Republic of Malaysia | Local Campaigns Resources

August 24, 2008

PR DAP kekal kroni kekal Rebut Hak Melayu Guna Anwar

Credit | Malaysian Insider

DAP overlooks Rifts within Party

Commentary by political editor Wan Hamidi Hamid

DAP delegates keep faith with the old guard at their party congress today.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 — The political tsunami did not wipe out DAP old guards. In fact it strengthened their position – almost all incumbents were retained at the party polls today.

Does this mean DAP will never change its old opposition-style despite controlling Penang and wielding a strong influence in Perak and Selangor?

Judging by the sober tone of some 800 delegates at the party congress here and the self-congratulatory mood, it’s a combination of pragmatism and trust of the devil they know to bring about change.

Most of the delegates represent the veteran faction – those who have suffered in the political wilderness of the past.

Being party old hands, they understand the current leadership better than those who had joined the party just prior to and after the March 8 general election. They put their trust in their seasoned leaders – to win the recent elections and to deal with the sometime reluctant allies, the Malay-dominated multiracial Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Islamist Pas.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng made it clear in his keynote address that the party accepted anyone as friends and allies as long as the ideals of democracy, freedom and equal opportunity, and now, in addition, his Penang administration’s principles of competency, accountability and transparency.

“We will not support any divisive ideology that pits one group of Malaysians against another,” he said.

This clearly outlines the party’s policy in dealing with allies, and this is what delegates want to hear coming from their tried and tested leaders.

By the number of votes received, it was DAP’s most revered leader Lim Kit Siang who topped the list followed by his son Guan Eng and veterans such as Karpal Singh, Dr Tan Seng Giaw, Tan Kok Wai, M. Kulasegaran, Teresa Kok and Ahmad Ton. This is also a motion of thanks from delegates to their top leadership that survived political calamities over the years.

Guan Eng casting his vote at party elections today.

Putting faith in the incumbents means that delegates are comfortable with the way issues are being handled within the party as well as with their allies.

In the case of Pas, they knew that the Islamist party had criticised them at the Pas general assembly in Ipoh last week and they were upset when senior leader Bukit Mertajam MP Chong Eng was ridiculed by Islamist PKR Kulim Bandar Baharu MP Zulkfili Noordin in Parliament a few days ago over Islam.

Party chairman Karpal, who opened the congress, said Malaysia was and would always be a secular state as provided for in the Federal Constitution. It’s a clear message to Pas, Umno and certain PKR leaders who still dream of an Islamic state or religious hegemony in the country.

“We hope that our allies, in particular Pas, will understand our position. Yes we understand Pas’s problem, they have their own ideology but there must be some way we can get together and we must get together.

“We ought to find some middle ground on fundamental issues, come to peace and gain confidence of the people in this country. For me, there’s only one man who can help us compromise, it is Anwar Ibrahim. Let him be the middle man to get Pas and DAP together.”

Throughout the day, delegates were subtle in their response to pressure from Pas and PKR. Most in fact preferred to focus on the party’s future – be careful with governance, don’t be tempted with corruption, don’t abuse power, don’t forget to serve the people and be prepared if the people want to change the federal government.

But those who touched on Pas were polite compared to their counterparts in Pas who were openly critical with DAP and PKR in Ipoh last week for allegedly sidelining them in Penang and Selangor.

Selangor delegate Lau Weng San said differences among the opposition Pakatan Rakyat parties should be expected but they should be resolved amicably, as long as DAP maintained its principles of Malaysian First, and not be bogged down with racial and religious politics.

Kuala Lumpur delegate K.A. Ramu chided Pas for trying to have a negotiation with Umno despite winning a number of seats including Titiwangsa parliamentary constituency by getting the Chinese and Indian votes. “Why is Pas talking to Umno now? If they continue, they will risk losing the non-Malay vote. I urge Pas to be careful and not be trapped by Umno’s tactics.”

Others especially a couple of veteran Malay delegates could not contain their joy with the success of DAP in the recent general election.

Kuala Lumpur representative Azahari Ismail who has been with the party for 30 years said it was a victory over race and religious politics, and that DAP should strive further to promote multiracialism.

Another veteran delegate Abu Bakar Lebai Sudin from Pahang who joined DAP in 1968, admitted that he could not believe that his party would be successful within his life time. “I think very soon people will reject Umno and Barisan Nasional.”

Overall it was a subdued affair as delegates are still savouring their Election 2008 triumph. The tougher task of dealing with allies and strategising the next move is now in the hands of the old guards who continue to lead the party.

Their next step is to look forward to Anwar’s victory in the Permatang Pauh by-election and the PKR de facto leader’s Sept 16 plan to take over the national government. Most DAP leaders are skeptical of the date but many are sure that the next round of general election will see a new government in power.

The leaders will wind up the debate tomorrow morning.

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