Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anything's possible in politics... so what's next? - NST

April 22, 2008 by Sharanjit Singh

IT looks like Datuk Lee Kah Choon just cannot stay out of the spotlight.

Just last month, he was touted to become the next chief minister of Penang.

However, as fate would have it, he ended up with nothing as Gerakan was thrashed in the general election and lost Penang to its arch enemy the DAP, which has since gone on to form the state government with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

The former Gerakan deputy secretary-general subsequently had a falling out with the leadership and has since quit all his party posts.

Just when everyone thought it was the end of his political career, Lee bounced back with the shocking announcement by the new state government that he had been appointed director of Penang Development Corporation (PDC) and investPenang.

The appointment was received with mixed feelings by various quarters, with some, especially those from Gerakan, describing Lee's acceptance of the posts as doublecrossing the party.

However, none of the Gerakan leaders have come out publicly to condemn Lee and all of them have not responded to repeated attempts by pressmen for their comments.

Only Gerakan adviser, Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik, has offered his best wishes to Lee so far.

Although Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng sees it as an appointment of the best to lead two of the most important state agencies, others are more sceptical.

Some DAP leaders have privately voiced their reservations about bringing in a former enemy to head important agencies like the PDC and investPenang.

"I personally have my reservations about the whole thing," an elected DAP representative said.

"It makes us look bad, especially among the grassroots members who have been working hard all these years only to see others being rewarded."

The appointment has also been interpreted as an attempt by the DAP-PKR to lure capable leaders from Barisan Nasional to switch camps.

State BN leaders fear certain individuals may find it difficult to reject plum offers from the new state leadership.

This is more so as Penang is set to undergo a major transformation once projects planned under the Ninth Malaysia Plan get implemented.

"The time is just right for DAP-PKR to tempt those who had lost everything to abandon the BN and join them.

"We cannot dismiss such a possibility and the BN leadership needs to deal with those who switch camps now severely... we will be faced with a major problem if it is not done immediately," a state Umno leader said.

Apart from Lee, three Umno assemblymen have also been offered seats in various state administrative committees.

However, the three - Sungai Acheh's Datuk Mahmud Zakaria, Seberang Jaya's Datuk Ariff Shah Omar Shah and Pulau Betong's Muhammad Farid Saad - have rejected the offers, claiming they were a political trap.

State Umno liaison committee secretary and state opposition chief Datuk Azhar Ibrahim said the party had expected the new state government to make such a move.

However, he said the party's involvement in the state administration would make it difficult for its members to debate any motion tabled at the state legislative assembly.

It is now left to be seen if Lee's appointment would also mark the beginning of an exodus of BN leaders to the Pakatan Rakyat camp.

This is especially so if the offers are too good to reject and as Lee himself put it, "anything is possible in politics".

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