Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Wednesday, 26th August 2009:
Permatang Pasir by-election result – devastating blow for Najib’s 144 days as Prime Minister
The strong and decisive victory and majority of the PAS and Pakatan Rakyat candidate Mohd Salleh Man in the Permatang Pasir by-election in Penang yesterday is a devastating blow to Datuk Seri Najib Razak for his 144 days as the sixth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
It is a powerful reaffirmation of the support of the voters of Permatang Pasir for the Pakatan Rakyat partnership by DAP, PKR and PAS and endorsement of the Pakatan Rakyat government in Penang despite desperate and dangerous attempts by Umno/Barisan Nasional in unscrupulously playing racial and religious cards in their old game of “divide-and rule”.
Umno/Barisan Nasional leaders had tried their utmost to turn Permatang Pasir by-election into another Manek Urai where they can claim “victory in defeat” but yesterday’s by-election has proven Manek Urai as an aberration from the momentum for national change set off 18 months ago by the political tsunami of the March 8 general elections last year which saw Umno/Barisan Nasional trounced 7-0 in all the by-elections held in Peninsular Malaysia.
Umno/BN attempts to break Pakatan Rakyat support from all the ethnic groups in the constituency had proved a failure, with Malay voter support remaining intact while Chinese voter support even increased by some 5 per cent, as illustrated by the Kampong Cross Street polling station which has 79.59 % of Chinese voters and saw PAS popular vote increasing from 70.56% in the last general election to 75.77% yesterday – an increase of 5.21% in total votes cast.
The Permatang Pasir by-election result should be serious food for thought for both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat.
For Barisan Nasional, are its leaders prepared to admit that its seventh consecutive by-election defeat in Peninsular Malaysia since the last general election is the result of triple flaws - a flawed candidate, a flawed campaign strategy headed by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and a flawed 1Malaysia policy proclaimed by Najib on becoming Prime Minister.
Permatang Pasir by-election is the first electoral outing where Umno/Barisan Nasional campaigned on Najib’s 1Malaysia’s slogan. However, the sea of 1Malaysia billboards, buntings and posters which flooded the constituency could not camouflage or overcome the hollowness and hypocrisy of the theme with Umno/BN leaders competing with each other to divide and polarize the voters according to race and religion.
The Permatang Pasir by-election should be a contest and competition as to which coalition best stood for a 1Malaysia objective.
But there was no real contest – as it was Pakatan Rakyat comprising DAP, PKR and PAS which by words and actions represented 1Malaysia while Umno/BN symbolized the very opposite with their desperado politics of race and religion!
But there are also lessons to be learnt by the Pakatan Rakyat – how the strengths of the multi-racial multi-religious alternative to the Barisan Nasional could be further leveraged while the weaknesses and strains removed or minimized.
The greatest challenge for the Pakatan Rakyat parties is its ability and capacity to build on the Permatang Pasir by-election victory in the march to Putrajaya in the next general elections.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor