by Boo Su-Lyn,
The Malay Mail Online
June 23, 2015
KUALA LUMPUR, June 23 ― National laureate and new DAP member Datuk A. Samad Said has questioned Malaysians’ race-centric mindset that remains prevalent almost 60 years after the country achieved independence.
Commenting on reaction to his entry into the DAP, the 83-year-old bemoaned how his Muslim friends responded to the news negatively and rebuked him for joining what they described as a “Chinese party”.
“We’ve been independent for almost six decades and it’s a shame if we still think racially,” Samad told Malay Mail Online in an interview yesterday.
“I received phone calls and SMSes scolding me and asking me why I joined a Chinese party. I said, ‘Who said it’s a Chinese party? It’s a Malaysian party’,” he added.
The Malay-Muslim novelist and poet said although his wife and family members supported his decision, his friends were concerned and mistakenly thought that he had rushed into joining the secular party on June 13.
“I’ve been thinking about it for two years already. I’ve known Lim Kit Siang since the 50s. We were journalists then,” said Samad, referring to the senior DAP leader.
Samad, who has written 75 books comprising novels, short stories, dramas, essays and poems, said the DAP may have started off as a predominantly Chinese party, but pointed out that the “visionary” Lim’s “Malaysian dream” of making the party multi-racial.
“They want to be a Malaysian party. What is important is their ideal, their dream,” he said. “Because of that, I think I made the right choice in joining DAP”.
The former co-chair of electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 said he does not deny that non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are important, but noted that “when you come to a crossroads, you have to make a decision”.
“NGOs are good, but I think I can contribute more in DAP,” he said.
Samad said Malaysians still generally operate along racial lines without thinking of themselves as Malaysians, especially the Malays whom he said find it difficult to understand the Chinese’s “willingness to build a better Malaysia”.
“I never think in terms of race; I think in terms of ‘You are a Malaysian’. Irrespective of race, you have to do something for Malaysia,” he said.
The DAP has been trying to move towards a more multi-racial image, having fielded a Malay woman, Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, in the Teluk Intan by-election last year that had a significant Chinese electorate.
Race and religion remain hot-button issues in predominantly Malay-Muslim Malaysia, with the National Civics Bureau (BTN) even saying recently in leaked presentation slides that racism can unite an ethnic group for a “good purpose”.