Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Feuding state BN parties look to mend ties - Malaysiakini

GEORGE TOWN: The Year of the Ox could see mended ties between two feuding Barisan Nasional component parties in Penang.

Penang Umno secretary Datuk Azhar Ibrahim is hoping for strengthened ties between the state’s Umno and Gerakan parties, he at a Gerakan Chinese New Year open house.

“As Barisan component parties, Umno and Gerakan have had a strong relationship at the federal level that has been built over many years.

“What has happened are just problems within the party, which are common,” he said.

On Sept 8 last year, Penang Gerakan broke off ties with the state Umno at the height of the controversy over racist remarks by then Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail.

Penang Gerakan chief Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan said then that the party would wait for new leaders to take over Umno before deciding whether to resume the relationship.

Gerakan had ticked off Ahmad for making racist comments during campaigning for the Permatang Pauh by-election in August last year.

Ahmad instead asked Barisan Nasional to sack Gerakan from the coalition for allegedly causing chaos among component parties and wanted the then Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon to be stripped of the Penang Barisan chairman’s post.

His supporters even tore down and ripped apart a picture of Dr Koh at a press conference.

Penang Gerakan then cut off ties with Penang Umno.

A defiant Ahmad was suspended on Sept 10 last year and stripped of all Umno posts for three years following the controversy.

“Umno has never severed ties with Gerakan and has always respected other component parties.

“We hope that with the New Year, our ties can be strengthened,” Azhar said.

When asked about the issue, Dr Koh -- now Gerakan president -- said the olive branch offered by the state Umno leaders was a sign of a good start for both parties this Chinese New Year.

“Although at the national level in the context of Barisan Nasional, both parties enjoy a very strong relationship, in Penang it would take some time for us to mend ties.

“However, I see this as a good start for both parties to foster a better relationship with the arrival of the New Year,” he told reporters after attending the Penang Chinese Town Hall Chinese New Year open house.

The former state premier had also been seen tossing yee sang with Umno assemblymen Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya and Muhamad Farid Saad earlier in the day. -- the star

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