Johor as the cornerstone of the Unity Government
Speech by Liew Chin Tong, Johor DAP Chairman, at Johor DAP State Convention 2022, in Muar on Sunday 7 May 2023
May I first thank DAP Secretary-General Sdr Anthony Loke Siew Fook, DAP’s most treasured veteran leader Sdr Lim Kit Siang, and everyone of you for making the effort to attend the Johor DAP State Convention 2022.
I would also like to acknowledge the presence of leaders from Pakatan Harapan parties. Together in Pakatan Harapan, we have gone through thick and thin. Thank you for your solidarity.
The 2022 convention was originally scheduled to be held on 13 November 2022 but was postponed to make way for the 15th General Election. It was later scheduled for 5 March 2023, and had to be postponed again due to the massive floods that affected most parts of Johor.
The current Johor state leadership was elected by the delegates on 2 May 2021, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
One of the key projects undertaken by this state committee is the creation of the state headquarters in Kulai. I wish to thank Sdr Alan Tee Boon Tsong for making the headquarters-in-a-garden project a reality. The premises were particularly useful as a campaign command centre during elections.
Johor State Election
The state leadership led by Deputy Chair Sdri Teo Nie Ching and myself is always vigilant. We knew that after Sabah, Melaka and Sarawak held their separate state elections, Johor was likely to follow suit. The Johor State Assembly was dissolved on 22 January 2022 and polling was held on 12 March 2022.
During the election, against the backdrop of defeats in Melaka and Sarawak, each day there were people telling me that Johor DAP would be wiped out, or at least our 14 seats count would shrink to only four. It was going to be a very tough battle but I knew that Johor DAP was tougher. I was on record saying that Johor DAP would keep at least 9 out of 14 seats. As it turned out, DAP Johor managed to retain 10 seats in the March 2022 state election.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest appreciation to the Election Preparation Committee for the Johor State Election led by Sdri Nie Ching. And to everyone from DAP across the nation who came to help out, know that together we survived the gravest challenge of continued lockdown, low turnout, and poor sentiments among supporters.
After the Johor state election, I told many people that we had survived the worst. It was at rock bottom and everything would be better soon.
It was not mere optimism. It was based on serious analysis that we knew many did not vote in the Johor state election, either because they couldn’t vote due to the lockdown, or because they did not find the purpose of voting. When the lockdown ended and when the voters felt their votes could change the nation’s direction, they would come out to vote, and quite likely vote in our favour.
In the March 2022 Johor state election, Barisan Nasional received 599,753 or 43.11% votes; in the November 2022 general election, Barisan Nasional received 598,244 or 30.64% votes. The number of votes Barisan Nasional received did not change much. It received 1,509 less votes in November when compared to March.
Perikatan Nasional received 334,457 or 24.04% votes in March and 519,661 or 26.62% votes in November, an increase of 185,204 votes.
It was Pakatan Harapan that saw the most dramatic increase in support. In March, PH received 367,525 or 26.42% votes, and in November PH received 825,182 or 42.26% votes, an increase of 457,657 votes.
The lesson from the Johor election is that much as Pakatan Harapan’s hardcore base is smaller, when we are able to capture the imagination of the swing voters or fence sitters, we will have an upper hand.
I would like to thank the Election Preparation Committee for GE15 led by Sdr Andrew Chen for all their hard work.
A tribute to Sdr Lim Kit Siang
Against all odds, Johor DAP proved its mettle. We persevered. For that we have a great man to thank. Sdr Lim Kit Siang took the plunge to contest in Johor exactly a decade ago. Two days ago, we just marked the 10th anniversary of the 5th May 2013 general election. While we did not win power in the 13th general election, with Kit Siang’s move we had managed to destroy the myth that Johor was Barisan Nasional’s stronghold.
The wave Kit Siang created in 2013 became the seed for a very resilient Johor DAP. There were all sorts of challenges yet we faced them down boldly each time. To everyone here who has gone through the ups and downs in Johor in the last decade, especially to Sdr Kit Siang, from the bottom of my heart, thank you very much.
Sdr Kit Siang, through your leadership in Johor since 2013, changing the political landscape of Johor had given Pakatan Harapan its key to Putrajaya.
Of the 26 parliamentary seats, Pakatan Harapan won 18 seats in the 2018 general election, including Pagoh, and Tanjung Piai (which we then lost in a 2019 by-election). In 2022, Pakatan Harapan won 15 seats. Effectively, Pakatan Harapan lost only the seat of Simpang Renggam. In 2018, Johor Pakatan Harapan contributed 18 out of 98 seats Pakatan won in the peninsula. In 2022, Johor Pakatan Harapan contributed 15 out of 82 seats Pakatan Harapan won nationally.
Johor as the cornerstone of the Unity Government
We have now entered a new phase in the history of DAP and the nation.
On 20 March 2022, DAP national delegates elected a new leadership led by the third generation leader Sdr Anthony Loke Siew Fook. In our party’s history, Sdr Kit Siang, Sdr Chan Man Hin and Sdr Karpal Singh led the first generation of pioneers. The late Sdr Kerk Kim Hock, Sdr Lim Guan Eng and Sdr Tan Kok Wai led the second generation leaders.
A year since the advent of Sdr Anthony Loke’s leadership, it is now visible to all that he is both a strategic thinker and a man of action. He shows to the nation that he and the DAP are in for the long haul, and we are thinking and acting as nation builders.
I believe that one day the pivotal role Sdr Anthony Loke played between 20th and 24th November 2022 will be recorded into our nation’s history.
On election night, he was fully aware that the only way to set up a government with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister was to form a coalition government with UMNO and Gabungan Parti Sarawak or GPS. After years of engaging all sides of politics, Sdr Anthony Loke was fully aware that rivalries and enmities between DAP on the one side and UMNO and GPS on the other side were very deep-seated.
Yet he knew that the nation was at a crossroads. If an Anwar-led government was not formed, it will be a Muhyiddin-PAS government, and the nation will suffer further setbacks. All hopes would be lost. Hence, with a strategic mind and with a lot of humility, Sdr Anthony Loke led the DAP to pave the way for the birth of the Anwar-led Unity Government.
Johor has an important role to play in ensuring the success of the Unity Government. Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional combined have 24 out of 26 Parliamentary seats in Johor.
At the state level, Pakatan Harapan is not part of the Government. However, thanks to the decree by Duli Yang Maha Mulia Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, Sultan of Johor, the opposition is now known as the “Pengimbang” or the “balancing force”, with Sdr Andrew Chen as Ketua Pengimbang. Tuanku wishes the Pakatan Harapan to play the check-and-balance role in ensuring that together with the State Government, the wellbeing of Bangsa Johor is enhanced and improved upon.
I understand that it takes extra effort for DAP, Pakatan Harapan, and of course UMNO to accommodate each other in this new situation.
But this is where we all have a historic mission. We do not form the Unity Government simply because we want to block Perikatan Nasional from taking power.
The Unity Government is formed because we know that Pakatan Harapan has risen through the 2008, 2013, 2018 and 2022 general elections to become a formidable force. For UMNO, after years of trying to oust Pakatan Harapan since 2008, it has accepted the fact that it is better to work with us for the betterment of the people and the country.
The Unity Government is here to unite former rivals to form a stable government for the many years to come so that Malaysia could rise again.
We are united in purpose to bring forth a second take-off of the Malaysian economy so that Malaysians live a dignified and equitable economic life.
We are here to create a united Malaysian nation, a Bangsa Malaysia, just like the idea of a Bangsa Johor, to make Malaysia one of the great nations in the world.
The road ahead is not easy, and our responsibility is heavy. And, Johor as the cornerstone of the Unity Government can be the cornerstone of a united Malaysian nation.