DAP and its multiracial dilemma

Party’s chants about Malaysian Malaysia rings hollow when its members elect only Chinese leaders to top posts.

Leven Woon, FMT

The DAP has always aspired to be a multiracial party, with its members abiding by the ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ concept and calling themselves Malaysian first.

However, the election results at its 16th National Congress last weekend threw up a stark reality – that after years of sloganeering, it is still far from achieving its dream.

There were eight Malay leaders who contested for a place in the 20-member central executive committee (CEC), and all failed to make cut into the top decision making body.

Several of the Malay candidates told FMT that they felt the party delegates have yet to truly appreciate the Malaysian Malaysia concept.

The question to ask is: Has DAP been using the wrong format to promote diversity in its rank? It has never been close to taking federal power.

After the breakthrough in the 2008 GE with Pakatan Rakyat coalition partners, the DAP now wants to see itself transform into a broad based national party.

This was evident throughout the two-day convention, especially during DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng’s speech where he uttered Kadazan and Iban phrases (umohon and ngat sayop) and announced the ambition to win one Dayak seat in the general election.

“We also want to be identified as an attractive party of choice for the Malays, especially urban Malays.

“From the establishment of Roketkini.com, a BM daily news portal, and Sekolah Demokrasi, a political education programme in BM, we are making progress,” he said in his one-hour speech on Saturday.

Malay leaders unhappy

While Lim has a grand plan for DAP, grassroots member felt otherwise.

The election results showed that most of the 2,500 delegates still want the party to be under Chinese control, as they voted in 17 Chinese and only three Indians into the CEC.

The only Malay who secured a place through popular vote in 2008, Ahmad Ton, was booted out this time around. He placed 38th out of 63 candidates, with 347 ballots.

DAP senator Ariffin SM Omar came in 37th with 348 votes. Another DAP Malay leader, Zulkifli Mohd Noor, only obtained 216 votes.

The party’s leadership tried to save the situation by appointing two Malays, two Indians and three East Malaysians into the CEC, but the Malay leaders were clearly unhappy.

Zulkifli said it seems the party delegates have failed to accept the Malaysian Malaysia concept.

“When Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has already accepted the Malaysian Malaysia concept with 1Malaysia, my party members still do not get it,” he said.

Future gloomy?

The sentiment was shared by Ahmad, who said that DAP would have trouble in the future if they continue to snub the Bangsa Malaysia idea.

“What is DAP? What is Malaysian Malaysia? The idea is to form a Bangsa Malaysia. If delegates do not value the idea, the future of DAP is gloomy,” he said.

DAP dissident Teng Chang Khim was point-blank when he said that as delegates could only elect 20 CEC members, those who are nationally more popular stood a better chance.