LETTER

Give DAP its due

Ivanhoe

Published
Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

As a non-party observer, I'd like to comment on Dr Kua Kia Soong's article 'Coalition politics for dummies' (Aug 13) in order to provide a wider perspective on the issues he brought up.

First, I feel that, far from being "opportunistic," DAP's push for the formation of the BA represents a courageous attempt to inject democratic politics into the country.

No country that calls itself democratic should be saddled with the same ruling party for over 40 years, especially when that party is as corrupt as the present one apparently is.

It is to offer the country an opportunity for better governance that DAP has worked so hard to help establish the Barisan Alternatif.

Secondly, I think it's incorrect to say that DAP had based its policies on what it thought the Chinese voter wanted. If that were so, DAP would not have taken the risk of agreeing to PAS' inclusion in the BA, for the party knew it would be difficult to wipe out the effects of the decades-old BN-inspired anti-Islam propaganda. That was why the party has conducted several inter-civilisational dialogues with PAS.

At the same time, like any other political party, DAP has to take into consideration the views and opinions of its constituencies. In raising the political consciousness of its supporters and at the same time seriously considering their sentiments, DAP has shown the hallmarks of a thoughtful and mature, political organisation.

Dr Kua also questions DAP's ideology - is it democratic socialism or 'Malaysian Malaysia'? As he well knows, 'Malaysian Malaysia' is not an ideology. It is, however, a component of DAP's democratic socialism ideal.

For the one basic feature of democratic socialism is inclusiveness: the slogan Malaysian Malaysia is predicated on the idea that everyone is an equal citizen, irrespective of race, religion, creed, or class.

In this context, it is incorrect to place the concept of Malaysian Malaysia in symmetrical terms with concepts such as PAS' Islamic state. The former merely exemplifies the larger concept of democratic socialism, whereas the latter represents the totalising concept of a theocratic state.

Qualitatively, Malaysian Malaysia or democratic socialism differs from all concepts based on a fixed all-encompassing ideal. In other words, while DAP's concept is based on respecting as much as possible an individual's right to free expression and beliefs, PAS' concept tends to restrict behaviour and beliefs within the boundaries of a theocratic state. The former is in accord with the realities of a multi-racial, multi-religious society whereas the latter tends to ignore such realities.

It is the BN-controlled media that have sought to give DAP-PAS differences a confrontational spin, for DAP has never asked PAS to give up its ideology. What DAP is asking, I think, is that PAS should not implement its beliefs in a way that disregards the realities of a multiracial multireligious society. That surely is a reasonable request.

It would be great if PAS were to focus on a more relevant Islamisation programme. Such a programme should not involve questions of form such as not selling alcohol or forbidding the establishment of casinos.

Rather, PAS should show its Islamic credentials by attacking in earnest all forms of corruption, nepotism, and cronyism.

PAS should focus on raising the living standards of the poorest sections of its community, devise ways to implement universal education, and fight racism whenever and wherever it occurs. This is the kind of Islamisation that will win PAS millions of new converts from all communities, and something that DAP can wholeheartedly support.

Regarding DAP's position on public demonstrations, the party's condemnation on the high-handed actions of the government in putting down demonstrators speak for itself.

What DAP suggests is that the ruling party cannot be defeated by mere demonstrations. In order to do that, it's necessary for BA to come up with a plan that would move the masses away from BN.

Today, BN is hurt but, with the advantages of incumbency, it still has a lot of life left. To give it the final pushover, BA must get down to brass tacks and offer the people a credible alternative.

Finally, regarding the recruitment of ex-DAP members, the question has less to do with freedom of association than with honouring an existing agreement between the BA component parties. Should the parties involved decide to allow such recruitment, then I don't think DAP would have any objection.