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Secular opposition party is biggest casualty in Malaysian polls

Date: 01 Dec 1999
Time: 01:40:44


Secular opposition party is biggest casualty in Malaysian polls

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 29 (AFP) - The man who was Malaysia's leading opposition voice for three decades, and the party he leads, were the biggest casualties in Monday's general election.

Lim Kit Siang, who entered parliament in 1969 and was twice detained without trial under security laws, said his Democratic Action Party (DAP) had suffered a "historic defeat."

The Chinese-dominated party won 10 seats, one more than in 1995 and three more than it held in the last parliament, but its chairman Chen Man Hin and deputy chairman Karpal Singh also went down in defeat.

Lim, who lost his seat in Penang, said the party took a risk for the country's sake in entering the Alternative Front alliance.

"Politically it was correct but we paid the price."

The alliance also includes the National Justice Party, the small Malaysian People's Party and the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

The National Front painted the PAS as an extremist party that would threaten the culture and religion of minority Chinese and Indians.

It said the Alternative Front was too dangerous to elect because it included the PAS. Lim said the "scare tactics" had worked.

He said the election was "a historic opportunity missed" for the Alternative Front to end the National Front's political domination.

"It has set the country on an uncertain and perilous course," he said.

The DAP, now marginalised, "has been the outspoken, courageous lone political voice for a democratic and secular Malaysia," he said.

He said the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the main National Front party, following its loss of state and parliamentary seats to the PAS, "will be under great pressure to respond to the PAS challenge by competing on Islamisation policies to win back the Malay heartland."

Lim blamed his defeat and his party's poor showing on the fact that "non-Malays succumbed to the policies or fear and falsehood by the Malaysian Chinese Association and Gerakan (two National Front parties).

"This was the reason for the DAP's historic defeat," he told AFP.

Lim said his party's executive committee would meet Thursday to debate the poll result, and he would announce his own plans in the next few days.

In a later statement Lim, previously parliamentary opposition leader, said the new opposition leader would come from the Islamic party. And for the first time in three decades the DAP would be in the weakest position in parliament compared to the PAS.

"The worst marginalisation of the DAP's political and parliamentary strength will be a major setback to the DAP's final goal that Malaysia shall forever be a secular and democratic state."

Last changed: December 01, 1999