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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Jetting into the Malay psyche!


The DAP, which has seen little success in drawing Malays into its party, is banking on the newly-launched, a news portal in Bahasa Malaysia, to change the mind of the community.

THE DAP has always claimed to be a multi-racial party but has always struggled to win over Malays in any large numbers to its Malaysian Malaysia banner.

In the 1980s, it had a prominent Malay in the late Ahmad Nor, the Cuepacs president who was a firm believer in the party's struggles.

In recent times, the DAP has recruited the prominent Tunku Abdul Aziz, a co-founder of the Malaysian chapter of Transparency International, as its vice-chairman.

The party had hoped that more Malays would follow him.

His recruitment five months after the March 8, 2008 general election was hailed as the way to go for the multi-racial but Chinese-dominated DAP as it seeks to replace the MCA and Gerakan as the main contender for the support of the Chinese.

In peninsular Malaysia, the Tamil support for the DAP has also grown in the wake of the 2008 polls with the rise of Dr P. Ramasamy as the titular head of the Indian wing.

His elevation as Deputy Chief Minister of Penang, a first for Indians, was greeted with awe by the community that thus far had to be content with MIC president Datuk S. Samy Vellu as the sole minister in the Barisan Nasional government.

In Perak after 2008, another Indian was elevated to state assembly Speaker but Tronoh assemblyman V. Sivakumar's tenure of service was cut short by the defections of three state assemblymen two from PKR and one from DAP in February 2009 and the fall of the Pakatan Rakyat government. (That Speaker post was taken over by another Indian from Barisan, also for the first time in history).

However, after trying for about three years, Tunku Abdul Aziz announced last week that he had failed to recruit Malays to the DAP and that his presence in the party had not helped to win over the Malay grassroots in any appreciable number.

It was an honest admission that the party had failed to recruit Malays despite trying very hard.

The primary reason is that the DAP is seen by the Malays as a Chinese party, fighting for Chinese rights in a country dominated by Malays and is therefore to be avoided.

While Malays do want to interact with the DAP, they would rather do so as distinct members of the PKR or PAS and not as individuals or as members of the DAP.

Post-2008, the DAP's experience with Malays has changed dramatically with many opportunities opening up to understand Malay problems closely.

No longer is the DAP shunned or avoided by the Malays as a Chinese party.

In the Tenang by-election, the over- zealous DAP turned PAS candidate Normala Sudirman into a “Chinese empress” all decked out in traditional Chinese clothes so the Chinese voters there could accept her.

Umno must make up its mind on DAP's 'racism'

But the rapport with the Malays from these encounters is just not enough for the party which has grand visions of leading the democratic movement in the country.

The recent Sarawak elections showed that the DAP is a clear winner among the Pakatan Rakyat parties.

It also pointed to DAP being able to win over the urban masses of all races, not just in Sarawak but also in the peninsula and most likely in Sabah as well.

The Sarawak victory, however, showed its weaknesses as well it is an urban force and its failure to have a say over the vast rural reaches, which it surrendered to PKR, has come back to haunt it.

That is why party adviser Lim Kit Siang proposed a merger with SNAP to get at SNAP's rural connections although the party lost nearly all of its deposits in the Sarawak polls.

Still, the question remains: Why won't the Malays join the DAP? Is not the DAP also fighting for the same things that the Malays want?”

These questions have forced the DAP into a brand new strategy to win over the community.

By forming, helmed by editor Wan Hamidi Hamid, it hopes to reach out to the Malay grassroots. Its aim is to reach out to them by providing views that are distinct from PKR or PAS.

How well it does and how many Malays it can wean from Umno are all questions that only time will tell.

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For sure public advocacy is here to stay, jetting the Malay psyche!