By Clara Chooi, The Malaysian Insider
November 18, 2010
AYER TAWAR, Nov 18 — Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham, who easily won re-election last weekend as Perak DAP chairman, is claiming that jealousy is behind the widely-held perception that both he and his cousin Nga Kor Ming are dictators.
In an exclusive interview with The Malaysian Insider earlier this week, the veteran leader, who is now into his seventh term as state party chairman since 1998, lamented that the term “dictator” was likely pinned on him by people who disliked him and Nga were jealous as they had become so popular in the party.
Describing it as the scourge of Malaysian politics, Ngeh pointed to the example of the father-son team of DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
“We see it often in Malaysian politics. And like Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng, even though they have both served time in prison, people call it a dynasty.
“What dynasty, I would like to ask? I would like to point to the example of how the church preaches that a pastor who does not push his son to become a pastor like him is not setting a good example. Because being a pastor is a sacrificial position and before you ask someone else to sacrifice, you have to be willing to sacrifice your own son first,” he charged.
He pointed out that Kit Siang’s willingness to sacrifice his own son in prison to fight for the rights of the people should be considered as “exemplary” instead of a “dynasty”.
“I know them so well. They have sacrificed so much for the people and both even went to prison for it,” he said.
Ngeh noted that the reason why both he and Nga were accused of being dictators was purely psychological as it played on the basic human instinct of jealousy.
“It is just about that... the basic human instinct: jealousy. They see us up there as cousins and they call us dictators because we are both in power and we are cousins.
“It is totally unfair,” he said.
Ngeh (picture) pointed out that if he was a substandard party leader and had a bad track record, he would not have been voted back into power during Sunday’s polls.
“If Ngeh and Nga are lazy, if Ngeh and Nga are corrupt, if Ngeh and Nga are seeking benefits for themselves and not sacrificing, if Ngeh and Nga are not doing work, if Ngeh and Nga are for any reason, negative, then by all means reject us.
“But do not reject us when we have been sacrificing so much; our time, our money, our family and personal lives, do not reject us simply because we are cousins... it is totally unfair,” he said.
Ngeh added that the negative perception of him and Nga had prolonged because they had always chosen not to react to accusations.
“I have said that I would willingly suffer the injustice of being denied the right to reply and be subject to hurtful attacks assailed against me than to put my party in jeopardy and cause the mission of the people to be derailed.
“A good soldier is willing to keep a secret to safeguard a nation and risk being shot. This bad impression is given because I do not reply in the media. But it is a cost I would rather pay than to speak on the outside and cause the whole party to suffer,” he said.
Ngeh acknowledged that the accusations had begun even during the time when Pakatan Rakyat helmed the government in Perak, noting that they were merely “a pack of lies”.
Among others, former PKR assemblymen Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi and Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu, had levelled numerous complaints against both Ngeh and Nga, claiming that the duo often bulldozed decisions through during state executive council meetings.
All were a part of the state executive council line-up following Election 2008.
Jamaluddin and Mohd Osman had claimed in earlier interviews that their anger with Ngeh and Nga had been one of their primary reasons for abandoning Pakatan Rakyat (PR), a move which had caused the downfall of the Perak PR government in February 2009.
Besides them, former DAP assemblyman Datuk Hee Yit Foong had done the same and had also complained that the cousins had sidelined her when they refused to offer her a spot on the state executive council line-up.
“Firstly, both Jamaluddin and Mohd Osman never spoke out in our meetings. We made hundreds of decisions and only on one or two issues they spoke out and we were in agreement with their arguments.
“We were very professional and (former Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad) Nizar (Jamaluddin) was very good. We would always go one round and ask everyone for their opinions... it was a perfect power-sharing formula and never before was it ever this democratic in the government,” Ngeh said.
On Hee’s case, Ngeh claimed that he had been very fair to have offered her the post of deputy Speaker in the state assembly.
“Her qualification was only up to Form Five and not that I am saying it’s a bad thing or I am looking down on her. Then, she is also a polio victim and she often complains about travelling. To be an exco member, you have to travel.
“So I thought that the perfect position to give her was the deputy Speaker’s post,” he reasoned.
Ngeh also denied that he had manipulated the votes on Sunday, pointing out that it was close to impossible for him to have forced such a large number of delegates to vote for him.
“We have 175 branches and over 1,200 delegates. It is impossible for me to control the minds of all the voters to choose me. In fact, one-third of them did not vote me and this shows there is freedom to exercise the right not to vote for me.
“How could I be dictatorial just because people voted for me? I do not have a gun to threaten them, I do not have anything to entice or seduce them to my side. But if the people, by my track record, want to vote for me, if they think I am popular, then what is wrong with having a huge majority?” he said.
During Sunday’s polls, the Ngeh-Nga cousins made a near-clean sweep of the 15 posts on the Perak DAP state leadership committee and sailed to an easy victory.
While the duo had polled the top two highest number of votes, their arch-rival in an opposing camp led by former state deputy chairman M. Kulasegaran failed to even make it onto the team.
Kulasegaran and team members like Thomas Su Keong Siong, Keong Meng Sing, Cheong Chee Khing, Seah Leong Peng and Frankie Wong failed to secure a spot on the state committee.
Only one person in his camp scraped through in last place — Jalong assemblyman Leong Mee Meng.
The results were a resounding slap in the face for Kulasegaran, the Ipoh Barat MP, who for months had been attacking the cousins, accusing them of being difficult to work with and too top-down in their leadership style.
The leadership crisis flared last month when an angry Kulasegaran threatened to quit his state posts in the party following an unresolved dispute with the Ngeh-Nga cousins during a special meeting in Ipoh.
Although the leader was finally convinced to stay, tension between the two warring factions continued to rise and Sunday’s polls were a crucial stepping stone for Kulasegaran and his team to topple the cousins in Perak.
Despite their failure, the cousins and the newly-elected team of state committee members decided to co-opt Kulasegaran back into the state leadership as vice-chairman.
But Kulasegaran has yet to decide on the offer.
He has instead charged that there were irregularities during Sunday’s polls, claiming that there were 50 questionable branches represented by 350 delegates who were allowed to vote in the convention.
Ngeh however refuted this, pointing out that the state leadership did not have a hand in conducting the polls.
“Let us just move forward. The delegates have spoken. And I would like to clarify that everything was organised by the central executive committee. All our agents were from out of state.
“The qualification of branches was decided by our party headquarters and the Registrar of Societies so I think we should no longer question that. Everything was done professionally... let us move ahead and plan for the future,” he said.