Datuk Mohd Ariff Sabri Abdul Aziz does an admirable job of selling the DAP.
He marvels at the way 38 of his party men won their parliamentary seats with sparse resources; he calls his colleagues the most well-prepared team in the House; he says that he feels nothing but comfort with this group who fight for good government and good governance.
"They are committed and dedicated, and I never feel infringed or overwhelmed by the Chinese nature of DAP. I feel very comfortable being in their environment and they have never stopped me from speaking out about Malay issues," Mohd Ariff told The Malaysian Insider in an interview.
Now comes the hard part for the former Umno state assemblyman who contested and won the Raub parliamentary seat in the white of DAP: help the party officials convince more Malays across the country that the party of Lim Kit Siang, Karpal Singh, Lim Guan Eng are not the ogres or threat to their political power as sketched by Umno leaders, most recently former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"We have to destroy the myth that DAP is bad for the Malays. We are not out to grab political power despite what Mahathir is asserting.
"Even if all the Chinese were to unite under one banner, it is mathematically impossible, they would only form 24 percent, and Mahathir knows this," said the ardent blogger who goes with the nom de guerre Sakmongkol AK47.
In an opinion piece in the New Straits Times, Dr Mahathir said that the DAP had persuaded the Chinese voters to reject the concept of power sharing and make a grab for political power. The former prime minister was slammed for his skewed view and reminded that Malays, Chinese and Indians supported Pakatan Rakyat in GE13.
Mohd Ariff recognises the scaremongering tactic and knows that it is targeted at mainly rural folk. His job was to convince Malays that reassertion of rights and privileges would not solve their poverty and economic woes, which can only be addressed by a good government with good policies.
"After 55 years of Umno rule, the Malays are still lagging behind. Compare that with the fact that almost all who hold positions of power are Malays.
"To me this shows that they are only helping the privileged Malays," he said, adding that corruption, nepotism and cronyism, which he said was part of Umno’s political DNA, convinced him to leave Umno in January last year and become one of a sprinkling of Malays in the DAP.
He knows that persuading the Malays that the DAP is not to be feared will not be a walk in the park but facing tough challenges does not give him wobbly knees.
A one-term state assemblyman in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s constituency between 2004-2008, he spent the last few years in political wilderness.
He became a blogger and found a following with his biting commentaries on politics, especially on the shenanigans within Umno.
In late 2011, his articles caught the eye of DAP’s national organising secretary Anthony Loke. A series of meetings followed and on January 8 2012, Mohd Ariff and a fellow blogger Aspan Alias attended the DAP convention as observers.
Later that day, secretary general Lim Guan Eng told us he was going to make an announcement that we were joining the party. There were no promises of being given positions in the party or being fielded as a candidate in GE13.
But just before the elections on May 5, Mohd Ariff was given a letter, naming him as the DAP’s candidate for Raub, the seat owned by the MCA for decades.
Just a sparse letter from the party headquarters without any election funds enclosed.
“So its sendiri cari. Imagine all of us DAP candidates using our own resources to fight formidable enemies who have unlimited resources," he recalled.
He polled 23,415 votes against the 20,601 votes obtained by Barisan Nasional's Hoh Khai Mun.
"It was good timing for a Malay to be standing in Raub. The seat had been contested by a Chinese for over 40 years," he said, pointing out that Malays, who make up 49 percent of voters in the constituency, wanted a Malay representative.
In the interview with The Malaysian Insider, Mohd Ariff also spoke about:
- Najib and the coming Umno elections
Najib will face his toughest challenge as a leader in the coming Umno elections.
"The ground is clamouring for an assertive leader, which Najib is not. As a person, he is decent, I have benefitted from his personal kindness. But in terms of leadership, he does not possess Mahathir's critical thinking. Right or wrong, Mahathir decides, whereas Najib is indecisive, and reluctant to surround himself with good people," he added.
"Najib's philosophy is to keep close to him those who support him as Umno president, so that he can stay on as PM. This is wrong, selfish and not good for the country," he asserted.
- On future leaders of Malaysia
Mohd Ariff added that the future of the country belonged to the likes of Umno youth chief Khairy Jamaludin, and opposition MPs such as Rafizi Ramli, Dr Ong Kian Ming, Liew Chin Tong, Tony Pua and Anthony Loke, labelling them as change agents for a better Malaysia.
He, however, cautioned that Khairy's career in Umno politics could be shortlived, given that older politicians in Umno did not like him, because sometimes his views did not gel with those espoused by the ruling party. - July 31, 2013.