Koh Tsu Koon speaks to reporters after the closing of the
delegates conference. He is flanked by vice-president Datuk Dr S
Vijayaratnam (left) and deputy president Datuk Chang Ko Youn KUALA LUMPUR, 12 Oct 2008: Gerakan will not resort to a quota system in order to increase multiracial representation in the party’s leadership, said party president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.
Instead, Koh said the party wants to encourage its members to rise through the ranks and to be recognised by their “merit and commitment to the party’s ideology.”
“We would like to encourage participation from members of all ethnic backgrounds so that they will be voted in because they are Malaysians with commitment, rather than because they are Malay, Chinese or Indians,” he told reporters at the culmination of Gerakan’s 37th national delegates conference.
Gerakan has pledged to increase its multiracial membership to reinvent and rebrand the party’s image following its dismal performance in the 8 March general election.
One suggestion from delegates — who were more outspoken this year — was for the party to organise more culturally diverse functions.
“Most of the functions have been for the Chinese community. In the past, due to the composition of our members, we’ve organised Chinese New Year [events]. And in the last few years, we started organising Deepavali [events].
“So it was suggested: Why can’t Gerakan organise Hari Raya Aidilfitri [events]? That’s a very good idea. Why not?” Koh said.
He said the party had to be “even more sensitive to and accommodative of different customs and values, to make Malaysians of different backgrounds feel more comfortable working with and participating in Gerakan’s activities.”
Good step forward
However, despite the increased rhetoric about more multiracial participation, the party’s triennial elections failed to reflect that its members have fully embraced the party’s multiracial ideology.
Only one party vice-president — Datuk Dr S Vijayaratnam — and two central committee members are not Chinese Malaysians.
For the youth wing, only one non-Chinese Malaysian won a leadership post, while the Wanita wing has three uncontested non-Chinese committee members.
Koh said change would not be immediate, but it was nevertheless a good step forward. “There is greater representation than before,” he said.
On another matter, Koh averted from answering whether Penang Gerakan Youth would rebuild its ties with Umno.
Penang Gerakan Youth severed ties after Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail made hurtful remarks about Chinese Malaysians by calling them “squatters”.
Soon after that, his supporters also tore up and trampled on a photograph of Koh at the Penang Umno headquarters during a press conference.
“We will deal with that (mending ties) at the right time in the future,” Koh said.