Sunday, 13 May 2012

Malay DAP member says party now more inclusive

DAP has adapted over the years to morph into a more inclusive party, cutting across the nation's racial lines, said the party today.

While it does not dispute having a Chinese majority membership, it has "evolved" over time to connect with a wider audience, shedding its Chinese chauvinist image, said Zairil Khir Johari, political secretary to DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.

He was discussing the online perception of the party and among the Malay community at a forum in Shah Alam yesterday.

Zairil Khir Johari (2)Zairil (right) added that several decades ago it did not even have the broad support of the Chinese, as it mostly championed "fringe" issues that did not resonate with the masses.

Now, however, their leaders are speaking in Malay at ceramah, attending buka puasa (breaking fast) events and affirming the federal constitution in the party's own charter.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, who was also a panellist at the event, recounted how the Penang state government has set aside RM500 for students who memorise the Quran.

Sneaky dig at hypocrisy

"When (chief minister) Lim Guan Eng was asked why they did this, he replied that students who hold onto Islam will not take to corruption," he said to laughter from the 100-strong crowd.

The forum, titled "Wacana Islam Melayu DAP" (A DAP Malay-Muslim Discourse) was held at the SUK building in Shah Alam.

The other panellists at the forum were Dr Maszlee Malik of the International Islamic University of Malaysia (UIAM) and Wan Saiful Wan Jan of libertarian think-tank Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas).

PAS can sympathise with the DAP's perception problems among the Malay community, as it had gone through the same struggle with the non-Muslims in the past.

Criticising the government for painting both parties as being at odds, Khalid said that they had instead moderated one another, thereby opening themselves to all Malaysians.

"We invite DAP representatives to buka puasa (breaking fast) events, and they invite us to speak to non-Muslim crowds," he added.

As a result, BN has pivoted to more extreme positions by "outsourcing" attacks against the two parties to groups like Perkasa,
he said.

Advice to avoid tempting bait

Wan Saiful Wan Jan (2)Wan Saiful (left) believes that both parties should rein in the urge to constantly respond to the racial questions posed to them, believing it risks "lowering" the parties.

"The question at hand is: Should we continue with this (racial politics) or move forward to talk about issues?" he posed to the audience.

He said the country should move to debating ideologies rather than posturing over racial issues, as part of the path towards becoming a developed nation.

Dr Maszlee, on the other hand, acknowledged that race was still a very current issue, emphasising the need for "engagement" among the communities to dispel misconceptions.

He highlighted what he called the "allergy" of some DAP leaders to issues relating to Malays or Islam, saying that they needed to tackle them head-on while respecting PAS' own stances.

"Let the issues be debated nationally, let the people decide," he said, though he admitted that the media may not be sufficiently free to facilitate such a discourse.

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