On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Behave like true sportsmen

On The Beat

IF is there is one thing true sportsmen learn from day one is that you shake the hands of your rivals after a game.  

You congratulate them, sulk all you want in the changing room and then go back to the training ground to gear yourself up for the next match.  

The winner, on the other hand, should not gloat over his win and be unnecessarily arrogant.  

And of course, the last thing you want is to have your fans, whether of the winners or losers, to go to the streets to cause mischief.  

The politicians in Penang should take a leaf from true sportsmen. Not the sort one watches on the English Premier League, where arrogant footballers abuse the referee and throw tantrums, even when they wear the captain’s armband.  

The impression one gets after the protest by Umno leaders at Komtar on Friday is that they are bad losers.  

The reality is that the DAP, with the support of PKR and PAS, has formed the Penang state government and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng is now the Chief Minister.  

It is hard for the Barisan Nasional, especially Umno, to accept the fact that they are in opposition but the people have decided. For the next five years, the DAP will be running the state and the Barisan must learn to live with that.  

Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who was knocked out in the elections, graciously accepted the loss like a true gentleman. He called up the Penang DAP chief Chow Kon Yeow to congratulate him and promised a smooth handing over of power.  

He turned up at the swearing-in ceremony of Lim, difficult as it may have been; he has earned the respect of most Penangites, even those who had been highly critical of him when he was Chief Minister.  

He has also called on the federal government to continue with projects such as the Second Penang Bridge, Penang Outer Ring Road, monorail and the public transport system despite the calls from Penang Umno to scrap it.  

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, too, conceded defeat in the states even before the official announcements were made.  

Despite the allegations of massive rigging and cheating, the opposition won five states. That means democracy is alive in Malaysia and just as the Elections Commission has been bashed, it now deserves to be commended for carrying out a fair election.  

The police, too, came under criticism but they displayed their professionalism in carrying out their responsibilities, like good referees do. Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan has our salute.  

But it is something else for the Penang Umno leaders. Having criticised the opposition for street gatherings previously, they should not stoop to that level; the communal slant is certainly regrettable.  

They disrupted the traffic at Komtar and the shopkeepers had to shut down their businesses, which was no different from the Bersih and Hindraf street protests in Kuala Lumpur which we condemned.  

There should be no place for political grandstanding or emotive outbursts, as lawyer Zaid Ibrahim correctly said on a news website, as the winners and losers grapple with the results. For sure, there should be no fanning of communal sentiments.  

At the same time, Lim cannot be simply left off the hook. Call it political inexperience if you want, but it was wrong for him to announce that he would end the affirmative actions of the New Economic Policy from day one. That gave his opponents plenty of fire to shoot him and certainly he doesn’t need it as he tries to run a state government, which won’t be easy for him. He needs to realise that his government machinery is predominantly Malay and many Malays also voted for the DAP.  

There is nothing wrong with the NEP, only its implementation. Lim has to ensure that the NEP benefits the poor and not the rich with political connections. No one would fault him for that.  

These are early days for all sides. Opposition parties can no longer be called opposition at state levels and they are struggling to keep the governments running, realising the complexities of it now.  

The Barisan component parties, with internal polls for Umno and MCA ahead, have gone on to the blame game. It will certainly not help them redeem their dented image and may cause a further slide.  

Their priority is to reassess themselves and to ask how radical the changes they need to make to remain relevant – or will they stick to the old mould?  

The Barisan is still in charge at federal level and they have many chances to make populist decisions if they want to.  

We have to face the fact that the political landscape in Malaysia has changed. The New Politics has emerged with cross-ethnicity voting taking place and no one party dares say it is fully entrenched.