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BE MAN ENOUGH: If innocent, the Penang chief minister should deny the allegation
THE latest tittle-tattle to surface, intended to titillate the imagination of the public, has thrown Lim Guan Eng, the stroppy chief minister of Penang, completely off balance.
He is, despite his carefully cultivated air of bravado, thoroughly devastated by the innuendos and sniggering goings-on everywhere in Penang's normally staid society.
I am told he has become a changed person. Obviously it does not take much to penetrate the chink in his armour.
This is evident from his savage reaction to even a perfectly innocent press enquiry about the sudden departure of his special officer from the dizzy heights of the inner sanctum of power and prestige at Komtar.
There was never really any suggestion, by the press, of impropriety on his part but the man with never a hair out of place seems uncharacteristically flustered.
The fact of the matter is that he has lost his cool: getting hot and bothered under the collar at the mention of Ng Phaik Kheng's name. This behaviour, unfortunately, lends credence to the age-old saying, "there is no smoke without fire".
These days, the chief minister of Penang lives in a pressure cooker environment. It is not from choice, naturally. This is not the sort of place that someone as supremely confident of his power and infallibility would opt to be.
He is, apparently, savvy enough to know that even as he is taking on all comers, he is falling into the very pit that he is so good at digging for his unwary political opponents or, for that matter, anyone who disagrees with him.
He is acutely aware of what is politically at stake. He knows the score.
The question now is whether Lim would have the courage and integrity to do as Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek had done earlier. He took responsibility for his action. If Lim had not done what the rumours claim, then the Soi Lek ethical benchmark does not apply.
Life is unfair. We set impossibly high standards of behaviour for people occupying high elected political office that we would never dream of imposing on ourselves.
The reason for this is that the likes of Lim offer themselves as professionally and ethically suitable candidates to provide principled leadership.
Come to think of it, it is not an unreasonable expectation of the great unwashed and the chattering masses, like you and me. It is obvious where his duties lie.
It is about time that the highest elected political position reverted to the Penang-born and bred state chairman of the party.
It is ironic that Penang, which has produced thousands of talented men and women in every field, must depend on a politician who is part of a travelling family political circus.
Lim is generally credited with giving a new twist and a sharper edge to the ancient pastime of blame and hate, a black art form much in vogue within DAP, and at which he has become rather accomplished, with unlimited practice time from day one of succeeding the Gerakan-led administration.
The man's natural propensity to adopt intransigent and provocative urban guerrilla tactics in dealing with the press has not endeared himself to them.
I notice that even the once sympathetic Chinese language papers have had enough of his belligerent, bullying behaviour. His familiar, "I will sue you if you print this" cuts no ice, no sir, not any more.
Lim says he puts great store by his CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency) governing principles and here is his chance to show that CAT is not a mere political slogan and that he intends to live as chief minister by the CAT principles of governance.
My advice to him is to be true to at least two of those principles that he has been hawking, namely, accountability and transparency.
I am told by a DAP insider that a highly placed leader has circulated to his central executive committee colleagues his view that it is better in all the circumstances for Lim to deny completely any involvement in the matter.
Lim, if you are totally innocent, by all means deny the press speculation but in the unlikely event you have had romantic links with the lady in question, admit it like an honourable man.
True leadership is about making hard choices when the natural temptation is to slink out through the tradesman's entrance. A little undignified, I should think.