By Chan Kok Leong | Aug 18, 08 5:24pm
Barely 24 hours after he voiced his support for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in the Permatang Puah by-election, Gerakan leader Dr Toh Kin Woon has quit his party.
The Gerakan central committee member turned in his resignation today, addressed to secretary-general Chia Kwang Chye.
In a telephone interview, Toh said he has quit the party to concentrate on NGO work - particularly in the field of Chinese education and with reform movement Aliran.
"I've already retired from electoral politics and feel that it is better for me to concentrate on NGO work," said Toh.
"Furthermore, by freeing myself from any political parties, I will be able to express myself more freely and not embarrass the party, should my views be different from theirs."
While most Barisan Nasional politicians were expressing their confidence in winning the Permatang Pauh by-election, Toh was seen visiting the PKR election operation centre yesterday.
During the visit the veteran politician expressed his support for Anwar and feels that the PKR leader's addition to Parliament can help strengthen democracy.
The vocal politician stressed that he was not supporting Anwar-led PKR as a party but the movement and the cause which the PKR politician has been fighting for.
'Thank you, Toh'
The open pledge of support from a Barisan Nasional leader has given an added boost to opposition stalwart Anwar Ibrahim's campaign in Permatang Pauh.
Describing it as a positive sign, the PKR leader expressed his gratitude to Penang-based Gerakan leader and former state exco Dr Toh Kin Woon.
"I am very encouraged by Toh's support," he told reporters after visiting a market in Seberang Jaya this morning.
"He is not only a friend but known to be one of the few political leaders who is highly principled and consistent."
Anwar, who will be contesting in the Aug 26 Permatang Pauh by-election, also revealed that he and Toh have maintained contact despite being on opposite sides of the political fence.
"It's important for people to realise that on issues of democracy, (fighting against) corruption and human rights, we have been very consistent," he added.
'It's a good sign'
Anwar said his wife, PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, their family and the Pakatan Rakyat leadership also welcomed the gesture by the Gerakan veteran.
"We think it's a good sign. (It shows) people with principles with the BN will finally choose a Pakatan with principles.
"I think for Toh (right) to do that, it must be a very serious issue and he must have given it much thought," he added.
Toh's pledge has undoubtedly given the BN campaign a headache, especially when he was an ex-colleague of Umno candidate Arif Shah Omar Shah in the Penang state assembly.
The outspoken Gerakan leader had expressed his support after visiting a PKR election campaign office yesterday.
"I feel if Anwar (is elected to) Parliament, the voice of the opposition will be stronger and the chances of strengthening democracy and widening the democratic space will be better.
"For these reasons, I support him," he said, adding that Anwar has been "very consistent and courageous" in articulating a new Malaysian agenda.
However, he refrained from commenting on his BN colleague Arif Shah's candidacy.
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