Rematch between Nga’s and Kula’s teams in Perak DAP leadership elections

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Perak DAP will hold its leadership elections this Sunday (March 14) which will see a rematch between incumbent leader Nga Kor Ming’s team and a group led by DAP vice-chairperson M Kulasegaran.

In 2010, Kulasegaran and running-mate Thomas Su Keong Siong were trounced when they challenged Nga’s mentor and cousin Ngeh Khoo Ham’s team for leadership of the party’s state wing.

This time, the challengers have publicly announced their candidacy with a team comprising several staunch critics of the Nga-Ngeh cousin duo.

This election, held once every three years, is for 15 Perak DAP committee seats. There are only 30 candidates, split evenly across the two teams.

They will be elected by 2,135 delegates across 309 branches.

Nga, 48, is among several middle-aged DAP figures who are expected to make a serious run for the party’s national leadership elections, which will be held in June.

He is currently party deputy secretary-general. He was elected Perak DAP chairperson in 2013, taking over from Ngeh who held the position for 15 years.

Thus, his first hurdle will be avoiding an unconvincing win which would be read as an upset by critics and sour his chances at the national level.

DAP vice-president M Kulasegaran and Kampar MP Su Keong Siong announcing their team for the Perak DAP state committee election 2021 last Friday.

Nga and Ngeh have been stoic when faced with criticisms by challengers of late.

“Actions speak louder than words,” was Nga’s brief reply to Malaysiakini’s request for comments on this article.

He also shared a statement on Facebook listing 10 achievements by Perak DAP in recent years, which, among others, cited “overthrowing the Bersatu menteri besar who betrayed Pakatan Harapan”.

Under Ngeh and Nga’s stewardship, DAP made a clean sweep in Perak during the 2013 and 2018 general elections, winning 18 state seats and seven parliamentary seats each time.

However, the duo’s leadership was blighted by defections of elected DAP lawmakers, which led to the Perak government changing hands, once in 2009 and again in 2020.

The latest two to defect were Tronoh state assemblyperson Paul Yong and Buntong assemblyperson A Sivasubramaniam.

This history of defections under Ngeh and Nga’s leadership has become the main campaign thrust of the challengers.

When contacted, Su told Malaysiakini that Perak DAP is in need of “new blood” to take over the helm.

“The grassroots asked us why defections always happened in Perak. That is why they demanded that we declare our candidacy.

“What’s the root of the problem? This is something we need to settle among the leadership,” said Su, who is the DAP assistant organising secretary.

Kulasegaran suggested that under Ngeh and Nga’s leadership, Perak DAP was not inclusive enough and that contributed to the defections.

“We have come together to state our stance as principled party members. No more old rivalry, old patriarchal politics, and most importantly inclusive politics, and no division as seen lately simply because we don’t agree…

“A good leader listens, a good leader gathers everyone’s views to strengthen the party. To dismiss and exclude is just the opposite… We are here to offer leadership which will listen, empowers, and, crucially, to chart new grounds instead of ruling with an iron fist,” said Kulasegaran.

Nga’s team is made up of almost all the current Perak parliamentary and state elected representatives. Pasir Bedamar assemblyperson Terence Naidu and Pokok Assam assemblyperson Leow Thye Yih are the only assemblypersons in the opposing team. Kulasegaran and Su are MPs.

Terence and Leow were critical of the Perak DAP leadership when it made overtures to Umno in December, following Ahmad Faizal Azumu’s ouster as menteri besar.

Asked if that episode is a factor in the ongoing campaign, Su disagreed. He said that Perak DAP had acted in the people’s favour and the matter was largely accepted by party grassroots.

However, a Perak DAP leader aligned to Nga, who declined to be named, said Terence and Leow’s participation in the opposing camp raises questions about their allegiances.

The source also accused Terence and Leow of having close ties to Yong, who is widely viewed as a traitor in DAP circles.

“We did not suspect Su or Kulasegaran even though we are not on the same side.

“But why do they accept Terence and Leow as their team members? Are they desperate to defeat the current leadership?” the source asked.

When contacted, Terence said he was no longer Yong’s lawyer while stressing that he has publicly denounced defections by elected lawmakers.

Su said anyone was welcome to join him and Kulasegaran’s team, as he believed that the party must be inclusive in order to expand its influence beyond urban areas.

“Had Faizal not brought over two Umno assemblypersons in 2018, we would not have been able to form a government in Perak.

“We need to widen DAP and Harapan’s influence in the state,” he said.

Currently, Perak DAP women and youth wings have declared their unanimous support for Nga. – Malaysiakini