— Dyana Sofya
The Malay Mail Online
May 15, 2014
MAY 15 — My mother was active in politics. As her kids, my brothers and I were exposed to politics at a very young age. We would frequently meet our politician uncles and aunts during dinners, teh tarik sessions, Hari Raya open houses and birthday parties. Some of them made it to ministerial posts in later years, while some were not as lucky.
Growing up observing my mother taught me many, many things. With the good came also the bad. I soon learned that politics was a dog eat dog world which required one to have nerves of steel and skin as thick as oak before one could even begin to participate.
My older brothers in particular saw what my mother endured. They read the books she brought home from work. They saw the dirty games and Machiavellian tactics that my mother had to put up with in the name of “perjuangan.” For the party. For the country.
They also saw how she was betrayed by her own comrades and best friends for the sake of position and power. As a result, they have sworn themselves off from the world of politics.
It all began in the late 1980s, when my mother was a UMNO worker. She had loyally served the party for years, but all her sacrifice and hard work counted for nothing when the newly constituted UMNO Baru of Dr Mahathir decided not to rehire staff that had been inclined towards the “Team B” of his opponent, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, during the 1987 UMNO election.
At the time, she was just about to return to work after maternity leave.
She had just given birth to me.
Twenty years later in 2007, I began the first year of my Bachelor in Legal Studies at UiTM. Malaysia had moved on from Mahathir by then, the Prime Minister being Pak Lah, a former “Team B” man.
As social movements in Malaysia began to gather pace — such as Hindraf, Bersih and anti-ISA rallies, my friends and I began to get interested in politics. We googled, we read, and we became aware. The next obvious step was to begin attending political ceramahs of various parties and groups. Some were pro-establishment, but mostly were anti-government. When my mother found out, she asked me: “Aren’t you afraid? You might get arrested for being pro-opposition.”
It was the same thing some of my friends said to me. My only reply was to say that some of these “anti-establishment” leaders who fought long and hard for what they believed in despite suffering under detention were now prominent leaders and would be, when history is written fifty years from now, be seen as heroes.
Only cowards fear the judgement of history.
In 2011, I made the decision to join the DAP. Once again, my friends thought: “There she goes again, doing something no one would think of.”
The truth is, I didn’t do it just to be different. I did it because I felt Malaysia needed a new kind of politics. I had seen how racial politics was nothing but a scam. My mother is Malay, yet she was shunned by the very party that claims to protect Malays. Hence, the racial model is nothing but a means of power-hungry leaders to stay in power. The only way forward for our country was to break this model of racial politics.
And so I chose DAP. For its principle of multi-culturalism. For its principle of standing up for all Malaysians, regardless of race and religion. For its principle of doing what is right, despite the risks and repercussions. I knew that if I made this choice that I believed was right, I would not have to fear the judgement of history.
Of course, joining DAP came with a price. I was immediately scrutinised and lambasted. False stories were created. My words were twisted. I was labelled a “pengkhianat.” I was also called many other names.
Just a few days ago, rumours began swirling around that I may be a possible candidate for a parliamentary seat. I was of course just as surprised as everyone else. But I was even more surprised by the wave of attacks that ensued.
My personal details were misused. My phone number was distributed and I have since been the target of hundreds of lewd messages. Another thing I have realised — Malaysian society is misogynistic!
And now, to tarnish my image further, there appears to be a photo of me allegedly wearing a bikini. While I think the Pinay actress in question is very attractive, I feel this really displays the level of guttural politics that our opponents would go to, especially against a female. Guys, please grow up.
Try as they may, they will not break me. My mother and my mentors have taught me well. They had warned me that there would be days like these. As much as I have been attacked, I have also received titanic support from my family, friends, comrades, former colleagues and fellow Malaysians across all age groups, races, faiths and parties.
Many have called to encourage me. Some have said they believe in me. But the truth is, it is Malaysians like them who make me believe in what I’m doing. And it is Malaysians like those who have been attacking me that give me even more reason to continue the “perjuangan.”
As I said earlier, I am confident that I will fall on the right side of history.
And so to my detractors, I wish to paraphrase Katy Perry. You will hear me “roar!”
* Dyana Soya is political secretary to Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang.