GEORGE TOWN: Penang DAP held its convention yesterday and the most notable event that happened was that by afternoon half the 300-odd delegates were “missing”.
Those who remained were either having a snooze or were talking among themselves, paying scant attention to the speakers.
This prompted Penang DAP chairman Chow Kon Yeow, who, by nature, is reserved to say that perhaps they should have lucky draws with cars and condominiums as prizes.
Chow’s remarks may not apply to Penang alone. There was a poor turnout at the Selangor convention and the situation was similar in some other states.
But Chow, being the wily old politician, corrected himself by saying it was the same for other political parties.
But, here Chow, the Tanjong MP, stand to be corrected.
At the PAS muktamar, one had to line up to use the restrooms, while at the Umno general assembly, they sat on the floor to listen to the proceedings.
“We should not read too much into it as this is not an election year at the state level,” said state DAP Youth activist Chris Lee.
Testament of power
DAP’s power base basically revolves around Penang, Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Negeri Sembilan, Malacca and parts of Johor.
It now also has a growing presence in Sarawak and a moderate representation in Sabah.
A political observer here, Ng Whien Chin, says DAP has always been a top-heavy organisation in terms of active members .
“DAP, however, is a party populated more by high-octane personalities than those with a crowd following. The exception now is DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng who is popular among the grasssroots,” Ng said.
Lim would be revered in DAP and become its permanent statesman, if he can deliver Putrajaya, similar to how his father Kit Siang had managed the party through the turbulent years , Ng claimed.
Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi shares the same view as Lee over the turnout, saying that usually, conventions only have a reasonable turnout – not an overwhelming one since there is no election.
But Ng does not agree. He says from a neutral view, accumulating a crowd is a testament of power and to illustrate to the fence-sitters that DAP is not to be taken for granted by either Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional.
“Penang has one of the highest number of fence-sitters as the people here are highly educated and independent-minded.” he said.
A power broker
As the Chinese electorate ground is said to be solidly behind the Anwar Ibrahim-driven Pakatan, DAP is speculated to be a power broker when the “dust settles” after the coming election.
PKR has wavered after a spate of defections while PAS seems to be mired in its Islamist movement world, having unsettled DAP with its uncompromising stance on “hudud” and enforcing their own moral code.
DAP chairman Karpal Singh remained steadfast through this maze though, saying the party must stick by its principles whether in government or in the opposition.
Karpal scolded the local authorities in Selangor and Kelantan for their alleged undemocratic measures.
He was referring to an unpopular plan to build a housing project near Batu Caves and the summons issued to hair salon operators in Kelantan for allowing their females workers to cut the hair of the male patrons.
On the surface, it looks like all is not well within DAP. The grassroots members in Penang are not happy that DAP is unable to differentiate between what is government and what is party.
A sense of uneasiness has also engulfed members here over how Lim is importing in young talent, who are an unproven lot in DAP.
Ng said all these may not derail the party from securing its seats here, as many voters in Penang simply hate BN, and are willing to overlook DAP’s shortcomings.