BUT WE HAVE TO GO BEYOND SENTIMENTS, PARTY TOLD
KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 28, 2008): by Maria J. Dass
Although the sentiment among the grassroots for Gerakan to leave Barisan Nasional (BN) is prevalent because of incidents that took place over the last two months, the party is adopting a cautious stand as it needs to examine and ponder over its survival post-BN.
"At least 60% say 'let us be relieved of this burden', which is considered an emotional burden, but we have to go beyond that, we have to go beyond sentiments," the party's acting president, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, said today.
"Now, after the initial feelings and sentiments because of things that have happened, especially in the last one to two months, have subsided, they are becoming much more calm, collected and mature in their approach and are able to think over the things that have been discussed," he said at the opening of the Federal Territory (FT) Gerakan Wanita and Youth delegates conference.
Gerakan had been embroiled in a controversy over the remarks made by former Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail in a speech during the run-up to the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election.
"Going by the sentiments gathered from views at the grassroots level, at least 60% say it is very difficult to stay in the coalition (BN) because they are being criticised outside," Koh said.
"But we have to go through a more objective and rational analysis of this and we are going thorough that process.
"Of course, the sentiment gathered from people outside is why should you stay in Barisan?, You should come out.
"But they very seldom ask the third question. The first question is always 'Will you support Barisan?', the second is 'Would you want Gerakan to remain in Barisan? and the third is 'When we come out, will you support us versus DAP or versus PKR?. That question is seldom being asked until lately.
"We are now getting answers, which are very realistic answers. We need to take a lot of factors into consideration and not just based on sentiments."
Koh said that while sentiments are important and have to be taken into consideration for the future of the political role of Gerakan in the political arena, "it has to be a combination of the heart and the mind".
"We have to combine sentiment with rational analysis and we have adjusted our thinking after much pondering," he said.
"It is a very trying and challenging time. It is time for a lot of soul-searching and rational objective and analysis, combined with a lot of sentiments, and thus, it cannot be a straightforward simplistic, simple decision.
"We are not ruling out any possibilities and are constantly getting feedback and analysis in addition to monitoring the changes in the country’s political landscape."
Koh said no deadline has been set as the party does not want to be rigid in view of the constant changes happening around it.
He said there are three options for the party, which are to stay in BN, leave BN and join Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), or leave the BN and be independent.
>> On whether he will contest for the presidency in October , Koh announced he would be but it clear he would not remain in office for more than two terms as he wants to elevate young leaders to engineer change and revive the party.
>> On his choice for deputy, he said: "We will eventually let the delegates decide."
>> On Gerakan Federal Territory members hopping over the PKR (see accompanying story), Koh said: "I was just informed of this although I had heard the rumours two days ago that some of our leaders are in talks with them."
He said he was shocked because two weeks ago, some of those who defected had sat in a meeting with him and never indicated any dissatisfaction.
"This episode also shows that PKR seeks publicity and confrontation, and puts up political dramas, as they just had to welcome these members on the same day that the Gerakan FT is holding its delegates conference," Koh said.
>> On the power transition plan in Umno, Koh said Gerakan hopes it will be carried out in a smooth and peaceful manner so as not to upset the social and economic order.
He said by tradition, the change in party leadership in a BN component party is an internal matter, However, he hopes that the BN supreme council will brief the other component parties on what the Umno supreme council has decided so that the transition plan can be understood by other component parties.
He said BN is in dire need of a revamp and re-branding to remain relevant.
"What is important at the end of the day is that this transition benefits the BN and, most of all, the country," he said.