DAP caught between rock and hard place in bid to shed anti-Malay tag, MP says

Ong claimed that even within the party, many members have been against the idea of increasing DAP’s Malay membership and this has created a conundrum for the Chinese-dominated party. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Ong claimed that even within the party, many members have been against the idea of increasing DAP’s Malay membership and this has created a conundrum for the Chinese-dominated party. — Picture by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, Jan 14 — DAP is struggling to ditch it’s “anti-Malay” image as it faces opposition both internally and externally to bringing in more Malay party members, a party lawmaker said last night.

Explaining at a forum here, Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming claimed that even within the party, many members have been against the idea of increasing DAP’s Malay membership and this has created a conundrum for the Chinese-dominated party.

“The dilemma is, there are many leaders who want DAP to add Malay and Bumiputera members from Sabah and Sarawak. It’s a good strategy to reduce the chauvinist views of the party. But when this was raised, members themselves were uneasy with the proposal that DAP wants 50 per cent to be Malays and Bumiputeras.

“We want to reduce that perception. We want to increase the membership but there is internal resistance,” he said during the Pakatan Harapan forum titled “Can the opposition party win the Malay votes during GE14?” last night.

He added that even the recent suggestion by its coalition partner Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) that DAP not field any Malay candidates in Johor due to their allegedly having a strong anti-Malay sentiment has created another hurdle.

“It’s an external dilemma that needs to be overcome if we want to win more Malay votes,” he said.

Ong added a warning that for the DAP to increase its support from the Malays, the party must lose its anti-Islam and anti-Malay labels and this meant that some crucial changes must be made.

“An easy example is when most of the publicity material is in one language, that’s Mandarin, Malays will lose confidence that DAP is party for all. But that's something we must change from within,” he said.

Last Saturday, Johor Amanah leader Zulkelfy Ahmad made the suggestion that DAP not field a Malay candidate after pointing out that many Malay voters in rural state constituencies still believed Umno’s claim of DAP being a party which was against Malay rights.

He claimed that Pakatan Harapan risked hurting its chances at winning seats in Johor, a Umno stronghold if it allowed DAP to field Malay candidates there.

At the same forum last night, PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli also admitted that the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat coalition had sidelined the issue of Malay rights in the past.

He vowed, however, that Pakatan Harapan would do better ahead of the coming election.

“It really is partly our failure to confront this issue. We cannot tiptoe about Malays being scared.. the Chinese have their concerns, the Indians have their concerns, Malays also have their concerns.

“That’s why I think in this coming year, if Pakatan Harapan manages to bring an agenda that answers the vision of how the welfare and the rights of the Malays can be further guaranteed by Pakatan Harapan, then their concerns of losing political power will be gone,” he said.

Without disclosing the details, Rafizi added Pakatan Harapan’s strategy to bring in more Malay voters would be to speak unanimously as a coalition without separately addressing their demographic according to race.

“We cannot divide it up, the Malays we give to Amanah, DAP take the Chinese and PKR go look for any of the cities. That cannot work.

“To tackle this all three parties must speak as one voice. It cannot come from PKR or Amanah it must come from Pakatan,” he said.