The Darul Ehsan Institute (IDE) study that UMNO-PAS attacks and demonization campaigns have been successful in fuelling anti-DAP sentiments among Malays, especially in rural areas, must be a wake-up call to all DAP leaders and members to take these misperceptions seriously.
The study found that after the break-up of the Pakatan Rakyat coalition in June, the campaign to demonise the DAP as anti-Malay has become more effective with UMNO and PAS working together in the anti-DAP campaign.
In a survey by IDE between November 13 and 15 last year, involving 1,716 Malay respondents throughout Selangor, almost two-thirds of respondents (72%) agreed that DAP was a racial party and that it was only looking after the interest of the Chinese community.
Only 12% disagreed, while 16% said they were “unsure”.
More than half (64%) also agreed with the statement that “DAP was an anti-Malay and anti-Islam party”. Some 18% disagreed while 19% were unsure.
I wonder what would be the results if a survey had been conducted among Chinese respondents to the questions whether UMNO was a racial party that only looked after the interest of the Malay community and whether UMNO was anti-Chinese and anti non-Islamic religions in the country.
Be that as it may, DAP leaders, members and even supporters should be concerned about the IDE survey, for DAP was never formed to be a party for the
Chinese or any particular community but for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region – and it was totally anathema in DAP for anyone to be anti-Islam or any other religion.
In fact, if DAP is founded as a racial party looking after the interests only of the Chinese community, it must be doing quite a poor job that after half a century, only 72% of the Malay respondents surveyed felt this was the case, when it should be 100%; when only 64% felt that the DAP was anti-Malay and anti-Islam party, when it should again be 100%.
But DAP was never founded as a Chinese, anti-Malay or anti-Islam party but a political party for all Malaysians, encompassing all races, religions and regions.
In fact, in the first general election contested by the DAP in 1969, and now after the 2013 General Elections, the DAP has more Indian Members of Parliament than MIC.
Is the DAP a party for the Indians? No, the DAP remains as a party for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region.
In the 58-year history of the nation, has there been any political party leader who had transcended racial and religious barriers to pay the highest political price for another Malaysian of different race or religion, in the way that the Penang Chief Minister and DAP Secretary-General Lim Guan Eng had been disqualified as a Member of Parliament, gone to jail in Kajang, disenfranchised and lost all his civic liberties as a Malaysian citizen to be elected as MP or State Assemblyman or even to cast his vote for five years after prison release – all for standing up for the rights, honour and dignity of an under-aged Malay girl?
If there is any UMNO, MCA, MIC or Gerakan leader who had crossed racial and religious boundaries in the past six decades to make the highest political sacrifice for another citizen of a different race or religion, let us learn about it!
Right from the very beginning some 50 years ago, DAP was formed as a political party with a commitment and vision for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region.
This was why the first three by-elections contested by the DAP before the 1969 general elections were UMNO strongholds – Kampung Baru in Selangor in January 1967 (where the UMNO candidate Ahmad Razali Mohamad Ali won and went on to become Selangor Mentri Besar in 1982), Tampoi in Johor in September 1967 and the Segamat Utara parliamentary by-election in Johor in October 1968 (where the UMNO candidate, Musa Hitam, won and went on to become Deputy Prime Minister in 1982).
This was also why starting from the first general election in 1969 contested by the DAP, the party had always put up a multi-racial and multi-religious slate of candidates.
In fact, in the 1969 general elections, two Malay State Assemblymen were elected, one in Perak (Ibrahim Singgeh – Tapah Road) and the other in Negri Sembilan (Hassan Ahmad – Si Rusa).
In the past 11 general elections, DAP had elected Malay Members of Parliament (Ahmad Nor, Zairil Khir Johari, Arif Sabri Abdul Aziz and Senator Ariffin Omar) and State Assembly representatives in Peninsular Malaysia (Daing Ibrahim Othman, Mohd Salleh Nakhoda Hitam, Fadzlan Yahya, Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji).
In the 2013 General Elections, we elected a Kadazan State Assemblyman in Sabah and we look forward to the election of the first Dayak State Assembly representative in the forthcoming Sarawak state general elections expected to be held in March.
All these precedents and breakthroughs are testimony that DAP had never aspired to be a Chinese or non-Malay party and in the new Pakatan Harapan scenario, we will double up in our resolve to be a fully Malaysian party strengthening our Malay, Dayak and Kadazandusun membership and support in keeping with our Malaysian ideals and aspirations.
This is why we have Impian Sabah, Impian Sarawak, Impian Kelantan, Impian Johor, Impian Kedah/Perlis and Impian Perak all of which are born out of the conviction that we are all Malaysians and that the country cannot be developed, progressive and prosperous if there is any people, whatever race or religion or any state where the people are poor and backward and that all Malaysians regardless of race, religion or region, are entitled to the full development of their potentials and rights.
I have always regarded myself as a Malaysian first and Chinese second.
I believe that in the sixth decade of our nationhood, there are more and more Malaysians with such an outlook and commitment – who are Malaysians first, and Chinese, Malays, Indians, Kadazandusun and Ibans second.
This is the stuff that Impian Malaysia, whether Impian Sabah, Impian Sarawak, Impian Kelantan, Impian Johor, Impian Kedah/Perlis or Impian Perak are made of!
After the PAS Muktamar in June cutting off relations with DAP, there were already forecasts that with the end of seven-year-old Pakatan Rakyat, DAP will be demonized as a narrow-minded Chinese or non-Malay political party.
They cannot be more wrong, and there is a growing consciousness among various levels of the DAP leadership and membership that we must consciously prove these negative forecast about the DAP completely wrong and baseless.
No political party seeking support from all Malaysians can be anti-Malay or anti-Islam, or for that matter, anti-Chinese, anti-Indian, anti-Dayak, anti-Kadazandusun or anti-Buddhism, anti-Christianity, anti-Hindiuism or anti-Sikkhism.
The battle against such lies and falsehoods had been a particularly uphill battle for the DAP because we had to face the full onslaught of the UMNO juggernaut with its control and ownership of the mass media, particularly in the era before the advent of Internet, the Internet news portals and the social media.
Now joining forces with this UMNO juggernaut seeking to demonise the DAP as anti-Malay and anti-Islam is the present PAS leadership, as illustrated by the alacrity with which they tried to exploit the lie and baseless allegation that Israel had offered DAP RM1.2 billion in exchange for a Israeli naval base in Port Dickson – so outrageous and preposterous an allegation that even UMNO propagandists won’t touch with a barge pole!
The IDE study that UMNO-PAS attacks have been successful in fuelling anti-DAP sentiments among Malays is therefore a salutary wake-up call to all DAP leaders and members, and even supporters, of the need to take these demonisaiton campaigns seriously.
There are silver linings in the dark cloud of the IDE study, which found that the anti-DAP sentiments are lower in areas with DAP elected representatives even if they are Chinese, such as Serdang which is served by Ong Kian Ming and Subang, which is represented by Hannah Yeoh – which showed that perceptions towards the party can be changed through direct contact and information campaigns.