Friday, May 04, 2007

post Ijok - Quo vadis DAP?

Post Machap, our opposition leader cried out in Parliament that the DAP had won a moral victory, and post Ijok, Anwar Ibrahim did the same. So what’s the difference between these two opposition personalities?

The degree of the loser’s whinging, whining and wailing!

And what’s the point of grandstanding statements by Khalid Ibrahim that he’ll be sending a team of accountants, architect and whatnot to monitor Parthiban’s actions?

Apart from the obvious melodrama of an ungracious loser (even given BN's obscene pork barrelling and the usual use of officialdom obstacles), and yes, the moral boosting value for a demoralised PKR, one has to ask how much such a team of specialists will cost PKR? Or, is it to be the personal gift of Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim?

The DAP must not fall into that trap of useless oratorical cleverness or grandstanding.

The Ijok lesson, and undoubtedly that of Machap too, is that voters’ perception of what’s right or wrong may be very different from the opposition parties’ – something for the DAP to ponder over, considering a political party like the DAP which claims to represent the people ought to be able to tell what the people really want.

The DAP shouldn't grasp at the straw of the slight swing towards it in Machap and towards PKR in Ijok - those swings were each too insignificant to constitute any real meaning or message. It could well be an early warning to the BN (MCA and Gerakan) to pull up their socks rather than support for PKR.

Now, once upon a time DAP has a three-prong and very effective machine:

Tine No 1 - the Lim Kit Siang type and abstract concepts of democracy and the arty farty issues that appeal to the intellectuals and well-educated (probably western-educated)

Tine No 2 - the Karpal Singh type and his fearless fight for the people’s rights. His most notable record was his defence of a 14-year old boy who was to be hung for unwittingly carrying a firearm in a paper bag. The Lion of Gelugor is certainly the Khalsa warrior.

Lim Guan Eng would be another DAP warrior for his fight on moral and legal issues for an underage Malay girl. For that, he ended up in prison, and not because of a power struggle for his own position & interest.

Now the first and second prongs are merely KT's arbitary divisioning for ease of discussions when there is of course no such delineated divisions. Those guys may move from one area of issues to the other easily. But it serves to highlight their differences with the third and fairly important area.

Tine No 3 - the Lee Lam Thye type who deals with mundane issues like hawkers licence, electricity or water for those without, city hall’s regulations or harassment for the small business.

Little drops of water
Little grains of sand
Make a mighty ocean
And a very big land

More Lee Lam Thye’s are what the DAP seems to be lacking for a while. I said ‘… seems to be …’ because if the DAP have been addressing these street level issues for the common people since Lee Lam Thye left, I haven’t heard enough of them.

By contrast, look at the MCA – sneered at by most of us as fat cat sycophants polishing UMNO’s whatever for business benefits. Yes, the MCA is a party of businessmen but that’s no more different than many parties in the West. It’s actually not a crime to support or be pro-big business except perhaps in Malaysia, where there is a perception (and rightfully so) of dodgy association and dodgy deals.

But leaving that aside, what can the MCA boast?

Well, it has Michael Chong who’s doing what Lee Lam Thye used to do for the DAP. And of course the Star would make sure those are highly publicised. It can always fall back on its (a bit dated by now) argument that it secured for many Chinese their citizenship, and it does have a number of little projects going on for the community. The Chinese silent majority sees that. But are they satisfied with them?

The answer has to be ‘yes’ and ‘no’. I’m going to make this short because I don’t want to over-promote the MCA – my piece is more for the opposition DAP.

The Chinese Malaysians are certainly fed up with the government and UMNO’s excesses and stuff like the NEP. But they are a pragmatic people, understanding the political situation they’re in. Thus they want basically three things from the government: Education, economy (3 bowls of rice!) and crime (no one wants their mum, sis or daughter robbed or raped). Which is more important? I honestly can’t tell.

And education needn’t necessarily be limited to vernacular education. What the Chinese want is quality education, not the half past six variety.

I have blogged so often about how UMNO’s (including that of one particular former UMNO Education Minister) messing around with national education like a political football, have driven the Chinese into the arms of the vernacular education circle. Here’s what I commented with a visitor in one of my earlier postings.

And with the Chinese, vernacular school today is really BIG, because education has been one of the central pillars of Chinese culture for more than a couple of thousand years, and the only dependable decent primary education of some standards in the eyes of most Chinese parents are the Chinese medium primary schools - even the non-Chinese parents have recognise this.

So it’s not so much of Chinese language education but more of an acceptable educational standards that the Chinese want.

The DAP should think about these 3 issues and discuss them in a multi-ethnic dimension. And please try not to bring out solutions that focus just around the non-Malays.

It should also deal more at the working blokes’ level (3 bowls of rice!) rather than worrying about restricting the BN to less than 2/3 majority – while the latter is important, its (or rather Lim Kit Siang’s) obsession with this issue may gradually estranged the community.

The other issue is that the DAP has been tagged as an anti-Melayu party. That's hardly surprising when Malays aren't expected to be all that crazy about a party that calls for meritocracy rather than affirmative action.

Apa itu 'meritocracy'? What's that? As far as the majority of the Malays see it, it's exactly what UMNO has been warning them about the DAP - an anti-Melayu Chinese party.

Mind you, some Chinese support the DAP precisely because of that. Even Anwar Ibrahim has borrowed the DAP mantra, obviously to win support from the Chinese – what he (Anwar) says when Chinese are not around is anybody’s guess.

The DAP must rethink its strategy. Its Malaysian Malaysia is not working, no, not with the Malays. The DAP must understand and deal with the Malay fear. How it tackles this reality will depend on and be a reflection of its leadership, vision and courage.

Now, please don’t argue that’s exactly what the DAP did in 1999 and recently in Ijok – that’s about Lim KS’s magic 2/3, and not about the Malay fear.

And while we're at it, the DAP should carefully rethink whether it's in its own interest to be so close with the PKR. In the same way UMNO is the single greatest undermining factor and thus the real 'enemy' for the MCA, the PKR will be exactly that for the DAP, especially come the next election. There cannot be two Chinese tigers on one opposition mountain

I’ll stop here and continue some other time.


  1. "restricting the BN to less than 2/3 majority"

    Personally, I think DAP+PKR coalition obtaining >46% popular vote on their own (and PAS obtaining close to nothing) sends a strong message; it's not undoable considering most of the country's population is in urban centers now.

  2. dear KTemoc,

    Been lurking your blog for almost a year now. just wanted to drop by and say the DAP analysis post-ijok was spot-on. Most people prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't.

    The opposition has not come up with a a viable position on how they might govern if they win. It's really difficult to take them seriously when they don't take themselves seriously.

    The D.A.P really need to pull up their socks and become a viable alternative to the B.N. They can't just yell Malaysian Malaysia and expect the votes to roll in by magic.They need an inclusive strategy that is a real alternative for any kind of chance in the future.

  3. I agree with you the key DAP weakness but I am not sure I agree with you on a few other points

    1) Its true that Chinese vernacular schools issue is about quality education first and foremost but the added dimension now is that many Chinese see Chinese education as a right toward what will be a huge economic factor of China. Even highly anglicized and westernized Chinese parents in international schools and in US and Australia make their Children take Chinese lessons now.

    2) Why is having two lions on the mountain not a good thing? The more lions roaring, the louder the noise. You can still be different and have the same roar. I don't agree.