Is Guan Eng fooling himself that everything is fine between him and Kon Yeow?

By: Nehru Sathiamoorthy


DAP chairman Lim Guan Eng’s dismissal of the view that he and Penang Chief Minister (CM) Chow Kon Yeow are at loggerheads by claiming that “such imaginary plots are manufactured by those with vested or personal interests or those intolerant of a healthy discussion of public policies that benefit the rakyat” is strictly for the birds.

Of course, Guan Eng and Kon Yeow are at loggerheads. More than just bickering, it should be as clear as daylight by now that Guan Eng is actively plotting to overthrow Kon Yeow .

I am not the only one to think that. DAP insiders think that Kon Yeow has already raised the alarm by saying that Guan Eng is trying to topple him. Granted that he did not name Guan Eng directly, I will go out on a limb to speculate that it is Guan Eng that Kon Yeow meant.

Guan Eng is no Cincinnatus. He is no George Washington. He is not going to give up his power and position to mind his own business once his job is done. He is a typical Malaysian politician. What this means is that he doesn’t think that being a leader is a job; he thinks that being a leader is his identity.

Hands are tight

If this was the old DAP, leaders like Guan Eng could have possibly been satisfied just being an MP and the chairman of DAP.

But DAP of today is a different beast altogether. In today’s DAP, slamming the government of the day is not only insufficient to make one be seen as a leader; it would even be considered a case of friendly fire because the government of the day is made up of DAP and its allies.

Today, Guan Eng can’t even fire at his favourite targets like Wee Ka Siong (MCA president), Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (UMNO president) or Datuk Seri Najib Razak (incarcerated former premier) anymore because they are all on the same side.

Lim Guan Eng (left) and Chow Kon Yeow in the aftermath of the 2018 general election

To make it worse, he can’t even open fire on opposition figures like Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Run Dr Mahathir Mohamad or Tan Sri Hadi Awang either because in the state of politics that we are in. He will be accused of raising racial tension in the country unnecessarily if he fires aggressively against these Malay leaders in the opposition.

So where does that leave Guan Eng today? Well, if Guan Eng is a person who sees being a leader as a job, this would be a sign that his job is done. He had led DAP out of the wilderness and now it is time to pass the torch to the next generation who are more equipped to lead DAP in its next stage of evolution.

Guan Eng behaving like Tun M?

But since Guan Eng is not such a leader, he is likely going to behave more like Dr Mahathir. Just like how the twice former premier expects everybody he appointed to be perpetually “grateful” to him and still treat him like the alpha male of the group, Guan Eng will also expect the same.

If those whom he deems should be grateful to him don’t pay him obeisance, he is going to take umbrage, perceive them as being ungrateful, see their ingratitude as a form of betrayal and then convince himself that he has the right to topple them or to retract the titles and position that he has previously bestowed them.

Dr Mahathir toppled everybody from Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to Pak Lah (Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) to Najib because he believed that they had been ungrateful to him.

The chances are high that Guan Eng will do the same to Kon Yeow if the latter doesn’t give up his CM post to Guan Eng or toe the line to Guan Eng’s wishes. Guan Eng has to act in this way because without his identity as the DAP supreme leader, he is nothing.

At least his father, Tan Sri Lim Kit Siang, has intellectual credentials. After he gave up his position as the DAP supremo, Kit Siang could at least look forward to spending the rest of his life as a writer.

Lim Guan Eng (right) and wife Betty Chew cuddling their grandson for the first time on Nov 25 (Pic credit: Lim Guan Eng’s Facebook)

A likely solution

At the end of the day, you can never underestimate one’s ability to take one’s own side. Guan Eng might deny that he has a problem with Kon Yeow and even the latter can be pressured to retract the claim that there is a move to ouster him from his position as Penang CM but how long can we expect Guan Eng to live without being able to feel like himself?

Right now, the only question is how is Guan Eng going to oust Chow Kon Yeow? From what I can see, the attempt to oust Kon Yeow will likely come legally and by means of office politics. There was already an attempt to implicate Chow in a land deal.

From the passive aggressive way that Guan Eng and Kon Yeow bickered in the recently concluded Penang State Assembly, we can also see that Guan Eng will be attempting to portray Kon Yeow as incompetent, clueless and unfit to hold the job as Penang CM.

Even if Chow is clueless and incompetent, Gun Eng should not be the one to prove it because he is no towering genius himself.

They say that PMX Anwar is going to organise a cabinet reshuffle soon. If Anwar doesn’t want DAP – the strongest partner in the unity government to implode – maybe it is time that Anwar offered Kon Yeow a cabinet position.

Just because he cannot offer Guan Eng a Cabinet position, it doesn’t mean he can’t offer it to Kon Yeow, thus settling the quarrel between these two DAP leaders. – Dec 3, 2023


Nehru Sathiamoorthy is a roving tutor who loves politics, philosophy and psychology.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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