DAP must “Reform of Die” in facing the political challenges of the 21st century

When the DAP National Conference was held in June this year, it was after the party had suffered our worst general election defeat in our 29-year history and there was a bleak atmosphere of gloom

Six months later, at this DAP National Congress which has been brought forward one year earlier by the Central Executive Committee in accepting full collective responsibility for the disastrous April general election result and to allow the party delegates to elect a new party leadership, we meet under mixed feelings.

Firstly, there is the feeling sadness and pain, for we have lost one of our party stalwarts, P. Patto, a great DAP leader who had given his life to the cause of a Malaysian Malaysia.

Secondly, we also feel shock and outrage that a democratically elected DAP Member of Parliament for Bukit Bintang, Wee Choo Keong, had been most unjustly deprived of his constitutional right to his seat in Parliament and even more serious, the voters of Bukit Bintang had been deprived of their constitutional and fundamental right to elect the MP of their choice and a defeated MCA candidate, who had been decisively rejected by the voters in the April general election, had been foisted on the voters as their illegitimate MP for the next four years.

Thirdly, there is of course the feeling of joy at the great DAP victory in the Bagan by-election, which was caused by the untimely demise of P. Patto.

Six months ago, there was nation-wide disbelief, shock and trauma at the DAP’s disastrous general election result on the night of April 25. On September 9, there was also nation-wide disbelief, but this time accompanied by relief and joy, at the 11,802-vote majority won by Lim Hock Seng in the Bagan by-election, 100 times the DAP majority in April.

The DAP’s great by-election victory is not an excuse that there is no need for a three-year programme of party reform, revival and renewal but a catalyst to DAP leaders greater confidence to reinvent the DAP to meet the challenges of Malaysian politics in the 21st century.

The slogan of the DAP in the three-year party reform should be “Reform or Die”, for the DAP does not want to end up as a political dinosaur or political anachronism.

For 29 years, the DAP had played a seminal role in Malaysian nation-building, holding high the banner for a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation and fighting for democracy, human rights, justice, the rule of law, accountability and transparency – all the necessary prerequisites of a civil society!

One way of explaining the DAP’s disastrous results in the April genera election is that the DAP had been too successful in our advocacy for a Malaysian Malaysia.

In the sixties, seventies and early eighties, the DAP was the only political line of defence against extremist forces in power which had wanted to crete a “one language, one culture, on religion” Malaysia.

This was why in the seventies and eighties, there were disputes and controversies over the lion dance, Chinese character on signboards, the Bukit China in Malacca, Chinese primary schools, Chinese independent secondary schools, landing some DAP leaders – including myself – in detention under the Internal Security Act.

If not for the DAP’s unswerving stand in the defence of the principle and practice of multi-racialism, multi-lingualism and multi-culturalism in Malaysian over the decades, there would be no conditions for the government’s “Minor Liberalisation” on language, education and culture or scenario for the Malaysian economy to register over eight per cent growth consecutively for eight years.

However, the DAP must ensure that the factors for our success which enable the DAP to conduct a successful “holding operation” to create the conditions for “Minor Liberalisation” which the DAP wants to be followed up with “Full Liberalisation”, do not become the major source of our weakness where the DAP is regarded as having served its historic purpose and is “burnt-out”.

We must always be mindful however that Malaysia four years before the 21st century is very different from Malaysia in the early days of the DAP in the sixties and seventies.

There is a new generation of Malaysians who are post-Merdeka and post-NEP, and Malaysia – poised on the threshold of the 21st Century – posed different challenges as compared to the sixties and seventies.

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 natural “beacon of hope and inspiration” of the young generation of Malaysians in the 60s and 70s.

If the Information Technology is the wave of the future, for instance, the DAP must be in the very forefront f this new wave, or the DAP would be left behind by the tides of time and history.

If the DAP is t be source of inspiration of the new generation of Malaysians of the 21st century, the Party must be able to speak their language to tap into their innermost hopes and fears.

All over the world, countries and peoples are facing tough transitions, whether from communism to freer markets, from autocracy to greater democracy, or from an agricultural or/and industrial society to an information society, and success or 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.

In electing a new DAP leadership, the National Congress should give full mandate to the new Central Executive Committee to carry out as top priority of party agenda, a three-year party reform, renewal and rejuvenation programme focussed on:

• Re-thinking of party policies, strategies and approaches;
• Renewal of party leadership and membership;
• Talent-scout, nurture and develop and new generation of leaders to take over the future leadership and direction of DAP, including recruiting 800 young professionals and graduates to be the think-tank and the core of the future party leadership; and
• Re-inventing the DAP to be the beacon of hope and inspiration for all Malaysians regardless of race or religion in the 21st century.
• Spearheading the campaign for Full Liberalisation and Democratisation in Malaysia

Time for DAP to go beyond the “Malaysian Malaysia” objective in the new phase of our political struggle

The time has come for the DAP to go beyond the “Malaysian Malaysia” objective in the new phase of our political struggle.

Without the Malaysian Malaysia political struggle there would be no Minor Liberalisation” in language, education and culture or the conditions for economy buoyancy in the past eight years.

The DAP is not content with “Minor Liberalisation” and want a “Full Liberalisation” in nation-building policies for the 21st century.

However, we must recognise that the accent in the 21st century would be on how Malaysians, regardless of race, could position themselves at the cutting edge of technology to propel Malaysia into the information-intensive society.

DAP will continue to be the “Justice Pao” of Malaysia to uphold the rights of Malaysians to freedom, justice and fair play

DAP will continue to be the “Justice Pao” of Malaysia to uphold the rights of Malaysians to freedom, justice and fair play and be the voice of the people.

Justice Pao had three chopper to behead criminals – the “dragon chopper” for royalties, the “tiger chopper” for nobles and the “dog chopper” for the ordinary people.

The DAP has only the “people’s chopper” over the past three decades, and we will continue to cherish our role as the voice and mirror of the people whether in Parliament of outside.

In this connection, I wish to refer to the following issues to reflect the concern of ordinary Malaysians and to express the DAP’s stand:

DAP will vote against the new Education Bill 1995 if the legitimate suspicions and fears that it would have adverse effect on the position, development and future of Chinese education are not allayed

(1) The new Education Bill 1995: it is a matter of grave concern and regret that the Barisan Nasional Government could take eight years to formulate and finalise the new education bill as well as three other education legislation, but it is not prepared to give Parliament and the nation adequate time of at least two months to study, discuss and get public feedback.

Let me declare that the DAP will vote against the new Education Bill 1995 if the legitimate suspicions and fears that it would have adverse effect on the position, development and future of Chinese education are not allayed.

(2) The RM15 billion Bakun dam project: The DAP will formally take a stand to oppose the RM15 billion Bakun dam project if the Federal Government, the Sarawak State Government and Ekran Bhd continue to conspire to deny to Parliament and the nation basic information about the Bakun dam project.

Up to now, the DAP has not taken a position to oppose or support the Bakun dam project. Our stand is that Parliament and the nation are entitled to all available information about the Bakun dam project to enable them to make an informed decision.

However, if the authorities concerned continue to be obstructive in denying from Parliament and the nation all available information needed to make an intelligent stand on the Bakun dam project the DAP would have no choice but to take a public position to oppose the Bakun dam project on the basis that there must be something fishy or wrong about the Bakun dam project if the proponents of the dam are so secretive and shame-faced about making public all the available information of the project to the public.

(3) Call on Anwar Ibrahim to give Parliament a full account of Perwaja’s financial position, whether ad how it had accumulated losses frpm RM2 – RM3 billion and whether Halim Saad had been offered quid pro quo to “save” Perwaja in return for a hefty stake in Telekom Malaysia.

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The question of not whether Malaysia could become an Asian Internet centre, but whether the Malaysian Government is prepared to make a full commitment to ensure that Malaysia becomes a leader in the development of the Information Superhighway.

If the Government is serious about the importance of Information Technology (IT), it should immediately adopt the following measures:

– The government becomes a model user/customer of the information highway offering Malaysians a vast array of services. These would bring with them new opportunities for lifelong learning, more efficient and effective health care, greater access to information and one-stop shopping government information and wide range of information-based products and services;
– Giving university students throughout Malaysia access to the Internet to conduct research and collect up-to-the-minute information;
– Work towards the objective whereby all schools will have access to Internet; and
– Turning every house into a school house, having access to the world’s storehouse of knowledge and information through the computer.

(Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, at the 1995 DAP Party Congress held at Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, 11th November 1995)