DAP must “Reform or Die” to face the new political challenges of a 21st century Malaysia

Speech (Part 2) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, at the negri Sembilan DAP dinner held in Seremban on Sunday, November 5, 1995

DAP must “Reform or Die” to face the new political challenges of a 21st century Malaysia

The DAP must “Reform or Die” to face the new political challenges of a 21st century Malaysia.

DAP has not become an anachronism or the DAP would not have withstood the worst electoral debacle in the party history in the April general election, not only as the largest single opposition party in Parliament with the largest opposition national voter-support in the parliamentary elections, but to stage the fastest and greatest turn-around in the Bagan by-election, winning with a 11,802-vote majority – 100 times the DAP majority in the general election less than six months earlier.

The relevance and importance of the DAP in the Malaysian political scene could be seen by the fact that when the DAP suffered its worst electoral debacle in the April general elections, there was not only disbelief, shock and trauma among party leaders, members and supporters, but also disbelief, shock and trauma among the general electorate.

Less than six months later, on September 9, when the Bagan by-election result of a 11,802-vote majority was announced, there was again nation-wide disbelief, but this time not accompanied by shock and trauma but by relief and joy.

When I said that DAP must Reform or Die, I am not referring specifically to DAP’s dismal general election results in April. I have said that the reason for the Barisan Nasional’s landslide victory giving it a five-sixth parliamentary majority, and consequence, resulting in DAP’s worst general election result, is primarily because of national euphoria over a buoyant economy which had registered an eight per cent growth for seven consecutive years and the more open and liberal policies and measures on language, education and culture of Minor Liberalisation’ in the previous four years. Of course, we must not discount our many internal weaknesses and electoral mistakes in the last general election.

When I said the DAP must Reform or Die, I am referring more to a new generation as well as changed political situation in a Malaysia poised on the threshold of the 21st century, as compared to the early years of DAP’s political struggle, in the sixties and seventies.

DAP is party responsible for the emergence of this new political situation, as in the Minor Liberalisations’ in nation-building policies and measures with regard to language, education and culture – for the conditions for such Minor Liberalisation would be completely absent it the DAP had not raised the banner for a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia in the past three decades.

But we must ensure that the reasons for the DAP’s success, as in our contribution to make “Minor Liberalisations” possible, do not become our major source of weakness, where the DAP is regarded having served its historic purpose and is “burnt-out”.

In this changed political scenario, DAP must also be able to reform and reinvent itself to be able to capture the imagination of the young generation of Malaysians as representing their hopes and fears, in the way the DAP was the nature beacon of hope and inspiration of the young generation of Malaysians in the 60s and 70s.

All over the world, countries and peoples are facing tough transition, whether from communism to freer markets, from autocracy to greater democracy or from an agriculture or/and industrial society to an information society, and success of failure will depend on the ability to manage this change.

The same applies to the DAP. The DAP’s three-year Party Reform, Revival and Regeneration programme which is to be the party’s top agenda in the next three years will determine whether the DAP will be able to continue to be relevant to the nation-building process in Malaysia.

The DAP Central Executive Committee has adopted as one of the measures of the three-year party Reform a programme to recruit 800 young professionals and graduates into the party to play a full part in the process of rethinking of party policy, strategies and approaches as well as to provide the pool for the training and development of a new generation of leaders for the Party.

I know that there are some reservations about this programme inside the Party, but all party leaders must be agreed on the pivotal importance of this programme to ensure a successful party Renewal in the next three years.

DAP will set up an IT Department which will not only encourage party leaders and members but also the public to get on the internet.

Information Technology (IT) will be central not only to Malaysia’s prosperity and competitiveness to become a developed nation, but also in the DAP’s party reform and renewal.

According to an answer from the Minister for science, Technology and Environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding to my parliamentary question last Wednesday, as of October 30, 1995, there well 11,173 subscribers to Jaring who could get access to Internet, which would mean more than 30,000 Internet users.

In the past three months, the rate of increase of jarring Membership is 22 per cent per month, and it is estimated that Jaring would have more than 100,000 subscribers by the end of 1996, which would mean more than 300,000 Internet users in Malaysia.

A Jaring official told the Infotech Malaysia 95 Conference in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend that he expects jarring membership to increase to 600,000 by the year 1997 and that 10 per cent of the country’s population would be internet users by the year 2,000.

In view of the strategic importance of IT to Malaysia’s future, the DAP will set up an IT Department which will not only encourage Party leaders and members but also the public to get on the Internet and to make full use of the Information Highway.

There is an urgent need for the government to formulate a national Information Infrastructure (NII) policy to make Malaysia a leader in the development of the Information Superhighway.

For a start, all local university should be given access to Internet to conduct research and collect up-to-the-minute information.

Malaysia at present cannot claim to have an advanced information technology policy, when in our local universities, Malaysian students have virtually no access to Internet and could not explore the rich world of Information and knowledge available on the Information superhighway.

If Malaysia is to be a leader in the development of the Information Superhighway, we should reach a stage where all schools, every office and every home will have access to internet, where every house become a school house – having access to the world’s storehouse of knowledge and information through the computer.