Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Tuesday, 9th September 2008: 

Ahmad Ismail revolt – when will Abdullah stop his flip-flops and demonstrate that he is Prime Minister for all Malaysians

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi suffered two mortal political blows within a short period of six months – the first “political tsunami” of March 8 general election which smashed UMNO’s political hegemony, ended Barisan Nasional (BN)’s unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority and drove BN into the Opposition in five states now run by Pakatan Rakyat governments and the second “political tsunami” in the August 26 Permatang Pauh by-election, where Anwar Ibrahim stormed back to Parliament with a thumping majority of 15,524 votes after an enforced absence for a decade.

Who would have thought that Abdullah’s third mortal political blow could have struck so fast and so devastatingly as to plunge his image, credibility, authority and legitimacy as Prime Minister to their lowest point since he took over from Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad as the fifth Prime Minister less than five years ago?

And this third mortal political blow to Abdullah was primarily self-inflicted, the direct result of his flip-flops over Bukit Bendera Umno division chief, Datuk Ahmad Ismail’s racist reference to Malaysian Chinese as “penumpang” in the country.

In this instance, Abdfullah out-flip-flopped himself as he took at least five different positions in the past two weeks, viz:

• On 30th August, Abdullah condoned and excused Ahmad’s offensive, insensitive and racist speech, claiming that Ahmad had not “meant it”.

• On 3rd September, to head off protests from all directions both inside and outside Barisan Nasional, Abdullah agreed that his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak should apologise on behalf of Ahmad, with Najib conceding: “It (Ahmad’s comment) was totally unwarranted and doesn’t reflect the position and attitude of Umno or the leadership of Umno. We regret it very much.”

• On 4th September, Abdullah adopted a third position declaring that he was trying to contact Ahmad to ask him to tender a personal apology.

• On 6th September, Abdullah backed down in the face of revolt by Ahmad endorsed by 13 Penang Umno divisions (including Abdullah’s Kepala Batas Umno division) refusing to tender any apology on the ground that he was the aggrieved party. Abdullah accepted Ahmad’s self-serving and ridiculous explanation that his speech “based on historical facts” had been misinterpreted by Sin Chew Daily.

• On 8th September, Abdullah declared that he was “very unhappy” with Ahmad’s second press conference yesterday as Ahmad had outdone his racism and insensitivity in the “penumpang” remark.

In his second press conference yesterday which was suggested by the Prime Minister, Ahmad, backed by 13 Penang Umno division leaders, warned the Chinese in Malaysia not to mimic American Jews in seeking to control the country’s economy but also its political power; told Gerakan to leave the Barisan Nasional; demanded that Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon should be stripped of his post as the state Barisan chairman and the post be given to the MCA and reiterated that he would not apologise for his “penumpang” remark made at a Permatang Pauh by-election ceramah on Aug 23.

At the end of the press conference, a picture of Tsu Koon, which was hanging on a wall, was publicly brought down and torn to pieces.

The whole country and even the world is watching as to whether Abdullah would allow himself to be held to ransom by an Umno division leader with the threat of leading an open revolt in Umno not only in Penang but also in the country.

The Ahmad revolt is the direct result of Abdullah’s weak and indecisive leadership, out-flip-flopping himself and transforming what should be a very small issue which could be resolved with a directive to Ahmad to apologise and set a good example as a model Malaysian into a major political and nation-building crisis.

Ahmad’s antics and histrionics are irrelevant and he should be ignored altogether.

The sole issue is whether Abdullah will stop his flip-flops and assert his authority and leadership to demonstrate that he is Prime Minister for all Malaysians regardless of race, religion or political beliefs and remain true to his pledges and commitmernts to uphold the 1957 Merdeka social contract, 1963 Malaysia Agreement, 1970 Rukunegara and Vision 2020 objective of a Bangsa Malaysia.

There are extremist and irresponsible politicians who are trying to fan racial flames to incite communal tensions and foment unrest as the passport to regain political mastery in the country.

As the Prime Minister for all Malaysians, Abdullah must slap down these extremist and irresponsible politicians and not allow them to rear their ugly heads to hold the future of the people and nation to ransom for their petty and despicable ambitions.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor