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Ex-DAP leader assumes Keadilan post, urges opposition unity

news feature A former DAP Penang powerhouse and seasoned politician, Gooi Hock Seng, will today assume his new post as a Keadilan supreme council member after being appointed last month.

The down-to-earth, cheerful and fatherly lawyer, as he is affectionately known in Penang, was officially appointed on April 25.

Gooi, who runs a legal firm on the island, has shunned media attention since then, preferring to keep a low profile after his controversial exit from DAP last year — a party which he had served for 31 years.

"I did not make any announcements, it is not a big deal and I have not given any interviews until now...," he told malaysiakini.

Last year, a furore erupted between the two opposition parties when Gooi's intention of shifting camps became known.

His intention, personal or not, was seen as a slap in DAP's face. It was an open indication that the "new kid on the block" had breached an unwritten rule that 'one must not pinch thy neighbour's members'.

Renowned strategist

And to add salt to the wound, Gooi was no ordinary member. He was at one time, the party's national vice chairperson and a renowned strategist.

He was the Bukit Bendera member of parliament from 1982 to 1995. He also won the Air Itam state assembly seat in 1986.

Gooi was DAP national vice-chairperson from 1982 to 1988, Penang state secretary from 1982 to 1994, before which he held the posts of international secretary and Youth chief.

He was also appointed chief strategist to formulate a blueprint to capture Penang from the clutches of the ruling Barisan Nasional, namely Gerakan.

During this time, Gooi organised aggressive election campaigns, dubbed Tanjong I, II and III.

Despite a strain in their relationship, his contributions to the party was acknowledged by national chief Lim Kit Siang in 1998.

Lim had said it was open knowledge that in the 1986, 1990 and 1995 general elections, Gooi together with Teoh Teik Huat (who left the party together with Gooi), were in charge of Penang DAP in every aspect.

According to the party chief, Gooi also coined the 'powerful' election slogan, "Enough is Enough".

"I had full confidence and trust in them to run Penang DAP although sometimes some of their ideas may not be the best," said Lim then.

Robocop dilemma

However, the relationship had already showed signs of strain during the 1995 general election when Lim was disappointed with Gooi's idea of using the movie character, Robocop, to symbolise the Tanjong III campaign.

The strategy backfired when Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, BN leaders and the media criticised Lim as a "robot" and "soulless" person.

But that was years ago. Now that the storm has settled, one wonders if Gooi can work with DAP and form an opposition camaraderie for the coming general election.

"I am not disillusioned with DAP nor have I quarreled with anyone. I still believe in the party's struggle although I have a few problems with the way the party was managed," he said.

But he declined to elaborate beyond saying "the past is past, let's leave that behind".

However, the timing of his exit from DAP — two days after the party departed from the Barisan Alternatif — had stoked speculation that he left because of an irreparable rift with Lim.

"No, I did not join Keadilan because of problems with Lim. I joined Keadilan because of the political changes Keadilan has brought about since 1999," he clarified.

"The impact of [former deputy premier] Anwar Ibrahim's sufferings on the Malaysian voters was fantastic," he added.

Gooi said this was the second time that the opportunity for an opposition victory has come about — the first was in 1990, when the opposition came together under Gagasan Rakyat.

As an alternative coalition to the Barisan Nasional, Gagasan had successfully secured 48 percent of the total votes despite BN winning a two-third in Parliament.

In this election, DAP won 14 seats in Penang, more than MCA and Gerakan seats combined.

Opposition unity

"That is why I believe in opposition unity, alone we are nothing, together we can fire the people's imagination," he said.

"I am sad and disappointed by DAP's departure because BA needs them to realise opposition unity in Malaysia as DAP is one of the big players in opposition politics," he added.

DAP left the BA last September following a row with then ally PAS over the latter's aim of setting up an Islamic state. Other members in the coalition are Keadilan and PRM.

Unlike his former compatriots in DAP, Gooi does not see the Islamic state as a threat. Nor does he think that any party has the position to ask PAS to drop their "idea".

"PAS is entitled to their ideology. They have never hidden the fact that they want an Islamic state. That is the basis of their struggle since its inception," he said.

On the same note, Gooi said he was confident that other BA members were not working towards an Islamic state but are instead steering the nation towards a just society imbued with the principles of good governance and fairness.

However, based on the current political reality, Gooi said the opposition must be led by a Malay-based party with a multi-racial and religious concept like Keadilan.

"And the DAP should reconsider its position and return to the BA fold and restrict PAS from insisting on an Islamic state, they need to do this," he said.

"No sane person, no right thinking Malaysian, can carry the believe that DAP, Lim or (deputy chairperson) Karpal (Singh) had sold out the party by working together with PAS."