Thursday, December 16, 2010

DAP's inclusiveness - requirements & reasons

At a recent DAP party assembly, a guest, a PAS commissioner was invited to offer doa (prayers) to start off the event. No doubt the DAP party’s gesture of inclusiveness will be seized on by the non-Muslim component parties of BN, namely MCA, Gerakan and MIC to frighten non-Muslim voters of DAP’s so-called ‘infatuation’ with PAS. And most certainly MCA cybertroopers ensure that the DAP gesture balloons into something sinister, as part of their traditional scare tactics.

Yes, non-Muslims can be easily scared because they are already wary of Islamic laws (and its punishments). This attitude has been nurtured by a combination of harsh examples from other Islamic countries and our local and highly politicized happenings such as body snatching, caning of women, (most of all) rude and arrogant behaviour by some officers from the religious departments, and the constant UMNO aggressive policitization of Islam, etc.

In October this year (happier days then), at CPI, I too voiced my unease in my small article
Ride the Islamic tiger, risk becoming cat food, where I said:

Since March 2008, some DAP leaders have been courting Malay voters in order to dispel the Barisan Nasional stigmatization of the DAP as a Chinese-based political party. Obviously this is necessary as more than 60% of Malaysian voters are Malays, and the DAP realizes that it can never aspire to be a significant political force without their support.

Ironically, like Lim Chin Siong, Lim Guan Eng is an incorruptible dedicated leader who too lives a personal austere Spartan lifestyle, and has shown his care for the poor and elders of Penang. These and his going to jail some years ago in seeking justice for an underage Malay girl are already redoubtable models to showcase the DAP as a worthy multi-racial party to the Malay voters.

Yet DAP has gone one step further, choosing to project itself as a pro-Islamic organization.

Guan Eng has often referred to the Caliphate of Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz as his model for a scrupulously clean and thrifty government which cares for the ordinary people, while another DAP leader Nga Kor Ming is known for spouting quotations from the Quran.

Apart from the obvious need to expand its Malay-Muslim base, there have been other compelling reasons for DAP to expedite its wooing of the Malays via the Islamic avenue. The party has been concerned about the future of Anwar Ibrahim as well as the politics of PKR.

Anwar has served a vital role as the bridge and glue for the new coalition, Pakatan Rakyat which has PAS and DAP with antipodal ideologies. If Anwar is forcefully removed from the Malaysian political landscape, it is unlikely that PKR will be able to provide a substitute of equal stature and charisma. Thus DAP has decided on the worst case scenario where it will be required to work directly with PAS. What better time than to start now, and perhaps sneak a ride on the Islamic tiger.

I ended that article with a cautionary note for DAP: Let me advice those DAP leaders who want to ride the Islamic tiger that you are unlikely to succeed!

It's consequence would not only be the riders becoming meals for a big cat but in a reiteration of my earlier remark, in a religious state, when power hungry men can overturn the tables into 'God proposes, man disposes', the potential for gross injustice cannot be understated or overestimated.

Our only protection is the current constitution and the secular civil courts, warts and all.

Of course there is another angle to DAP’s demonstration of ‘inclusiveness’. As mentioned, the majority of Malaysians are Muslim Malays, thus DAP cannot be a major political force by stupidly ignoring them. As the saying goes, if the mountain won’t come to you, then you must go to the mountain.

Facts to consider:

(a) majority of Malaysians are Muslim-Malays [including the non-Malay Muslims among the Indians, Sarawakians and Sabahans]

(b) DAP is a political party

(c) votes are absolutely essential, not only for a political party’s survival but also for its development/progression into a major political power in Malaysia

(d) while the DAP is an ally of both PKR and PAS, it cannot hinge its future solely on the goodwill and cooperation of its partners. As was seen recently, PKR nearly went into disintegration mode.

Conclusion: The DAP must, while hoping for continuous and harmonious Pakatan strength and viability, prepare for a future where it may be forced to be on its own.

For its political survival, the DAP must therefore cultivate Malay goodwill and support, while at the same time dispelling both UMNO and MCA double-barrelled black propaganda, namely, UMNO's accusations that 'DAP is an anti Malay & anti Islam party' and MCA's scare tactics that 'DAP is a pro Malay & pro Islam party'.

Rubbing cosy shoulders with PAS may be a start to its inclusiveness campaign, and should not be seen as endorsing PAS’ aim to introduce hudud laws into Malaysia’s legal system. The DAP has already and firmly stated its opposition to substituting the civil laws of this country for a religious set of laws.

But it's important that DAP leaders should also exercise sensitivity when handling issues where Malay beliefs, customs, cultural preferences, feelings and indeed fears are prevalent.

We know that Malays have very strong feelings for their rulers, religion (Islam) and traditional customs (adat), so DAP members (not just leaders) should show respect for these.

Some examples of respect would be:

(a) wearing a songkok at an official event where a ruler is present – this would be a mark of respect to both the ruler and Malay customs; similarly, female DAP members should be advised to adopt Malay custom of wearing a Malay selendang (but not an Arab headdress) when in the presence of a ruler or visiting religious venues (no difference from wearing a shawl when entering a Catholic church)

(b) while I am personally against titles, principally because the BN has cheapened the royal award system by its nonsense of recommending every towkay and who-else for a datukship, nonetheless, accepting an award from a ruler indicates respect to the sovereign ruler, more so when the award has been conferred personally by HRH.

DAP’s inclusiveness campaign should be focussed on Malays rather than Islam, though of course it’s not possible to separate the two especially in today’s climate where UMNO has heightened the politicization of Islam to such an evil extent that Juanda Jaya, the
Perlis mufti had to defend Nik Aziz over the pluralism controversy. The propaganda was so un-Islamic that Mufti Juanda was driven to decry the UMNO attackers as extremists.

Nonetheless the accent of DAP’s campaign should be on Malay customs, traditions and sensitivities.

At the end of the day, may I remind DAP members that as Malaysians we live in a country where the majority of the population are Malays. Speaking Bahasa is a given. But it’s only right that we show some respect for them and their feelings, and where it does not militate against out core values, adopt some or many of their customs and lifestyles. For example, kaytee loves to wear a sarong because it’s the world’s cheapest and most portable comfy air-conditioning wakakaka. And don't start me off on nasi lemak and the kuehs, or yummiest of all, those Penang sweeties in their sarong kebaya. ;-)


  1. 'Nonetheless the accent of DAP’s campaign should be on Malay customs, traditions and sensitivities.'

    It is not possible to separate Malay and Muslims in Malaysia. However, there is a difference between the Malay of PAS and that of UMNO. UMNO represents the Malay who thinks wearing a songkok is Muslim while PAS will tell you otherwise. UMNO sees no problem in bomohs while PAS sees it as a route to damnation. Many UMNO men I know of have no trouble with whiskey or gambling but to the PAS people they are nos nos on the same level as pork consumption. In other words PAS represents the Malay who sees his religion first and his Malayness second. This worldview has become very strong among many young Malays. Having the Doa at the DAP party covention is to acknowledge that the Muslim has become a lot more important for many younger Malays.

    The MCA and Gerakan wants the Chinese to believe that PAS is the route to Muslim oppression. They claim that under PAS there will be no alcohol, gambling or sexy girls jumping around on stage during the Hungry Ghost festival. What's so great about drinking and ruining ones life through gambling. Worse these vices contribute to the coffers of UMNO who uses the same money to whack the Chinese on the head. How many Chinese families want their daughters to be prancing half naked on stage in front of salivating lecherous men? In Kelantan licences to sell alcohol is hard to come by and gambling outlets are banned. Pork though is still available. Moreover, PAS demands that pork be carefully wrapped before distribution ha resulted in less fly -visited pork. Is it not the job of a government to ensure its people stay healthy and prosperous? I do agree though the DAP should be more sensitive to Muslim rules and regulations. Teo Chiang Nee walking into a mosque without a head shawl is plain stupid. The chap in charge of the mosque allowed Teo in without a headdress in the same spirit that the Doa was performed at the DAP convention. This coordinated effort amomg the DAP and PAS is what really scares the shit out of UMNO and even PKR. UMNO we all know are nothing more than greedy racist bastards. The PKR today is a sort of PAS, DAP and UMNO rojak. It is this UMNO ingredient which is turning PKR into a big fat joke. PAS and DAP can forge an alliance based on the non-racist principle embodied by the political left and Islam. The DAP knows they must find a way to accommodate Islam in their agenda whole PAS knows an Islamic agenda alone is not enough to win over the non-Malays and the liberal Malays. Perhaps the time has come for a Malaysian version of Islamic Socialism.

  2. My only advice to DAP and fan KT.
    Just be yourself.
    Just fight for the Chinese like you have been doing all along.
    Then you will be fine.
    Let's not pretend.
    Be like leaders of the Red Dot. Rule for the Chinese and others be damned.

  3. I totally agree on the songkok, and other cultural affairs. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that DAP HQ retain a fulltime cultural consultant/hotline to advise all leaders on matters of etiquette especially for Malay events and dignitaries but also for other cultures, to avoid faux pas like befell Teresa when she went to the palace and Hannah Yeoh when she went to the surau, "inappropriately attired". They meant no harm, but those missteps could have been avoided. It's just good manners anyway, so DAP should take it seriously.

    But titles are tricky business simply because our royal families do not have proper royal prestige. They are political, and they are involved in business. They are unpredictable. They are even racially divisive and thus totally at odds with DAP's Malaysian Malaysia. Worst of all, they are not shy about revoking titles when it suits them. There is usually an aspect of quid pro quo with the titles

    Actually, I think titles are a major no-no. DAP should issue a party-wide advisory stating that any leader who wants to accept a royal title should do so on the understanding that they are going to retire from politics soon, e.g. if LKS is going to retire from active politics (to become advisor ala Chen Man Hin) and some Sultan wants to thank him for years of dedicated service then I think it's a wonderful gesture, but for LGE to accept a royal title from, say, the Sultan of Kedah... what does that make of rumblings in Kedah that Penang should rightfully be returned to Kedah now?

    Royal titles will straightjacket DAP's struggle to some extent. Also, having royal titles will make DAP look like another MCA or Gerakan, not the fresh slightly unusual beast it is today - granted a lot of Malays are still wary of it, but a least they recognise it's something different.

    In the long-run it's best to maintain the slight "revolutionary" flavour of the party! It's too good to give away just to appease a few royalists (and I think there really aren't that many, it's just the buggers who got titles in the first place who are so keen to defend the Sultanate... hence my point about the quid pro quo)

  4. "Speaking Bahasa is a given."

    Too true, Ktemoc, and alas it's too overlooked in DAP. All the messaging instead of "Malaysian First" is in "English first, translated to Malay second!"

    For instance, "Middle Malaysia" sounds good, but they didn't think about how it would sound in Malay press: it is reported as either "Malaysia Sederhana" or "Malaysia Tengah", neither of which carries the same poilitical/emotional payload as "Middle Malaysia". And then they wonder why Malays don't get excited about the party. Sheesh.

    As an aside, "Malaysia Tengah" is DAP's translation and "Malaysia Sederhana" is Utusan's translation. Ironically, in this case, Utusan did DAP a favor by coming up with a better translation, albeit still pretty weak.

  5. Kaytee

    I forgot to commend you for a very good post.
    I can imagine you shirtless, airing youself in your sarong, one hand with a fan, another on the keyboard.
    One leg on the floor, the other bended on the chair like most Chinese sit when having their meals.

  6. Kt, Two of your points are gaining some attention. Apart from the "ride the Islamist tiger" theme, the most recent piece by Tunku Abdul Aziz also echoes your opinion on Singapore being ruthlessly "clinicial" in their dealing with Malaysia.

    Write more!! And someday please blog on the issue raised by Helen Ang that "DAP been ‘terlalu galak menjolok sarang tebuan‘ (incessantly baiting Muhyiddin and Umno)" that she believed resulted in the current compulsive History paper to "have a better comprehension of what makes a Malaysian (First-er)". Sometimes, the DAP leaders should be reminded not to be overzealous ;-)