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Monday, July 17, 2017

'From hero to zero': Ex-Penang CM revisits tsunamis in sea and on land



Four years after Penang was hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami, a political tsunami wiped out Gerakan's hold on the state, which has since remained in DAP's control.
Former Gerakan president and Penang chief minister Kho Tsu Koon recalled what transpired during those years.
He noted how the Indian Ocean tsunami resulted in extensive damages to fishing villages, hotels, shops and houses along the north, west and south coasts of the island and the coast of Seberang Perai Utara, killing over 50 people and making thousands homeless.
Pointing out that relief and resettlement work took over a year, the academic-turned-politician said it did not stop the determination to develop the state.
In a Facebook post, Koh said in October 2005, he was elected unopposed as Gerakan's deputy president, and was preparing to take over the leadership reins from the party president, the late Lim Keng Yaik, in the next two to three years.
“However, just as things seemed to be going smoothly, the political situation took a turn for the worst in 2006 with some major shocks.
“First, the former prime minister, (Dr) Mahathir (Mohamad), in his retirement, openly criticised the new prime minister, Pak Lah (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi), whom he handpicked as his successor.
“Then, a few Umno Youth branch members held open demonstrations against me, protesting that I did not really help bumiputeras in Penang.
“As I was too calm in responding, not wanting to be entangled with them, and did not hit back hard enough, I was ridiculed by the opposition as having no courage,” he added.
Anwar capitalised on people's discontent
Koh also noted how anti-Chinese remarks by certain delegates at the Umno annual general assembly in 2006, which was telecast live, had enraged the Chinese community.
Moreover, he said not only did Abdullah's promises on anti-corruption reforms made in GE 2004 seemed ineffective, decadence was perceived to have worsened, resulting in fast- surging resentment.
According to Koh, former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was released from prison in 20014, managed to capitalise on the situation and supported two mass street demonstrations then – Bersih and Hindraf.
“He succeeded in provoking the pent-up feelings of discontent of the people of all races against the arrogance and abuse of power among some politicians and government officials in the BN government nationwide.
“Being a maverick at brokering deals, he managed to forge an electoral pact amongst PKR, DAP and PAS to take on BN one on one in most constituencies.
“As a result, from the best ever results in GE 2004, BN suffered its worst ever electoral defeat in GE 2008 on March 8, 2008 (308), not only losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament, but also five state governments, including Penang,” he added.
Koh said the political tsunami witnessed Gerakan, MCA and MIC in Penang unexpectedly losing all the parliament and state seats contested, falling from “hero to zero”.
In BN, he added, only Umno won 11 out of 15 seats.
“The sudden change of government in Penang was most shocking. But, as said by a Chinese proverb, water can float a boat, just as it can also capsize it.

“It was a decision by the people in a democracy which we had to respect. Hence, I immediately ensured a smooth transition of power. Nonetheless, in retrospect, my team and I had really done our best to develop Penang and to serve the people wholeheartedly. Therefore, our conscience is clear, with no regrets,” he added.
The former chief minister then outlined the major achievements in economic and infrastructure development in 18 years and promised to provide an overview of the progress in educational, cultural and social development in his next article.
“As for insider stories on the bidding and implementation of some of these projects, etc, I shall share the intricacies in other articles in the near future,” he said.- Mkini

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