Dap Must Prove It Represents Keluarga Malaysia
From Rahim Zainuddin
The joint statement issued by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and three opposition leaders on Wednesday must have caught many by surprise.
The brief communique suggests that bipartisan efforts are being made to reach a consensus on how to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, empower Parliament, uphold judicial independence, and reform governmental institutions to meet the rakyat’s aspirations.
Here, then, is something to savour: one of those rare occasions when present-day Malaysian politicians have actually agreed on something.
What was more surprising was that the prime minister from Umno and the DAP’s secretary-general signed off on the same sheet of paper.
It is no secret that Umno and DAP make enemies of each other for political mileage. Umno casts DAP as the enemy of the Malays, while the DAP accuses Umno of pushing the boundaries of Malay rights beyond acceptable limits.
Formed in 1965, the multi-racial makeup of DAP’s original pro-tem committee, led by future Singapore president Devan Nair, cast itself as a multiracial Malaysian party in its truest form. It boasted the likes of Chen Man Hin, DP Xavier, S Seeveratnam and Zain Azahari Zainal Abidin.
Post-separation in 1965, the party would carry on Lee Kuan Yew’s “Malaysian Malaysia” concept for many years.
That, and its role in opposing Bumiputera privileges in the period leading up to the unfortunate racial riots in 1969, would cement DAP’s place in the political psyche of the country as the enemy of the Malays.
Over the years, DAP forged a strong base within the Chinese community and became the party of choice for many who were opposed to Umno-friendly MCA in many urban towns along the peninsula’s west coast. This climaxed in the 2008 elections when the opposition, led by DAP, overthrew Gerakan to wrest control of the Penang state government.
Its long and arduous battle with MCA has led to DAP being seen as taking up issues affecting the Chinese community, with many of its leaders coming across as pro-Chinese and by that token also seemingly anti-Malay. This is probably why non-Chinese Malaysians are reluctant to seek membership in it.
With MCA all but wiped out from the political landscape, it seems that DAP has now come to a crossroads.
If it maintains its course as a Chinese-based party that harps mainly on issues affecting the Chinese community, it is likely to stagnate and may even regress.
On the other hand, if it reverts to its original leanings of being a multiracial party for all Malaysians, it runs the risk of losing its strong Chinese base.
Lim Guan Eng’s signature on the joint press release is a clear indication that its leaders believe the party’s future lies in the centre-left of Malaysian politics.
The dilemma which it faces is that most of its leaders and members are drawn from the Chinese community. On its own, DAP is presently not an attractive enough option for most non-Chinese Malaysians.
The party’s close cooperation with Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR helps to dilute that somewhat, but as seen recently, that cooperation has not been enough to secure a majority in Parliament.
To gain broader support, party leaders would be wise to use the present circumstances to roll back its racial leanings and prove to the public that DAP is truly part of “Keluarga Malaysia”. - FMT
Rahim Zainuddin is a FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.
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