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Date: 03 Dec 1999
Lim Chien Aun (Bayan Lepas) and Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Kramat)--the sons of former chief minister Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu and party founder member Datuk Lim Ee Heong respectively--declared they had lost confidence in the "state party leadership which had resulted in Penang lagging behind in development."
Their two-paragraph resignation letters were faxed separately to party president Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik at Gerakan headquarters in Kuala Lumpur at 6.30pm.
With their departure, the Gerakan is now left with eight assemblymen, while Umno has 10, MCA nine and MIC one in the 33-seat state assembly.
The Barisan Alternatif captured three state seats in the recent elections--one each by DAP, PAS and Parti Keadilan Nasional.
Barely two hours later, about 200 founder members and veterans, including Ee Heong, former Penang chairman Datuk Tan Gim Hwa and Gerakan's oldest member Datuk Oon Chin Seang gathered at the ballroom of the Berjaya George Town Hotel to show moral support for the duo.
It is understood the group would also be submitting their resignation letters "very soon."
Earlier, the two Lims said their decision to resign was "very painful and difficult" and made after much deliberation, considering that their fathers were instrumental in the formation of the party and its development.
"We believe the party has been, of late and currently, led by the present leadership which is of extreme poor quality," they said in a joint statement issued at a press conference at Chien Aun's office in Carnarvon Street.
They added that Penang had not only lagged behind in development but more importantly, the leadership had not contributed to the political development of the party within the context of Malaysian politics.
"We could have been more patient but in fact, through our personal experiences, we do not have confidence the leadership will be able to undertake the task of developing Penang nor of contributing significantly to Malaysian politics in the coming years."
Thus, they added, by remaining in Gerakan under the present leadership would mean remaining in the party "that has and will continue to stultify the growth and development of the state and country."
Both leaders had stayed away from a briefing for Gerakan elected representatives by Keng Yaik in Kuala Lumpur yesterday afternoon.
It is learnt that the other seven assemblymen and two MPs had pledged allegiance to Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon during the meeting.
The two Lims said they had no plans to join any other party at the moment but would continue to serve the electorate as independents under Barisan.
"We were elected due to the endorsement of the electorate of Barisan under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"Our decision will not alter our support and respect for Barisan and Dr Mahathir's leadership," they said.
On whether their resignation would affect Gerakan's standing in the state government, Chien Aun replied: "It's not a numbers game. In any case, our decision is not expected to have any bearing."
On whether Dr Koh, who is also state party chairman, had been informed of their decision, they said it was not necessary.
Chien Aun said their timing to resign was made before the formation of the state government to dispel any talk of them being "sour grapes" if they did not get any posts.
"We wish we could make the announcement later but other implications may come into play," he said.
He added the election results had not satisfied the many criticisms levelled against the state government.
"This is because many other important national issues prevailed in the decision of the voters to vote for the Barisan.
"Our decision will show to the public our support of their criticisms and our intention to ensure there will be development in Penang," he added.
Chien Aun said the move had thrown him into a new arena as he would be without any party now but he took it as a "challenge."
He described the move as a "personal decision" but said he had informed his father.
He said it was not unprecedented to be an independent under the Barisan banner as former Gerakan central committee member Datuk Joseph Chong was also an independent MP for Batu after he was sacked from the party in 1996.
Chien Aun, 51, joined the party in 1976 and was Balik Pulau division vice-chairman and chairman of the Sri Nibong Gerakan branch.
Boo Chang, 44, has been a member since 1984 and was former national Youth chairman and vice-president between 1993 and 1996.
In Langkawi, Dr Koh said he was "surprised and saddened" by their resignations but appealed to party members, supporters and the people to remain calm.
Dr Koh said, however, their resignations would not affect the strength and stability of the Penang Barisan government.
He also urged his supporters not to take any rash action, adding he had received many phone calls from the public inquiring about his position as chief minister.
"I urge the people to wait for the swearing-in of the new state government in a few days time," he said.
It is learnt that Dr Koh, who is staying at the Kampung Tok Senik Resort, met Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad who is staying at the same resort, at about 8pm and handed to the prime minister, his recommendations for the state exco lineup.
The chief minister had also briefed the Prime Minister on the duo's resignation.
In Kuala Lumpur, Keng Yaik said he was saddened by what was happening but refused to comment further, saying that he would issue a statement on the matter today.