DAP at 50: On Becoming More Inclusive


February 22, 2017

DAP at 50: On Becoming  More Inclusive

by Lim Kit Siang-The Authentic Mr. Opposition

http://blog.limkitsiang.com/2016/02/19/dap-at-50-where-do-we-go-from-here/#more-34207

I don’t think anybody ever asserted that the DAP should sacrifice its principles for justice, freedom and democracy. What we need to change is our modus operandi to enable us to move on to become a more inclusive party in Malaysia, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, for all Malays, Ibans and Kadazans ― in keeping with our founding vision to be a Malaysian party for all Malaysians by all Malaysians.–Lim Kit Siang

Belated Happy Birthday wishes, Kit. May you be blessed with continued good health and fortitude to pursue the cause of justice, freedom and democracy in a Malaysia for All.–Din Merican and Dr. Kamsiah Haider.

I don’t think anybody ever asserted that the DAP should sacrifice its principles for justice, freedom and democracy. What we need to change is our modus operandi to enable us to move on to become a more inclusive party in Malaysia, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, for all Malays, Ibans and Kadazans ― in keeping with our founding vision to be a Malaysian party for all Malaysians by all Malaysians.

Let’s examine where we are today. When we were formed 50 years ago ― and I’m one of the few who can talk about the DAP 50 years ago ― none of us ever thought about becoming a Member of Parliament or a State Assembly person or even forming a government. We believed in the ideals of social democracy, justice, freedom, good governance, and we were for all races to come together.

All these 50 years ago. Now the question is: Quo vadis, DAP? Where do we go from here?

We started as the party for all Malaysians. We never thought that we were a party for Chinese or Indians only. Of course when we started we were focused only in Peninsular Malaysia, but later we became the first Pan-Malaysian party in the country when we began operating in Sabah and in Sarawak.

As a truly Malaysian party, in the first three by-elections that we contested before the 1969 General Elections, we went into UMNO strongholds. If we were a Chinese party, we would never have contested these by-elections.

The first by-election that we contested was Kampung Baru. Imagine a Malay majority Kampung Baru seat in Kuala Lumpur, where the UMNO candidate was Ahmad Razali who later became the Menteri Besar of Selangor in 1982, and he was the brother-in-law of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The second by-election we contested was Tampoi, Johor where Daeng Ibrahim was our candidate. And the third by-election was Segamat Utara, also in Johor, where the Umno candidate was Musa Hitam who went on to become the deputy prime minister.

We were not afraid to contest in UMNO seats because we believed in fighting and winning the hearts and minds of all Malaysians regardless of race.

The 1969 General Elections were the first general elections DAP contested, and we had Malay candidates in Parliamentary and State Assembly seats, and we won one in Perak by Ibrahim Singgeh and another one in Negeri Sembilan in Si Rusa seat.

That has always been our creed, our belief and our mission ― that we are a party for all Malaysians.

It was not easy because we were demonised, we were attacked but these were the problems that we had to face. In Malaysia the dominance is in the politics of race, followed by politics of religion, and the politics of class is a poor third, and that was why Parti Rakyat Malaysia had not been able to make a serious impact in politics in Malaysia, despite the fact that it was led primarily by Malay intellectuals.

Are we satisfied with what we are today?

Today we are at a very critical juncture. Are we satisfied with what we are today? Undoubtedly in some areas, we are an established party because we are the country’s second largest party in terms of the number of seats. We are the party of choice in the urban areas, whether in Peninsular, in Sabah and Sarawak. But is that all that we want? Are we content with that? Is that our main mission? Is that what the DAP stands for?

We are for Malaysia, for all Malaysians. That’s why we must be able to reach out, to reel in the support of not only from the Chinese and the Indians but also the Malays, Ibans and Kadazans; that is our responsibility, that is our job. Otherwise what are we in DAP for? To be champions of the Chinese only? Or Indians? No!

And how do we move on to the next step? We must face reality. Like it or not, we have our own limitations on how we function, on how we operate. But certainly not in terms of our ideology and our belief. Our belief in social democracy is for all Malaysians. We have the right ideology. But in terms of practicality we are limited in the urban areas, mostly to non-Malays. We have to reach out to the Malays, Kadazans, Dayaks, Orang Asli.

The primary reason I moved to Gelang Patah, Johor in the 13th General Elections from my constituency Ipoh Timur was because of such a need. We have to move out and reach out to all Malaysians.

It was a risk. I did not know whether I was going to win, and a lot of people thought it was a foolish mistake. But that is why we are in the DAP and Malaysian politics; to take risks. Luckily I survived, but that was not the end of the journey, that was only the beginning of a second journey of the Malaysian Dream: Impian Malaysia, Impian Sabah, Impian Sarawak, Impian Kelantan, Impian Kedah, Impian Perak and Impian Johor. That is our second stage.

This Impian process is a post-2013 effort. There were high hopes of the people to see change in the 13th General Elections but it failed to materialise because the election process was not just and fair. Dato’Seri Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional despite having only 47 per cent of the votes, received 60 per cent of the parliamentary seats, and he became the country’s first minority Prime Minister.

Later, Pakatan Rakyat was dissolved, and here we are today. On the ruins of Pakatan Rakyat, Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) was born, and then a new coalition, Pakatan Harapan was also born. We are able to register new hope, and that is as far as the larger Pakatan Harapan is concerned.

But what about the DAP? Considering that our mission has always been a party for all Malaysians, we want to be a party that all Malaysians regardless of race, religion and region can look forward to. This continues to be our dream and our objective.

But the reality at present, at least for the foreseeable future, shows that the DAP will not be able on its own to form the Federal Government, not even a state government. It will have to be a coalition of the present opposition versus the UMNO-led Barisan Nasional coalition.

It’s not ‘Malays versus Chinese’

We should not fall into a position or trap to allow UMNO propagandists to present our battle as “UMNO versus DAP” because it is so easy for them to say therefore it is a battle between the Malays and the Chinese. It is not a battle between the Malays and the Chinese despite all the talk about if UMNO loses the next election, Najib loses his position, then the Malays will lose political power. Therefore the DAP and the Chinese will grab political power. This is untrue and baseless of course, but it is a powerful political propaganda. We must somehow be able to debunk and break these lies and falsehoods.

How do we prevent Najib from deflecting all these attacks on him for corruption and abuse of power, nation building policy failings by turning the whole issue into a communal and religious warfare between the Muslims versus the non-Muslims, the Malays versus the Chinese? This is why it is important that the DAP must continue our mission to transform ourselves into a Malaysian party accepted by all racial groups in the country. The question of compromising or selling out our beliefs and ideals does not arise at all. But I think we must change our modus operandi.

We tend to fall into the trap of those who want to pigeonhole us into communal slots. I want to be frank and quite critical. We fell into this trap in Perak in the last general elections. For two general elections we did not put any Malay candidates because some people said that this would offend our friends in PAS at that time. They were worried that we would compete for the position of Menteri Besar. Since the Menteri Besar post was never our aim, we did accommodate them, but I think that was a mistake because voters saw that we had no Malay candidates at all in Perak. We should have fielded Malay candidates in Perak while making clear that it was not our intention to go after the Menteri Besar’s post.

I had expressed my strong views to our Perak state leadership, and I do not think we should make the same mistakes again. Now we hear the same thing from our coalition partner Amanah in Johor. They think the DAP should not field any Malay candidates in the state assembly seats in particular in Johor because of the attack on DAP as a Chinese party. This is the communal trap of politics. We must address this seriously.

The need for a coalition

We must co-operate with Amanah and PKR. We must make a success of Pakatan Harapan in Malaysian politics. Our first test is going to be in Sarawak, with the state elections to be held in the next two months as to whether we can keep the promise we had announced to all Malaysians: the Pakatan Harapan declaration that there will be a one-on-one contest. It is not going to be easy, it is going to be difficult ― a task being handled by Sarawak DAP chief, Chong Chieng Jen.

Dyana (pic above), Ariff Sabri, Dr Aziz Bari, Norazimah Mohamad Nor and Siti Sapura Mohd Hashim and More to come

I think what is more important is: how do we operate from here, and how do we change drastically our modus operandi? This is something which all of the DAP state leaderships must discuss in great detail and consider the ways and means including innovative ways of political reaching out which we have never done before in the next two and a half years.

My tour of the country as a result of my six-month suspension from Parliament for the “Mana RM2.6 billion?” movement should be used as an opportunity to reach out into the new territories for the DAP. As I said, I hope to visit some 150 parliamentary constituencies out of the 222 parliamentary constituency by the time I return to Parliament sometime in May. I hope all the states can help in drawing up such programs and for leaders to come along because this would be a useful way to reach out to areas that we have not been able to do so in the past.

Battling lies and dirty propaganda

We must be very sensitive to malicious attacks alleging that we are a “Chinese party” or an “evangelical Christian party”. There are allegations that a meeting was held in Penang to formulate the objective of a Christian Malaysia, there are people who put up a picture of the DAP as an evangelical party, there is a new book entitled “Sang Nila Utama and the Lion of Judah” which is very serious and wicked attack that there is a conspiracy in the country to evangelise Malaysia, and the DAP is somehow part of it. These are all lies. These are all untrue. But these are fodder for the UMNO propagandists, to demonise the DAP and mislead the Malays with the false picture that this as a battle of Malays versus Chinese, and Muslims versus Christians. These are not true at all but how do we debunk these lies?

I have been a victim of many of these lies in the last 50 years. Starting with May 13 riots where I was accused of being responsible for the May 13 riots, leading the street demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur, making anti-Malay and anti-Islam epithets although I was never even in Kuala Lumpur on that day because I was in Sabah.

The latest lie on the DAP was the allegation about the RM1.2 billion offer by Israel in return for a naval base in Port Dickson. Why they want a naval base in Port Dickson, a resort area, I also cannot understand. But such lies and falsehoods are very powerful. How do we debunk it? How do we break it?

There is a new word in the world of politics, “disintermediation”, the dumping of the middleman. In the internet age, the dumping of the middleman does not only occur in commercial and industrial sectors but also in politics. Who are these middlemen? They include the political parties, the press, and the pollsters. What we need to do? We have to reach out directly to the people because we do not want to depend on the media alone, because we do not want to depend on opinion polls alone.

Reaching out

How do we bring about this process of disintermediation in Malaysia? These are the new challenges we have to face, to go down to the people in the Peninsular rural areas and to the people of Sarawak and Sabah. The question is the modus operandi.

I don’t think we can take such an attitude because we will be running away from our responsibilities. We must be aware that in our plural society today, there are still Chinese who are living completely in the Chinese world, Malays who are living in a completely Malay world, Indians who are living in a completely Indian world, and the same goes with the Ibans and the Kadazans. It is our duty to reach them, to share with them a larger Malaysian picture. We want them to share our ideals that this beloved Malaysian nation belongs to all of us, that this is our shared destiny.

It is our responsibility as their political leaders to lead the Chinese who live in their purely Chinese world to see a Malaysian perspective, and this applies to Indians living in the Indian world too, as well as Malays living solely in the Malay world, and the Kadazans and Ibans too.–Lim Kit Siang

Of course we can say this is all very hard work. Some of us may say that because we are what we are today, people can either accept us or reject us. Some may say that because we believe in a social democratic Malaysia, we believe in justice and democracy, and all our principles are clear and very well proclaimed, we leave it to the people to decide whether accept us or reject us. That whether you are a Malay, Iban, Kadazan, Indian, Chinese, when it come to the DAP, you either take it or leave it. I don’t think this is the right attitude.

I don’t think we can take such an attitude because we will be running away from our responsibilities. We must be aware that in our plural society today, there are still Chinese who are living completely in the Chinese world, Malays who are living in a completely Malay world, Indians who are living in a completely Indian world, and the same goes with the Ibans and the Kadazans. It is our duty to reach them, to share with them a larger Malaysian picture. We want them to share our ideals that this beloved Malaysian nation belongs to all of us, that this is our shared destiny.

It is our responsibility as their political leaders to lead the Chinese who live in their purely Chinese world to see a Malaysian perspective, and this applies to Indians living in the Indian world too, as well as Malays living solely in the Malay world, and the Kadazans and Ibans too. Are we prepared for such a challenge to reach out to them?

It is not easy, it is going to be difficult, and we may even fail. But if we do nothing, are we going to succeed? If we are content with what we are today, are we going to achieve any real success? Will we be successful in our efforts to reach out to those in the rural sectors of the country, in Sabah, in Sarawak, in Peninsular Malaysia? Or are we going to continue forever and ever to be able to hold the support of urban voters of today?

We must not forget that people support us because they believe we can lead them to a better Malaysia. However, we cannot lead them to a better Malaysia unless we are a part of a coalition to be able to govern, formulate and implement policies for the whole country.

Let me reiterate that we are in need of change and we must dare to reach out, and to do that, we must dare to transform the DAP into a truly Malaysian party, with the support of all Malaysians including Malays, Ibans and Kadazans as well as Chinese and Indians.

Nobody is suggesting that we betray or compromise or sell out our principles, ideals and objectives. What we need to change drastically is our modus operandi, and not our ideals and principles, to be more inclusive to appeal to all Malaysians.

Note from Liew Chin Tong, DAP national political education director: This is an excerpt of a speech by DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang at the DAP National Retreat’s party transformational debate at the Dorsett Grand Subang Hotel, Subang Jaya, Selangor on January 16, 2016. Kit, as he is affectionately called, is celebrating his 75th birthday on February  20, 2016.

His 70th birthday five years ago was a celebration of his past contribution to Malaysian politics. This occasion is interestingly, all about the future as Malaysia enters into uncharted waters of great risks yet great potentials to reshape the nation for the better. As always, Kit is at the forefront providing leadership, ideas and actions.–Liew Chin Tong

9 thoughts on “DAP at 50: On Becoming More Inclusive

  1. Disintermediation? Does it include Islamic religious text and the Ulamas? Can disintermediation happen in Rural Sarawak? Face it, the biggest stumbling block to change is not UMNO, its PAS, second is Adenan Satem.

    LKS is genuine ideal patriot. But what did he do when Tan Siew Sin was fighting to keep the Chinese together and also alliance with Tunku? He is no visionary nor great strategist and often not practical enough. Unbelievable he had no contingency for PAS breaking their word and PKR turn after Anwar jailed.

    Even now, instead of pressuring the one player that can change things, Adenan Satem, he is all over the place.

  2. It will remain a one dimension party if continues to insist that the son must take over the leadership. This is now a general illness in many Third World Countries where the sons must take over the leadership of organizations to protect the legacy or the sins of the father.

    Anyway many happy returns of the day and make an attempt to not become the people you are trying to replace.

  3. “LKS is genuine ideal patriot.” bigjoe

    Yup, you said it well, with the provisos.
    And his son is an accountant, more interested in ‘conformity’ and fingering others.
    DAP like all political entities is run by Corporate Selfishness and mediation is conditioned on their ‘wants’. Socialist mentality is secondary.

    They need to loosen up and accept a certain latitude of dissent – especially from their ‘partners’. Alliances (sic) are not their forte and their vision is often narrowed into their ideology that “Right is Might”.. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work like clockwork. They ‘ought’ to study Quantum Mechanics, since their Newtonian Determinism is overtly mechanistic and legalistic.

  4. Mr Lim, how can DAP show the Malays that it is an inclusive party for ALL Malaysians? Allow me to suggest a few MOs that you asked for..

    1, Stop campaigning for mother-tongue language schools and learn to speak Bahasa. It is insult to every Malaysian that a Malaysian Chinese cannot speak Bahasa properly today.

    2. Include in your manifesto the promotion of English medium schools instead. If I were a Malay parent today, I would want my kids to go to these schools and mix with the other races.

    3. These schools will be the dawn of a new generation of Malaysian children growing up to understand and trust one another again; instead of being polarised and distrustful, like they are today.

    4. Basically Mr Lim, you need to recreate another generation of Malaysians like the ones who read and comment on this blog. The old fogies of all races here who were educated in the English-medium schools of yesteryear.

    5. That is the one Modus Operandum that might be both DAP’s and Malaysia’s salvation.

  5. To be a successful democracy you must not allow parties to use the forms of democratic principles of government to undermine its substance.

  6. I must say, I’m very impressed with the comments so far. I’m an old school DAP guy meaning I am more familiar with the old lions rather than the young cubs – who I despise.

    I think that LKS is a Malaysian original.

    Over the years I have disagreed with a few …ok..many of his political stances but I think this country is better because of what he attempted to do and what he still fights for.

    How can the DAP become more inclusive ?

    I think it’s culture needs to change.

  7. “Our belief in social democracy is for all Malaysians,” LKS.

    It is the above DAP’s principle that imposes limitation to its potential. Ones need to ask a fundamental question: what is the motivation to make social democracy the core of the party, if it is not a mindless reaction to the hollowing out of Chinese Malaysians’ traditional values in the first place?

    DAP started with Malaysians of Chinese descent, who no longer could withstood western ideas by merely standing on Confucianism. Like drowning persons, they got a hold of socialism as the closest substitute for Chinese governing culture without the burden of tradition and added benefit of non-racial principle and a sense of “Internationale”. The term social democracy is just the latest adaptation after the fall of communism and the Berlin Wall. The bottom line is that the wooden plank (socialism or social democracy) grasped by some drowning previous generation Chinese Malaysians is not going to be attractive to the rest of Malaysians, especially Malay Malaysians.

    Mr Lee Kuan Yew demonstrated a way of governance not centered around reaction of a drowning people. He went to the United States for month-long sabbatical while he was a prime minister, and he studied western conservative values such as liberty, In god/truth we trust, and nationhood. He adapted the ideas to Singaporeans (which has more than 75% Chinese with Chinese culture) in the forms of “Integrity, meritocracy, and treat everyone fairly,” taking the cue of differences of Asian-Chinese culture and western culture. Chinese culture might like liberty, by it values communal trust and integrity more. Chinese culture may like folk religion and Truth, but they as immigrants place high value to hard work – work brings meaning to their beings. As to nationhood, feudalistic Chinese loathed hardship under dictatorship but can tolerate if they were treated fairly by the emperor. Therefore “Integrity, meritocracy, and treat everyone fairly” works on Singapore soil.

    For Malaysia, DAP should abandon social democracy, just like what LKY did implicitly many decades ago. What if they come out some idea closer to Malaysian experience, not that of drowning person grasping on wooden plank? How about “Merdeka, tradition, and treat everyone fairly, ” a conservative approach to Malaysia governance.

  8. I agree that LKS has made a great personal sacrifice. He could have jumped ship long ago. Our constitution has been set in a manner that allows a coalition of groups to run the country. Look for yourself. At the political level there is a fair representation. Parties like the DAP have to become more transparent and become more inclusive. May be 50 ears from now it may happen.

  9. Kit has not sold out. Lim Lam Thye sold out long ago. Kit’s only sin would be to allow DAP to continue to champion the rights of all Malaysians using Chinese language in campaigning and to allow LGE to remain as CM. Until that stop, it would be difficult for others to believe that these men of principles, which Malaysia sorely lacks, are truly what they are.

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