Is DAP bending backwards for the sake of unity or for power?

DAP did not get its fair share of government posts based on the number of legislative seats it won, but the party does not seem to mind.

K. Parkaran, FMT

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and some of the party’s leaders cast in the same mould have not stopped sounding warnings that DAP only wants to split the Malay community and destroy it.

There have been daily sermons in the PAS party organ now that campaigning has begun in the by-elections for the Pulai parliamentary seat and Simpang Jeram state seat in Johor, which were held by former Amanah strongman Salahuddin Ayub, who died last month.

The DAP bashing is so severe that some DAP leaders have expressed their frustrations in private, wondering how long they have to endure being used by PAS as a whipping boy to entice the Malay voters in the party’s quest for federal power.

They say this form of blatant attacks without basis is taking a toll on DAP: the better DAP performs in elections, the nastier the critics have become.

The party obviously flourished by defending the rights of non-Muslims over the last few decades, but that was mainly because of a weak MIC and MCA in the long years of Barisan Nasional rule.

But the DAP leaders swear they had never been anti-Islam or were against the royalty as claimed by Perikatan Nasional leaders. If defending their rights from being eroded is misconstrued by certain quarters as going against Islam, then the party is in for tougher times ahead.

The Chinese-dominant party is finding it increasingly difficult to counter these allegations. DAP leaders are beginning to realise that its electoral successes are unwittingly becoming a huge obstacle. PN, especially its leading component party PAS, has used this to spook the Malays that they are losing their land to others (read: Chinese).

Prior to the 2018 general election, the incumbent Barisan Nasional even carried out a campaign saying the then DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang would become prime minister or a deputy prime minister if Pakatan Harapan came to power.

Most knew this was a preposterous claim but you will be shocked that many Malays had actually believed this campaign whisper. But eventually, they were proven wrong. Lim was not seen anywhere near Putrajaya, except for meetings with the then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad a couple of times.

This was the time that DAP was first seen to be “giving in” for the larger interest of the PH coalition to be led by a Malay-majority Cabinet. Despite winning 42 seats compared to PKR (47), Bersatu (13), Amanah (11) and Warisan (eight), the party was given only six ministerial posts.

In other words, it was only given 22% of the Cabinet posts although it had 34% of the MPs in the government. On the contrary, Bersatu, with only 11% of MPs, obtained the post of prime minister and five ministers, or also 22% of the Cabinet positions.

Other parties also obtained a sweet deal at the expense of DAP.

PKR was given the deputy prime minister’s post and seven ministerial portfolios while Amanah had five ministers. Sabah’s Warisan was rewarded with three ministers.

There were rumblings of discontent from the DAP grassroots over this. However, they eventually accepted it as they probably wanted the multiracial PH government to survive instead of a near all-Malay Cabinet. They also probably began to realise that Malay-dominance is essential for any party to be in power.

Of course, the detractors did say that DAP had become a toothless tiger and was bending over backwards to be in power. I guess you can’t blame them for this as the party is known for its strong stand against injustice in the past.

But DAP obviously had to be realistic and help PH maintain a delicate balance of power to ensure that the Malay superiority in numbers was evident. It was vital for its own survival in the government.

However, this did not stop Bersatu from switching sides to form the government with PAS, Umno and GPS from Sarawak after 22 months, in a move often referred to as the “Sheraton Move”.

Then came the general election last year. DAP ended up with 40 seats, the largest number among the component parties in the unity government. Once again, it was fine with just accepting four Cabinet posts, the least in percentage terms.

There were rumblings again that it was giving in too much just to be in federal power. But faced with the growing “green wave” of support for PAS and Bersatu, DAP leaders knew it had to do this or be out of power.

The supporters too continued backing the party despite what they thought were unfair distribution of Cabinet posts in the last two governments. Most importantly, it knows that the Anwar Ibrahim-led regime was coming under attack from the Malay opposition which claimed that the Chinese-based DAP was calling the shots. The party is trying hard to help diffuse this situation.

Then came the distribution of the recent Selangor exco seats which seems to be an ultimate sacrifice on the part of DAP. It got only four of the 10 exco positions – two of whom were non-Chinese – despite the party having 15 assemblymen in the 34-member state assembly.

This was obviously a deliberate move to ensure it projected a Malay-majority leadership in the Selangor government in the wake of serious accusations in the social media that “others” were ruling the most important state now with an all-Malay opposition on the other side.

A senior party leader said this was in the spirit of the unity government and DAP had to make some adjustments to prove that the claims of a Chinese takeover are mere attempts by the opposition to whip up the sentiments of the Malays.

The question being asked is whether DAP made all these sacrifices to take the heat off the attack by PN cybertroopers and Malay nationalists claiming non-Malays are taking over the country, or did so to ensure the party was in power. Or both.

Whatever the reason, it has helped to show Malays are firmly in charge and DAP will continue to play second fiddle to make sure the unity government lasts as long as possible.