Pakatan must look beyond race, says Kit Siang

(The Malaysian Insider) – Despite two of the three parties making up Pakatan Rakyat (PR) being multiracial, Lim Kit Siang has admitted that the coalition needs to break an “unhealthy” habit of assigning roles according to race. 

The DAP parliamentary leader had agreed in an interview with The Malaysian Insider recently that it was not just the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition that was guilty of drawing racial lines. 

Lim conceded that the practice of putting DAP in charge of ensuring Chinese support and likewise PAS with Malays during election campaigns had to be done away. 

“It is unhealthy. We need to break from that,” said the Ipoh Timur MP who turns 70 today. 

Top coalition leaders, family and friends crowded the Equatorial Hotel ballroom in Bukit Jambul, Penang, to pay tribute and celebrate Kit Siang’s birthday. 

Among those there were PKR de facto chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and PAS’s Mohamed Sabu. Guests watched a 43-minute video chronicling Kit Siang’s life and distributed a book on him titled The Right To Differ by Dr Ooi Kee Beng. 

Lim said that as a party that operated mainly in urban areas, their support was mainly non-Malay and was not helped by “propaganda pumped by Umno.” 

“We see it until today but it was even worse in earlier days, Umno would tell Malays that if they join DAP they would be traitors and even now they continue with that poison,” he said. 

Despite what the former DAP chairman called “the structure of Malaysian politics” where race and religion dominated over class issues, he said the party had a responsibility to reach out and demonstrate that “we are not a Chinese party or one based on race but working for the national interest of all races.” 

He said that as the party now led the Penang state government, it was an opportunity to change the perception of Malays towards the party “over a period of time to see a lessening of such worries (of being a traitor) and give room for more Malays to join DAP.” 

However, he stopped short of stating that DAP will field candidates in Malay majority areas as “we are in a coalition arrangement so it is not easy to put our own Malay candidates to contest in Malay areas.” 

Most of DAP’s members and elected representatives are Chinese while PAS, as an Islamic party, is only open to Muslims, the vast majority of whom are Malays.