight for the crumbs for these Chinese and Indian

Over the next few days, as the political temperature soar, Lim is expected to
emphasise that he will speak up for the people in Parliament but Thong is
likely to counter that he is there for them always.

Thong is also banking on his track record, pointing out that he obtained a
RM6.2mil allocation during his tenure, with 40% going to schools and 30% to
public amenities.

Realising the importance of education, his leaflet also said that through his
work, five premier schools-the Methodist Girls School, the Main Convent, Chong
Tack, Chung Shan and La Salle- which were downgraded from Grade A to Grade B
were restored their original status.

Thong, a full-time politician with five service centres in the constituency,
has also pointed out his 100% attendance in Parliament.

MCA campaigners are also stressing that Lim is probably the country's longest
serving party leader and has refused to make way for younger leaders in the
DAP, despite professing to care about the aspirations of the young voters.  Lim is 63 while Thong is 47.

Lim, on the other hand, is banking on his past reputation as an opposition
politician. His ISA detention is his credential and he is banking on sympathy
votes for support.

There are also voters who feel that Lim would be able to perform the opposition
role better than PAS MPs, who are more concerned with heaven and hell issues
than to check the excessiveness of the government.

But those who back the Barisan feel that Lim is no longer relevant and that his
time is over. His refusal to give way to younger DAP leaders has dented his
image of wanting to voice the aspirations of young people.

The 73,325 voters of Ipoh Timor have a difficult choice. They have to choose a
youthful politician from  the Barisan,
who has served them well and enjoys direct support of the national leadership,
or respond to a call to return Lim to Parlia- ment.