PETALING JAYA: Umno is set to take over the Penang BN chairmanship from Gerakan following the apparent poor performance as the Opposition in the DAP-led state, coupled with poor results in past elections.
A senior Gerakan Central Working Committee member said Umno, which has won 10 state seats in Penang, has stepped up to the plate, feeling confident that it can do a better job in reducing the DAP majority in the next polls.
The Gerakan leader, who wanted to remain anonymous, said a “Penang Umno politician and a federal minister” had been tipped to be state BN chairman.
“A senior Umno politician from Penang has suggested the minister’s name to the prime minister as he is the one who appoints the state BN chairman.
“The move can be seen as a snub to Gerakan, which has been caught up in internal bickering for the past three years, rather than acting as a useful check-and-balance to the government ” the source told FMT.
Traditionally, the BN chairmanship in Penang is held by the state Gerakan chairman. Currently, Teng Chang Yeow, a former Penang executive councillor, holds this position.
Teng, however, has chosen to go on leave, for personal reasons, a few months ago.
Gerakan had governed Penang under the stewardship of former chief ministers Lim Chong Eu and Koh Tsu Koon from 1970.
However, it lost badly in the 2008 General Election to the Pakatan Rakyat coalition.
Meanwhile, the high-ranking party member revealed that Gerakan had “not grown from strength to strength”, no thanks to bickering and feuding “blocks” within the party.
“The ‘on leave’ state chairman claims national-level party members had been interfering in state-level matters.
“This is to be expected when you bicker and make a fool of yourselves. Of course, the central committee will step in to break up your fights,” the party member said.
The member said the arguments had not abated despite attempts at cooling down and this had left a gaping wound.
“It is no surprise really for Umno to seize this opportunity to strengthen its position in Penang.
“These Penang Gerakan leaders are heroes when it comes to internal party bickering but zeroes when it comes to being an effective Opposition to the increasingly arrogant Penang Government.
“They don’t have the ammo (ammunition) to counter the narratives from the chief minister and his Cabinet.
“With more of the ‘intelligent leaders’ booted out from Penang Gerakan, we are likely to go into oblivion.”
Eyebrows were raised after Teng went on a “sabbatical” a few months ago. He was rumoured to have been planning to leave the post for his successor.
According to the source, this was the first time a Penang Gerakan chief had gone on a sabbatical from the party — “to pursue business endeavours”.
The senior CWC member told FMT the move to replace the state BN chairman was a loss of confidence in Teng, who was seen as “docile and quiet” during his tenure as chairman.
“When the likes of Huan Cheng Guan, from Parti Cinta Malaysia, are getting more traction and come off as a better Opposition than BN, where is Gerakan to put its face?
“This is embarrassing to Gerakan. We must note that only a handful of Penang Gerakan members have their voices heard regularly in the media,” the senior party member said.
Recently, Dr Thor Teong Gee, from the Penang Gerakan liaison committee, and lawyer Rowena Yam resigned from their party posts. This caught the attention of many. Dr Thor was Gerakan’s deputy secretary-general and Yam was state Wanita chief.
Earlier this year, news of feuds within the party surfaced. A bloc claiming to be the “intelligentsia” of Gerakan complained that it had been “pushed away” and replaced by a more “street fighter, Chinese-speaking” leadership.
“If you look closely at the two camps, one led by Teng, and the other a professional group, led by Baljit Singh, you can see who has been sidelined. Clearly, Baljit’s team has been pushed to the wall,” the member added.
Teng had previously denied all these rumours, saying there was an “idiot” out to create a wedge between him and others in his party.
He had said he had included those who were not his supporters in the leadership and had offered positions to those who had resigned.
Teng also denied the existence of feuding camps in his party.