Gerakan 1969-2008 RIP

Sapp, Supp, Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah, United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Murut Organisation and a litany of names. BN parties, parties that may leave or stay.

However no one is wondering where and what Gerakan is up to. Have they closed shop?

It all came down to putting your eggs in one basket.

In 69 Gerakan were the bomb. A new intelligentsia party with the likes of Syed Hussein Alatas, Lim Chong Eu and Tan Chee Koon in it. They were to be the multicultural and modern answer to the feudal infused and rigid Alliance.

They were formed in a crucial time since the departure of Singapore meant if no real gain was made by those opposing the Alliance, then Tunku and his coalition will go strength to strength using their model of democracy, which is built on conservatism.

And they won big. But their biggest win in Penang was what hurt them eventually, in terms of keeping their integrity.

The riots and emergency rule following May 13, plus the surprise loss of Selangor after the independent candidate changed his mind meant, Gerakan only point of governing was Penang.

Like Singapore

Gerakan replaced MCA to run the island, and the island was largely defined by ethnicity. It was the closest carbon copy to Singapore in look, trade and geography. Gerakan was at a vantage point to revolutionise Malaysian politics with Penang.

Its president was a Muslim.

But Gerakan lost its gumption, and when faced with the prospect of being shut out from the largess from the federal government chief minister Lim Chong Eu – Party President now and former MCA member – decided to desert principle for gain.

Prime minister Razak was reformatting the Alliance into Barisan Nasional, and intended to get any party with a constituency to become a member. He was planning a single party rule of the country. Little wonder Razak became the first Asean leader to recognise the Communist party rule of China.


In a single stroke in 1972, Gerakan got connected to the national artery and relegated itself to being the second Chinese party in the coalition.

And the slow and painful march from being a multicultural party to a party with limited domain.

By accepting Barisan membership, it had to agree to focus on Penang as it managed to wrangle a moratorium of Barisan party MCA from regaining the chief ministership of the island. It had to accept Malay dominion and leadership, therefore dropping its roots for an egalitarian Malaysia. It become no more and no less a Chinese party with a state to govern.

The Keng Yaik years

MCA reject Keng Yaik wriggled into Gerakan and in 1980 became its President. If Lim Chong Eu can pretend to be multicultural, Keng Yaik struggles in pretending to be Keng Yaik.

The transformation to being the second ranked Chinese party in Barisan Nasional was complete, as was the single minister position.

Now its domain was Penang and the defending of the Chinese in a multicultural way. That is the only way to look at Gerakan. It would be ridiculous to suggest the party can be run by a non-Chinese, then how can anyone with some semblance of sanity suggest it did not have its own brand of race supremacy?

Still the Gerakan destroyer, which was downgraded to a yacht sailed on without armament but with a past. And they milked the past to the hilt. But it was a depreciating asset.

Ever so often as a basis to remain relevant, the party would issue of a race free Malaysia initiative. Just lip service.

Gerakan was a bit player nationally as it held to Penang and elsewhere keeping victory zones in 69, like the historical Beruas and Batu seats. In Penang it kept a nationalistic face for its Umno partners, and a ‘ more Chinese than you’ face for MCA which lurked around as a competitor who was in its state coalition.

The future

There is none. None in the shape it is.

As a teenager I looked at DAP and PAS realised no future in it, despite my personal objections to the racist Barisan Nasional. Theoretically, if I wanted to change BN from the inside, then it has to be through Gerakan, the only national party in the coalition with a claim to multiculturalism.

But as I looked at the party more and more, and studied its unsteady stream of consciousness and honesty, it failed every test. It recruited capable young men and women because they lulled in the promise of 69 that long died.

The party has been dead for a long time, we only got a memorial after the election day results. Its fitting the visual nail to the coffin not laid by the wide-scale desertion and defections, but by the departure of the son of one of its founders, Tan Kee Kwong.

Gerakan, may you rest in peace.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.