By Kow Gah Chie and Adrian Wong | 9:29AM Jul 9, 2015
INTERVIEW In the attempts to get rid of its Chinese-based party label, DAP’s pro-Malay approach has caused some anxiety among certain members who feel the party may gone overboard for the ‘hypercorrection’.
To this, DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang said he wasn’t aware the party was now being perceived as pushing too hard towards being a Malay-friendly party.
“I am not aware. But whatever it is, we will continue to promote DAP as a Malaysian party. That will be the general answer,” he said in an interview with Malaysiakini last Thursday.
“At least, from being seen as a very pro-Chinese party to a very pro-Malay party, DAP is making some progress,” he quipped.
The party fielded Dyana Sofia Mohd Daud for the Teluk Intan by-election last year, with tudung-clad Syefura Othman and Jamila Rahim being among the young Malays roped in by the party.
And three days before DAP unilaterally announced the demise of Pakatan Rakyat, national laureate A Samad Said, who is fondly known as Pak Samad, was recruited into the party.
PAS member Sheikh Omar Ali also joined the party after the progressive faction in PAS was completely thrown out in the Islamist party’s leadership elections early last month.
Insiders point out this was construed as DAP being adamant to secure more Malay votes, since its move to sever ties with PAS would erode support for it from the Malay community.
‘We have kept the faith’
Analysts note that since the 13th general election, DAP has been actively reaching out to Malay voters, triggering a ‘Blue Ocean vs Red Ocean’ debate in the party.
“You have these two of the spectrum. What is important is that the party must give faith to the objective of being a Malaysian party,” explained Lim, who is also Gelang Patah MP.
The veteran politician reiterated that DAP remained a multiracial party and the uphill battle it faced would continue because of the reality of racial politics in the country that is spearheaded by BN and Umno.
In the midst of this, DAP and its leaders are slandered and made the butt of various accusations, he added.
“There is a picture saying, ‘Lim Kit Siang is a communist’, with me wearing a five-star cap, so that I am to be regarded as anti-Malay, anti-Islam.
“DAP is accused of wanting to have a Christian state, I am accused of causing May 13… the impression is there and we are accused of being anti-Malay,” he said.
“It’s so easy to give up and become a Chinese party, but we have kept faith in the Malaysian objective and we soldier on,” Lim said.
“Do you know that in 1969, we had more Indian MPs than MIC? So that question is very peculiar isn’t it? Even at present, I think we have more Indian MPs than MIC,” he added, laughing.
However, the veteran opposition figure claimed he had been ignorant on the timing of Pak Samad joining the party, three days before Pakatan’s so-called demise as decreed by DAP.
“You seem to know more about me or DAP. I don’t know. I didn’t realise that,” he retorted.
“He (Pak Samad) said he wants to be a ‘slave’ (hamba). But we don’t want a mascot or slave,” he said.
Guan Eng’s term expiring
In an interview with Malaysiakini, Pak Samad, 80, said he was old and was no longer interested in obtaining party posts or to contesting in a general election, saying that he was willing to be a ‘DAP slave’.
“Whether Malay or non-Malay, young or old, man or woman, we want everyone to be able to contribute to the process of political change,” Lim said.
“Similarly, I am sure Pak Samad (photo) would be able to garner his experiences and his abilities for the cause of bringing a new Malaysia.”
With 37 parliamentary seats and 106 state assembly seats in hand, the country’s second biggest party after Umno must explore non-Chinese votes, particularly Malay, Kadazan-Dusun and Dayak votes, to achieve a bigger gain in the next general election.
However, this is also subject to how well the party’s succession plan goes as Lim’s son, Guan Eng, has to step down as party secretary-general, a post he held since September 2004.
This because the party constitution puts a maximum three-term restriction on a person holding the post of secretary-general.
Guan Eng therefore has to step down by September 2016 at the the latest. The mandate of the current 13th Parliament expires in 2018.
Lim dodged the question related to the party leadership succession plan, and whether Guan Eng’s (photo) absence from the post of secretary-general would have an impact the opposition’s plan to take Putrajaya.
“I have to look at the constitution. I am not following very closely on the party’s development. I have to check on that.
“You think I am masterminding everything? I am not,” he responded, and laughed while repeating that he would look into the matter.
Next generation leaders all set
Nevertheless, Lim said the party would face no problem in getting a successor to take over from Guan Eng, at any time.
He said this was because DAP did not lack frontline leaders to helm the party in facing the next general election.
“DAP does have quite a lot of new leaders. You don’t see anyone?” he asked.
The veteran party leader may have been referring to publicity secretary Tony Pua, organising secretary Anthony Loke, vice-chairperson Teresa Kok, political education director Liew Chin Tong, assistant treasurer Nga Kor Ming or assistant publicity secretary Zairil Khir Johari.
Lim, 74, also spoke about the political legacy he wanted to leave behind and how he wanted Malaysians to remember him.
“I think it’s the same thing that all DAP leaders have fought, struggled and sacrificed for and that is a Malaysia which everyone fully identifies with, a country that is progressive, prosperous, just and free.
“Where we can, we fully explore our potential. I think that’s not just Karpal’s legacy, it will be legacy of all DAP leaders,” he said.
Lim was referring to the late DAP chairperson Karpal Singh, who died in a road accident in 2014. His funeral saw more than 15,000 Malaysians turning up to pay their last respects.
Lim concluded that he wanted to be remembered as a leader who had done something that was worthwhile and worthy for the betterment of all Malaysians.
“This will be good enough,” he said.