DAP is ‘down but not out’ in Peninsular Malaysia, and will undergo complete reform to learn from the lessons of the West Malaysia election defeat

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the reception to thank DAP workers and supporters in the Petaling constituency held at the Transport Workers’ Union Hall, Petaling Jaya, on Thursday, April 29, 1982 at 8pm

DAP is ‘down but not out’ in Peninsular Malaysia, and will undergo complete reform to learn from the lessons of the West Malaysia election defeat

I have just returned from Sarawak where the recently concluded Sarawak and Sabah general elections have elected DAP MPs for Kuching, Sibu and Sandakan, bringing the total Parliamentary strength to nine. This was also the DAP’s parliamentary result in the 1974 general elections, when the late Tun Razak capitalized on a pro-government swing and used the Mao Tse Tung strategy to try to crush the Opposition, in particular the DAP.

In this elections, the Mahathir government had picked leaf from the 1974 general elections, and adroitly made use of Tung Chiau Chung individuals to try to crush the DAP.

The Mahathir electoral strategy had worked successfully, with the DAP’s parliamentary and stgate assembly seats reduced drastically in West Malaysia.

The three major factors leading to DAP’s electoral defeats in West Malaysia were:

1. The politics of suppression of Opposition views and ideas, where under the most undemocratic election conditions, the DAP found it very difficult to get the party’s message across to the electorate. The Barisan Nasional government might as well had fixed the nomination and polling dates, and announce that between the nomination and polling dates, the Opposition could not say anything. There is of course this difference, that the Barisan Nasional could make use of the mass media, television and radio to carry out their propaganda campaign.

2. The politics of money, where the amount of money spent by the Barisan Nasional candidates reached the highest level in Malaysian electoral history.

3. The politics of ‘divide and rule’, where the Barisan Nasional made use of Tung Chiau Chung individuals to try to crush the DAP. Although the Tung Chiau Chung individuals contested under the Gerakan and Barisan ticket in Kepong and Tanjung, these Tung Chiau Chung individuals and their supporters deliberately and falsely twisted what was a battle between the DAP and Barisan, into a battle between the DAP and the Tung Chiau Chung. A lot of untruths were also said by Tung Chiau Chung individuals against the DAP leaders, in particular against myself, just to defend and justify their action.

In other areas throughout the country, the MCA and Gerakan also twisted and distorted the general election campaign issues by spreading the rumours that the DAP was fighting Tung Chiau Chung and was against Chinese education. For their own reasons, Tung Chiau Chung individuals lent credence to such a distortion throughout the country, causing confusion among the people. I would say that this played a significant role in the DAP electoral defeats in Peninsular Malaysia. In this context, the Barisan Nasional had achieved greater success during this general elections to make use of Tung Chiau Chung individuals to attack the DAP than the 1974 strategy to make use of Chairman Mao Tse Tung against the DAP.

There was a pro-government swing during the 1982 general elections, but if not for the above three factors, and in particular the third factor, the DAP should not have fared so badly.

Political scientists had long spoken of the five-year election cycle in Malaysia, where the 1959 general elections was pro-Opposition, followed by the 1964 general elections which swung back towards the government parties. In 1969 general elections, contested by the DAP for the first time, there was a big Opposition swing; which was followed by the 1974 general elections benefitting the ruling parties. The 1978 general elections was again an Opposition year, and now the 1982 general elections also saw a swing in favour of the ruling parties.

But we cannot just sit and wait for an Opposition swing in the next general elections, for the 1982 general elections have revealed serious weaknesses and shortcomings in the Party as a whole throughout the country.

The DAP is down but not out in Peninsular Malaysia, and our immediate and paramount task is to undertake a complete reform and overhaul of the Party to learn from the lessons of the Peninsular Malaysia election defeat.

The DAP Central Executive Committee will meet on Saturday and take the first step to completely reform the Party.

Although DAP leaders, members and supporters were shocked by the West Malaysia election results on April 22, we must not lose heart in our political struggle, for the peoples’ support for the DAP’s political struggle for a Malaysian Malaysia still enjoy tremendous support in the country.

Although we are sad by our Peninsular Malaysia losses, we must transform our sadness into resolve to work harder, to carry out a soul-searching review of the party’s weaknesses and faults, and to start, to rebuild the Party to meet the challenges of the 1980s and 1990s.

Sdr. P. Patto’s example should be followed by all party workers, for although the was defeated in Petaling, he went immediately to Sarawak to help out in the Sarawak elections campaign, despite the personal pain and shock over the Petaling defeat.

So long as we do not allow our fighting spirit and morals to be crushed, we can still work for a major breakthrough in the future.

While we are engaged in the next few weeks and months in a review and major reform of the party throughout the country, our political enemies will continue to try to capitalise on the situation to discredit the party and party leaders by getting their ‘cultural assassins’ to write slanted articles designed to undermine party morale and public confidence in the party. We must be vigilant against this form of enemy propaganda and campaign in the next few weeks and months.

I grieve at the loss of Petaling and the constituent state assembly seats, but to grieve alone is not going to change things. We must begin immediately in Petaling to work for the recapture of the Petaling parliamentary and the Petaling Jaya and Serdang state assembly seats, just as in other parliamentary and state assembly seats which we had lost, we must begin to work immediate for their restoration to the DAP.