Will Gerakan leave BN?


Over the years, Gerakan has tried to change or reform the Barisan “from within” – or so it likes to claim. Clearly, it has failed. Did the BN instead end up changing Gerakan? The question on many people’s minds is, now what for the party that had governed Penang for close to 40 years?

In a personal comment piece for the New Sunday Times, the former state exco member for Penang, Toh Kin Woon, suggested several options for Gerakan after its disastrous performance in the general election:

One is to stay in BN and have more of the same, with the party unable to abandon its racial character. This is the least desirable for it may lead to the party’s oblivion.

The second is to stay and seek reforms from within. One major reform, and one which had been advocated earlier by the party’s Youth chief, is for all component parties to merge to form a truly multiracial BN.

Besides doing away with racial appeals, it will avert the seemingly lack of parity in the relationship between Umno and the rest.

It was this that had, in part, cost MCA, MIC and Gerakan dearly in the recent elections. The party must, however, give itself a time frame to pursue this major change.

Should it fail to achieve this within the given time span, it must then consider leaving BN and independently develop the party as a multiracial social democratic party.

It could, for instance, join forces with other like-minded parties outside BN to forge an even larger multiracial movement for greater democracy, ethnic equality, gender parity and social justice.

Ultimately, it is up to the leaders and party members to consider these, and other, options for a revival of the party. But reform and change it must, if it is to remain a force that can fulfil the ever-rising tide of expectations of the Malaysian electorate in a rapidly changing world.

This prompted Dr Choong Sim Poey, a life member of Gerakan, to send a letter to the NST. Unfortunately, what was published was only an “emasculated” version. Here is the full version. (The bits that the NST left out are in bold. It looks like you are still not allowed to be critical of Umno in the NST):

I refer to Dr Toh’s analysis of Gerakan’s problems (New SundayTimes, 23 March 2008). His concluding lines on the possibility of Gerakan leaving the BN coalition as one of their options to revive the Party is not as radical a suggestion as the public may think. It is an issue familiar to many senior party members.

Even in the 1980s when Tun Lim Chong Eu was the CM in Penang (and de facto leader of the Gerakan), the ‘unfair’ allocation of seats to component parties was a chronic bone of contention. Suggestions raised to break away for this reason were rejected as unseemly and opportunistic. Nevertheless, it was generally agreed that this should remain an option when key issues were in dispute especially when it went against our basic party principles and objectives

Unfortunately, over the years of BN/Umno dominance, this seemed to have been put aside in favour of ‘pragmatic’ politics. This meant accepting anything that the Umno leadership came out with to curry favour with their own members with a total disregard for the position of their coalition partners.

This was tested when Umno sought to undermine Pas by becoming an Islamic State and ‘Ketuanan Melayu‘ became the battle cry for Umno to regain their grass-roots support during which time there was not even a squeak from any Gerakan leaders.

This pragmatic approach to politics by Gerakan included condoning blatant opportunism and cronyism by Umno leaders in the name of the NEP. All this Gerakan willingly accepted in exchange for remaining ‘permanently’ under the BN’s comfort zone, nominally governing the state of Penang, until this shock election defeat.

I am writing this to put in historical perspective the position of Gerakan vis-a-vis the BN. I maintain that there was never any acceptance or assumption that Gerakan’s membership in the BN coalition was a permanent partnership to be maintained at all costs! The Gerakan leadership will now have to seriously consider if the cost paid in this election has been too high!

Dr Choong Sim Poey


So do you think Gerakan should remain in the BN and hope to influence any reform process in the ruling coalition – or do you think the BN is beyond redemption and Gerakan should leave?

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As a member of Gerakan, I strongly advise Gerakan leaders to seriously joining DAP.


Asking component parties to merge in BN is not a msart move. UMNO is an extremist racial party. Any minority race party merging with UMNO would be completely swamped! It is as simple as that. The answer is an emphatic “no”. The correct answer is for Gerakan and other parties to leave BN and join a coalition of Opposition parties. The future of Malaysian politics is in coalition politics. There the only way to look after the interests of what theystand for, would be negotiate for the best deal or “pork-barrel’ as the term is used in politics. The parties… Read more »

Frank Woo

Gerakan is hard to win back Penang Chinese supporters
especially if Dr Khoo Tsu Kon still a leader to Gerakan if will give a negative impact to Gerakan
the only way is to leave BN join DAP or PKR
if u want to win the next election many of my friends already said Gerakan is out for next election

Suren Menon

Gerakan, You have …. yourself to UMNO – …


Gerakan is as good as gone,do you think leaders of Gerakan will be offered seats for next general election if they join PKR or DAP ? Gerakan has to glue to BN because it has no other alternative.

My advice for Gerakan is to leave BN and dissolve the party since it has no more support from the people and it is useless to UMNO.Why must you live under such horrible condition which is worst than a beggar waiting for UMNO to feed you.Don’t you people have any self respect left !

akbar din

Gerakan has only two choices if it is sincere in its claim that it is a multi-racial party. Either it joins PKR or DAP. Otherwise, it faces oblivion. Period.

Akbar Din.
Anak Penang.

gordon tham

Gerakan is a multiracial party by constitution and the concept of Multiracialism is not shared by BN parties. What is Gerakan doing in a coalition that runs contra to Gerakan’s ideals?

Y Leong

Should Gerakan desert the sinking ship? NO- the damage is done and there is no turning back. You guys made your choice to ride out the ‘storm’ with the rest of your gang. No perfume in all of Persia will hide the stink that you carry- so just roll over and die. If as individuals you still hope to contribute to the betterment of Penang and the nation, walk out of Gerakan and join the Barisan Rakyat – make sure you leave all the s*** you have wallowed in in BN behind and most importantly, don’t ever think of corruption,… Read more »


when Gerakan joint BN in 1970s, they had forced to sign an agreement that deny their rights to expand out of Penang. That why Gerakan become provincial party, now.

the PAS left BN because they didn’t agree to sign on the same ground.

these all I heard from Orang Lama!


While I really appreciate what Dr. Toh has written, I truly despise people such as Mr. Choong who jumped out from his hideout and pointing fingers at UMNO right at this moment. Dr. Toh always plays fair. Even when UMNO was king, Dr. Toh never backed down from his principle. Who went to visit DSAI when DSAI was down? Dr. Toh. Who spoke up for the Chinese and Tamil school when Hisham was wielding his keris? Dr. Toh. Who dare to speak against the powerful UMNO when UMNO was in its peak of arrogance? Dr. Toh. Where was Mr. Choong… Read more »


I do not foresee Gerakan being in any position to change the mindset of big brother UMNO/BN, in the way the coalition is or will ever be run.Not in this generation or the next.

For Gerakan to have any credibility with this or the next generation of voters, it must step aside from its “partnership” with UMNO to regain the trust and confidence of the people for what the party claims it stands for.

aaron leow

i think gerakan should leave bn for good as the “bigger” parties in the BN does not even care if gerakan is in the coalition or not. instead of trying to fight a losing battle inside BN, get out of it, and help championing “rights” of the rakyat. when everybody mention BN, they just think umno, mic and mca, who cares about gerakan in BN? nobody does. they just want a puppet head in penang so that they can control him to do whatever they want and still say “hey, there’s a chinese cm in malaysia afterall and yada yada.”… Read more »


Leave? What about all the mess left behind in Penang?


Immediately after Gerakan being swept out of Penang, I’ve suggested that they rejoin the Opposition coalition. Gerakan ideology is still a Malaysian Malaysia, but while in BN they starts to compromise their own principles and ultimately lose focus on their own ideology. Gerakan has doen much for Penang development over the years, I think many Penangites still appreciate that. However, there is much more important things at stack, that is the future for our children and grandchildren. Judging from the arrogance of UMNO in denying the other ethnic groups their religious rights, and civil rights. There is no possibility of… Read more »

Mr Smith

Gerakan and PPP should close shop. They have been rejected and there is no way they can revive their image and stature.
It can quit BN but its future is bleak. I suggest Gerakan members flee their ship and join the DAP or PRK.


When Dr Lim Keng Yaik, an MCA rejects, joined Gerakan and subsequently assume leadership of the party; that period already signaled the end of for Gerakan. The doctor has effectively MCA-nized the Gerakan; unitl it lost its multi-racial image. I suggest the Gerakan merge with the MCA and members that still believes in its original concepts leaves the party and join any of the Barisan Rakyat parties.


Gerakan says it stands for a Malaysian Malaysia – then leave BN, which is a race-based coalition. It has a choice of merging with DAP or PHR, both of which are closer to the multi-racial intent of Gerakan. Perhaps this unequivocal situation which Gerakan finds itself now is an opportunity, where the President is still in an acting position, and it is wiped out in its own bastion. For the honest politician, surely his cause should be more important than the political party’s survival at any cost. No chance Gerakan (or MCA/MIC) to change UMNO/BN into a single component. Let… Read more »


Problem is, where is Gerakan going to? last time they ditched DAP in Penang. Do you think now DAP will let them come back? No way.


Gerakan started off as a multiracial party or to be correct, a true Malaysian party. However it went down as a “Chinese party” or as some would say, a second class MCA. It was nothing more than a miscalculation or error in judgement that caused its downfall. Annihilated in their home state. Only now people are talking about its downfall, relevance, and future. They should have actually thought about all that a long time ago. A mistake in the past that finally led to its own demise. The biggest mistake was to join BN. The day they joined BN was… Read more »

Sri Tri Buana

Gerakan should just quit BN and be done with it. Don’t ever think of rejoining BN so long as UMNO remains racial and non-compromising. Dr Toh, Dr Koh, Dominic Puthucheary, all tried to change BN from within and failed. Gerakan should just dissolve itself and let its leaders go separate ways. Clearly Gerakan has failed as a political party and it will never recover again.


Can Gerakan reform BN? Let me put it another way, “Can a servant reform a master?” Make no mistake about it, the relationship between BN and its coalition partners is nothing more than a ‘master-servant’ relationship. Koh Tsu Koon was a Chief Minister without real power just like the other non-Malay ministers in the Cabinet. Here we have 2 parties with totally different idealogies – one is a race-based party founded on Malay Supremacy and has no qualms about using ugly racial politics to stay in power, never mind the cost to national unity. The other is a multi-racial party… Read more »

Kenny Tan

Well,i would suggest that Gerakan should leave the BN stable and joins BR in its quest to represents the whole communities since its struggle is almost similiar to BR. They can t do much in BN since it was like having a sharp knife pointed at the throat by those Kerisman.

With lots of talents in Gerakan, i would like to see them switching camp unlike MCA whom comprises of all the timidity … whom known to barked but cant bite.


It is well known that Gerakan lacked a backbone when it was in power pandering to the the whims and fancies of it’s “elder brother”. And at the same time displaying it’s arrogance in the island state. It seems that Koh Tsu Khoon now seems be saying (& doing?)the right things. He is reportedly even willing to work to rebuild the party without a salary. That’s commendable but I think it’s too late for the party. I doubt it would ever recover from such a hammer blow. Some, though, still have not learnt a single thing. Keng Yaik, recently when… Read more »

Chinese Malaysian

And a pox on Dr Choong also. I doubt your sincerity. ….

Chinese Malaysian

Hmm… after reading Dr Choong Sim Poey’s unadulterated letter to NST, I think Dr Lim Chong Eu has a lot to asnwer for. Much like Dr George Chan of SUPP, and Tan Siew Sin Of MCA. Their inaction and acceptance of UMNO’s (PBB’s) policies and decisions detrimental to their own race, says one thing about them … self-centric [email protected]%*^es. Fat cats enjoying their cosy position with their lords and masters. William Wallace they ain’t against “Edward Longshanks” Mahathir. Just miserable spineless avaricous “princes, dukes, marquis of Scotland”! No hesitation in selling out their people’s interests for some land, titles and… Read more »