Penang: The Battle for the Jewel in Crown on

February 3, 2013

Penang: The Battle for the Jewel in Crown on

by Joceline Tan@

jocelineThe election campaign has as good as begun in Penang with both sides dangling mega projects ranging from an underground sea tunnel to a monorail system to win votes.

THE spacious grounds of Penang’s prestigious Han Chiang High School has once again become the stage for Opposition politics. This was the place where DAP held a series of rallies in March 2008 that launched the party into power in Penang and sent the Barisan Nasional into the opposition wilderness.

The DAP is now riding high, it has the pick of all the government-owned halls and buildings in the state for its political activities and does not need to rent the school field anymore.

On Friday evening, DAP held a grand fund-raising dinner in Pisa, the sports arena built by the previous government.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is also giving Barisan a taste of the old medicine by denying it access to government facilities.The tables have turned, the Barisan is now the underdog and the Opposition, struggling to find venues for its political events. Barisan is now the one turning to Han Chiang for its big-scale activities.

Last week, the private Chinese school was the venue for MCA’s mega dinner that surprisingly managed to draw a full house of about 5,000 diners. The food was nothing to shout about but the speeches had lots of punch and flavour.

It is no fun being the Opposition but after almost five years of Pakatan Rakyat rule, Barisan has lots of material to work on.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen who is also Penang MCA chairman said she was “still in shock” that the “Kancil carpark” at the foot of Penang Hill had to be demolished because it was so shoddily designed that only a Kancil car could use the ramps.

Dr Ng is still riled that the Chief Minister had blamed the RM5million fiasco on her ministry until she dug out files to show that the project was designed and built by the Penang Development Corporation of which Lim is the chairman.

“The hill railway has broken down so many times. They blame the snake, blame the dog … always blaming. Even the Penang Chingay – it has been a tourist attraction for decades but I was informed the event in Butterworth was cancelled because there was a fight,” she said.

Last month, some Chingay groups were unhappy that Danny Law, the state LGE At Merdeka Stadiumexco in charge of tourism, had called off the annual Chingay competition after claiming there were only three interested teams. The groups approached Oh Tong Keong, the State Barisan Youth chief who then sought out some private sponsors and managed to organise the event three weeks later with 16 teams taking part. It was a slap in the face for DAP’s Law.

The annual Dragon Boat Race was also scrapped last month after yet another drowning tragedy.Penang’s tourism, Dr Ng pointed out, is now trailing its rival Malacca.

MCA President Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek told the crowd that “when I come to Penang, I have to talk about DAP or else I cannot sleep.” But some suspect he enjoys talking about PAS even more than about DAP. After all, he and DAP’s Karpal Singh hold the dubious honour of being the “joint No. 1 enemy” of PAS members.

Han Chiang is also the venue for the Barisan’s Chinese New Year open house next week. It is going to be big, the Prime Minister will be there and Penang Barisan chairman Teng Chang Yeow said they had no choice but to rent the school field.

Strategic location

But Teng is such a political animal and the talk is that he chose the venue for Teng Chang Yeowquite strategic reasons. For many Penangites, the Han Chiang school field has come to symbolise where DAP rose to power and, by virtue of that, where Barisan fell to its knees. And as the Chinese saying goes, where you fall is where you will rise up again.

Their request to use the school field had to go through the school board. The board chairman used to be the millionaire developer Tan Sri Tan Kok Ping who is known to be very close to the Chief Minister. Tan has become quite a mover and shaker in Penang politics and some businessmen said he is responsible for the perception that the Penang Chinese Chamber of Commerce is pro-DAP.

The election campaign has as good as begun for both sides.Everyone agreed that the recent Thaipusam festivities in Penang was the most politicised ever. Politicians from both sides were out there mingling with the crowds but the political presence of the ruling party was everywhere. There were lots of Rocket symbols and banners of DAP leaders along the route as well as political pamphlets left on the windscreen of cars.

“They have a lot of money. I could see the pamphlets strewn all over the roadside,” said a Penang reporter. The giant billboard depicting Lord Murugan alongside an equally large image of Lim and several other DAP leaders was a central talking point.

Sin Chew had a big article on it with the headline: “More Tokong than the Tokong”. The phrase came from a Hindu devotee who found the billboard to be over the top.

“Both sides want the Indian vote. They are the kingmaker in a few seats,” said a Penang-based Chinese newspaper editor.

Teng, who is also Gerakan Secretary-General, gave what many thought was an over-optimistic interview to an online news portal last week. His tone was that Barisan is out to recapture Penang. He probably wants to boost the morale of his troops because no general would lead his troops into war telling them they are going to lose.

Teng has an uphill task. He is up against the most powerful Chinese politician in Penang today and the term “Tokong,” introduced by Penang Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Mansor Othman to describe his boss, has stuck.

Everywhere he goes in Penang, he is told that the Chinese are still with the DAP. It is not that they think Lim is doing a fantastic job; they can see that Lim is still talking like an Opposition leader and he is more skilful at opposing than in administrating a state. But they have put him on a pedestal and they want to give him another term.

Those who follow Taiwan politics have likened him to Chen Shui Bian, a fierce oppositionist who was unable to discard his confrontational style even after becoming president of Taiwan.


Both sides suffer equally from over-optimism. For instance, a DAP strategist who claimed his party could garner up to 40% of Malay votes in certain seats was thought to be hallucinating.

The reality is that while DAP has up to a 70% grip on the Chinese vote, the Malays are still suspicious of the party. They do not see DAP speaking up for their welfare and economic concerns, much less their religion.

Lim’s Christmas Day message on the Bible issue probably resulted in sending more Malays running for the door. In hindsight, he had taken the proverbial one step forward and two steps backwards. Pakatan already had the Christian vote in their pocket but in pushing further on that front, he had cost his partners in PAS and PKR precious Malay votes.

DAP insiders admit they now have only about 22-25% of Malay support.“If the general election is held now, they cannot have another clean sweep. The Indian votes have returned, UMNO has recovered the Malay areas, leaving only the Chinese areas,” said a Penang lawyer.

Barisan’s dilemma is the reverse of that faced by Pakatan. It is fighting to maintain the 30% or so Chinese support that it has but unlike Pakatan, it has about 80% of the Malay vote.

Given that, DAP and UMNO are set to hold on to what they have. The seats shaking like a leaf are largely those held by PKR. Both sides have dangled mega projects before the Penang voters.Law: Overwhelmed by tourism portfolio.

Last week, Lim unveiled infrastructure projects totalling a whopping RM7billion. They include an undersea tunnel linking Gurney Drive to the mainland and four other highway projects that will take the island and the sea around it into the age of super-highways. One observer described it as the “most ambitious road infrastructure project since Independence”.

Barisan has promised a monorail and transport plan, financial hub in Seberang Prai and the restoration of the free port. It also promised to address the burning issue of affordable housing and revive the tourism industry.

Both coalitions are also facing problems to replace old, tired faces with more winnable candidates.

Many Barisan faces who were swept out by the political tsunami still think they are winnable and want to contest again. Teng will have his hands full in trying to put forward a credible team.

Lim’s dilemma is even greater. He is an outsider who only arrived at the Penang scene in 2008. If he tells the old-timers in Penang to ride into the sunset, they will probably turn around and tell him that he is up there because of their long years of blood, sweat and tears. No one expects the incumbents to willingly surrender their seats to some parachute candidate with no track record in the party.

Moreover, the hunger to be a candidate is tremendous in Pakatan given that it is assured of being returned to power. For the DAP candidates especially, it is like buying a sure-win lottery. Only the saints among them will make way without a fight and there are no saints in politics.

Pakatan leaders are privately rather worried about the Barisan’s “3321 formula,” that projects Gerakan and MCA winning three state seats each, UMNO winning an additional two seats and MIC one. Add that to the existing 11 seats that UMNO currently has and there will be a hung assembly in Penang.

Teng and Lim are in a David versus Goliath situation. The underdog cannot be under estimated while the powerful incumbent cannot be over-confident. Teng has become a clear and present danger to Lim.

Joceline can be reached at

25 thoughts on “Penang: The Battle for the Jewel in Crown on

  1. It is going to be tough for Barisan Nasional to take back Penang. For that, UMNO should thank Gerakan President Koh Tsu Koon as he messed things up. There is visible progress in the state under the LGE administration. When comes to Penang, I would say Pakatan Rakyat will retain control of the jewel after GE-13. –Din Merican

  2. Is it even a fight? It would be a massacre if not for the fact their cheque-book is so thick. RM3m in respond to a few thousand ringgit made UBAH video? When Gerakan/BN buys a giant gold-covered fly-swat and..-misses, you have to think EVEN THEY KNOW THEY ARE GOING TO BE SLAUGHTERED…

    Honestly the stuff MCA and Gerakan does these days, I can’t believe they think its working – is obvious designed for appearance to their boss/partner Najib/UMNO only. My problem is they are working really hard at it and putting themselves out for ridicule – its not possible its just for nothing. I smell a rat – there must be money being siphoned off into personal pockets in the name of these ‘show’ or ‘performance’.

  3. Din,
    Koh didn’t mess things up…..Koh is simply cojonesless. Pak bean can attest to that. In fact, LKS & his entourage in the 1995 GE campaigned on bring in chief minister with ball. In fact, DAP put up a Robocop statue in their campaign…….Guess what Penang langs including my matey, ktemoc freaked out & send DAP to the gallows with only one adun. That scenario went on for the next 2 rounds of GE before Gerakan routed out
    One got to remember that The Star is MCA newspaper. MCA still harbour hopes in getting back Penang. The whole idea of this hype is to force DAP to focus only on Penang so as not to mess with key state such as Johor, Sabah & Sarawak. I have a simple solution to Pakatan Rakyat, Ask PKR to give up 2 more seats to DAP…..i bet DAP will win hands down……The idea of having DAP lack of the magic number in running the Penang is holding back Pakatan Rakyat in focussing energy on other areas…..No thanks to Anwar Ibrahim & his sick kicks Azmin Ali

  4. Jocelin works for the star. She has to mince her works much as she acknowledged Chief Minister LGE effort with horrible inaccurate facts so that people can see she was lying when she brought in Chen Shui Bian for comparison. Of course Pakatan would retain contro;l that Penang people already know and supported. Good bye MCA and Gerakan.

  5. MCA and Gerakan are still so obvious trying to stir up sentiments from issues that are close to the heart of Penangites. Sadly for them, Penangites are more than those can be easily duped with their antics and rhethorics.

    LGE is expected to stay in Penang, but the bruises that he and his party have received will only strengthen his resolve to do a better job next time around.

  6. Addendum:

    Koh Tsu Koon lost Penang’s silicon valley status and that was a fact.
    Whether its BN or Pakatan, Penang is always a tourism haven no Malaysian want to replace. Malacca has lost that ambiance.

    Penang has 60% Chinese votes. Why Koh Tsu Koon lost those support?
    Why Lim Kit Siang could topple Gerakan?

    Chief Minister LGE had shown he could deliver the people’s mandate. Its so visible that the Gerakan now has no ammunition that Jocelin has to bring on poster matters.

    Its good for BN as the opposition. That way LGE works harder for the people.

    Its good for BN as the opposition in PUTRAJAYA. That way Anwar has to show PAKATAN can perform as it has in Penang and Selangor where economics are concern.
    Now PAKATAN has to repeat their economics governance in other states.

    Thanks for the handouts but no thanks as most people have lost their cakes.

  7. Jocelyn,
    Pakatan worried about 3321 formula…….Are you kidding me? You predicted that UMNO will another 2 seats…..That Means UMNO will get 13 seats as compared with 3 for Gerakan, 3 for MCA & 1 for MIC. So, you are vying for UMNO redormination of Penang politics which has been the case since the Koh tsu Koon…..Clap! Clap! Bravo! A very sure to wipe BN out of Penang………100% non melayus will support DAP…..All one needs to use your master style’s……Soil Chicken Legg style of frightening melayus into supporting Pakatan
    I won’t be surprised…….It would be Pakatan 40 BN 0……..Kamsiah lu Jocelyn

  8. Did you all hear about the latest UMNO Baru-BN’s psy-ops
    (psychological operations)?

    The latest version is PSY ops (gangnam style) !

    Only a few million RM cheap.Thought up by the usual gang of idiots (apologies to MAD Magazine).

    Phua Kai Lit

  9. What if PSY’s Malaysian fans show up at his concert n Hijau T-shirts?
    Or Bright, Clean and Yellow T-shirts?
    Or Deep Purple T-shirts ? 🙂

  10. How come Bijan and UMNO now celebrating the “Pendatangs” New Year? Have Bijan and UMNO now changed their stand to finally accept the Malaysian born Chinese and Indians as Malaysians instead of pendatangs? Bijan trying to become a snake charmer huh.

    Love to see that Naina Reezal face show up at this Year of the Snake festivities. Wish all the snakes at the snake temple would appear and bite these UMNO fellas in welcoming the year of the snake.

  11. Joceline as usual spins a good tale – that’s all she is good at… and in simple layman words these are lies and untruths but twisted as political spins thus justified… I am staying in Penang and has been here since 2005 when I took early retirement. My time are spent talking politics at coffeeshops all over the island… BN can talk and dream all they want but they will not be able to take back the state govt, in fact all of them might really be wiped out this time…. including UMNO….

  12. Be respectful. Do not attack the writer.

    Dear Melvin, you are the 3rd person who forwarded the link to me.

    Take on the idea, not the messenger.

    Don’t use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
    Stay on point.

    Comments that stray from the original idea may be deleted.

  13. Jossy must be the only female with marbles thinking BN can win back the crown jewel.
    Jibby lost his family jewels long ago and they are all on the encrusted ring worn by FLOM.
    And Malaysians will treasure the day when they can recover the fortunes stolen from them by the BN cruks.

  14. And NOW we hear that
    1. Ng Yen Yen making bluster of Najib’s picture being taken down – Getting all worked up over REMOVING IDOLTRY – in Malaysia? Seriously?

    2. They are giving the ALREADY EXPECTED explanation that its ‘privately sponsored’ for PSY.

    They LOOK SIMPLY SO REMOVED FROM REALITY that people are speculating that they MUST NOT BE SO DUMB and really the purpose of these these ‘actions’ and ‘performances’ is to steal from it one last time as they get removed from the office.

  15. Not too long ago. the streets of penang mentioned Penang suddenly has 300,000 more voters………….from where? where from? Someone must have sold more MyKad vending machines, or more phantoms IC recycling must have resurrected from dead people………dead man tell no tales. LGE will have to work so blady hard to swing 300,000 more votes. How? when Penang has only 1m voters and of this 1m maybe half are voting age. So just to win, LGE need 80% of residence votes against the imported phantoms.

    DAP has a better gangnum style against that sponsored by friends of Mickmouse Corruption Agency MCA.

  16. Dato
    What do you mean by stray from the original idea?
    Is this article about election in Penang?
    To quote one of the sentences in the article
    “DAP insiders admit they now have only about 22-25% of Malay support”
    I’m asking for opinion where the non-Chinese votes would go to, and you call it “stray from the original idea”?

  17. Penang folks are not stupid even if they go for the concert. Here is a motivation song for all of us.

    Malaysia Maju Jaya Ini Kali Lah

  18. There were so many lies in this article. Will let DAP point them out and if possible get the writer to apologise.

    Will point this specific lie:

    “Dr Ng is still riled that the Chief Minister had blamed the RM5million fiasco on her ministry until she dug out files to show that the project was designed and built by the Penang Development Corporation of which Lim is the chairman.”

    The kanchil carpark was designed and constructed pre 308, how can Lim be the chairman then?

  19. Din,
    See! Why need to spend millions of dollars? One simple song will do…..Cheap! Cheap! See, I say DAP should lead the way…….

  20. Battle for the jewel of the Crown, why not ? Pearl of the Orient….
    But dear Colleagues, its not fair that Penang-ites have come down hard on Koh Soo Khoon or blaming him for loss of the Jewel to LGE of the DAP which has won over the Penang-ites…..sad tale of betrayal really – Why ? , No, not because of the snakes of The Snake Temple coming out this year of the Snake to cast the ‘ spell ‘, but more b’coz of
    ” Ingratitude “…..

    Was it not Koh Soo Khoon’s father, the late Dr LIM CHONG YEW who was handpicked by the late Noble Tun Razak for their vision & Prosperity of Penang, which laid the foundation for this Pearl of The Orient ? And having achieved that, they – Son, Father & Noble Tun Razak – are discarded, who were merely treated likje the proverbial ” Door Mats…” ! !

    Unwanted and Discarded…..what a Shame…..

  21. her articles are losing their bite, which means that she herself doesn’t belief in the spin she is propagating. even her previous article gives an impression that she is preparing to jump.

    if we had a reliable and credible EC the fall of Penang and Selangor to umno is next to impossible. unfortunately with the present biased EC the impossible could happen!

    anyway penangites, take whatever they give you because that is your dough and you don’t have to be thankful to the thieves in umno-bn. Don’t Vote for THEM!

  22. Abnizar,
    Koh Tsu Koon is John Major, Penang version. Lim Chong Eu was determined to be in power for nong nong time ( surprise, surprise! for a good reason) till he kenna unseated. I bet they are plenty of traitors who do Chong Eu in……Time to ask my matey, ktemoc aka closet Gerakan supporter who is currently hiding in australia.

    Guys & Gals,
    Don’t you feel nauseating with this kinda of news. Oh come on! What would be Dr M’s solution? Ask Thai muslims to become bumis in malaysia so that BN will gain 2/3 majority again so as BN to rule in perpeituity. So that RPK can be extremely happy at last

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