PM Lee meets with Malaysian opposition leader

The Straits Times reported that PM Lee yesterday met with Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at the Istana for an official call. Mr Lim is also the Secretary-General of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a major component party of the Malaysian opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat, which is led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Mr Lim is the son of DAP veteran leader Lim Kit Siang. He has had an illustrious and colourful career as an opposition activist and politician. In October 1987, he was detained in ‘Operation Lalang’ under the Internal Security Act (ISA), and released after 18 months. He was arrested again by Malaysian police in 1994, following his criticism of the government’s handling of allegations of statutory rape of one of his constituents. He was convicted for causing ‘disaffection with the administration of justice in Malaysia’. After a series of appeals, Mr Lim was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. In May 2004, Mr Lim was elected as Secretary-General of DAP, and after the March 2008 elections in Malaysia where he won a landslide victory in his constituency, he became Penang’s Chief Minister, or Menteri Besar.

I’m glad to see that the Prime Minister is according the necessary respect — as he should — to the Malaysian opposition. While meetings with opposition leaders of other countries are not unusual for Singapore leaders, opposition leaders of close neighbours generally usually receive a less publicised welcome.

The publicity of this meeting could be a reflection of the political realities in Malaysia. One, the Singapore government realises that it needs to start building a relationship with the Malaysian opposition, as it may one day become the Government. Two, they are not so afraid of offending a much weakened Malaysian ruling party by meeting the latter’s political rivals.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

6 thoughts on “PM Lee meets with Malaysian opposition leader”

  1. Firstly, Mentri Besar title is used in states that have a Sultan as the head of state. Chief Minister is used in the four states that do not have a ruler as a head of state. The two terms are not used interchangeably as you may have implied.

    Secondly, Malaysia is a Federation, not a Unitary state like Singapore. Hence, whilst the DAP is the opposition at the Federal level, they are in fact the Government of the State of Penang. Though it may not be inaccurate to refer to YB Lim EG as an opposition leader as he is also an MP in the Dewan Rakyat, his meeting with PM Lee is in his capacity as the head of the state government of Penang, not in his capacity as a Federal opposition MP.

  2. Jacob – Thanks for pointing out my mistake. I will correct my post accordingly.

    I am aware he was meeting PM Lee in his capacity as Chief Minister (that’s what the press release said), but it does not take away the significance that he is also a major opposition leader of a neighbouring country.

  3. “… he is also a major opposition leader of a neighbouring country.”

    You need to be more specific, Gerald. He may be an opposition leader at the Federal level, but not in the state of Penang. In fact, it is BN that is the Opposition in Penang. Well actually just UMNO since Gerakan, MCA and MIC got wiped out in the GE, but I digress :).

  4. Jacob, don’t be so hard on Gerald lah. Most Singaporeans will find it difficult to understand the concept of federalism in countries like Malaysia. I also find this situation of having different parties in government and opposition at different levels a very chaotic one. The Singapore way is still the best lah. Everywhere you turn, you can rest assured the long tentacles of the PAP will also be there. :-)

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