JUNE 24 — Dear Lim Guan Eng,
Peace be with you.
Let me state my position very clearly. I am a centrist. I do not work for Barisan Nasional or Pakatan Rakyat. I do not belong to any political party. I am a rakyat. I am a voter. I vote for the best person for my constituency, not which party the candidate is from.
I firmly believe that what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong, no matter who does it. I care about unity and work to promote unity. I will render my service to any party that will work for unity.
I am one of those people who were glad to see the growing co-operation between the DAP and PAS. I see it as the best gift March ‘08 has given to our nation. When two Malaysian blocs who have avoided each other for decades can now sit down together and share a meal, it is reason to celebrate.
I am glad that the DAP is looking forward to become more multiracial in its membership. If you and the DAP are serious about this, we may have an alternative to race-based politics. I would like to share with you some ideas on how the DAP can make it happen.
1. Openly acknowledge that we were sired from a Malay polity
Without an iota of doubt, make it clear that you completely accept history that this country is sired from a Malay polity; with a history, religion and way of life that are from the Malay-Islamic tradition. Only when you make it very clear that you acknowledge this history, communication lines will begin to open.
2. Appreciate that the Malays shared the land
Generally, the Malays are a gracious people. They are more inclined towards giving than taking. They showed this when they agreed to share Tanah Melayu. They see it as a sacrifice. You must learn to understand why they feel that way.
They agreed that from 1957 onwards the communities who came here initially to earn a living were automatically promoted from “immigrants” to co-owners of the land. They welcomed millions as fellow citizens. By doing so, the Malays agreed to become a community among communities. All they asked was to be assured of two things — that their Malay Rulers and that their religion Islam are respected.
A show of appreciation for this act of sharing will make a big difference to the Malay community. If you and the DAP set the example to appreciate that the Malays shared the land, the hearts of the Malay community will open to you. Just a simple acknowledgement, a simple thank you, would have warmed their hearts.
3. Get to know the Malays
You and the DAP need to get to know the Malays and get to know Islam. Embrace both the good and bad within the Malay community. Learn to accept their idiosyncrasies, just like there are idiosyncrasies in any other culture.
If the DAP really wants to represent all Malaysians, regardless of race and religion, you need to understand all Malaysians. And the Malays need to know that you understand them. Fifty-four years after agreeing to become a community among communities, they are naturally concerned that those in authority are people who will not understand their needs.
The best way to become familiar with the Malay worldview is to experience Malay-ness. Practise Malay adat and encourage DAP leaders and members to do the same.
As a basic start, it would be good to learn and practise Malay peribahasa. Peribahasa has been a part of Malay culture for many generations and it reveals many insights into the values of the Malays. If you use it in your daily conversation, it will give you a medium to gently communicate with the hearts of the Malays. Another simple thing to cultivate is the habit of wearing traditional Malay wear, especially during official functions. Perhaps you can also organise programmes for your leaders to stay in a Malay kamping. It will be a good eye-opener for them to understand how to relate to the Malays.
If the DAP practises simple gestures like this, it is an opportunity to show that you respect and value Malay culture. It will demonstrate the DAP’s inclusiveness. A good example of inclusive culture is shown in the Peranakan community who draw from both Malay and Chinese traditions. By being inclusive, they do not lose out anything but become a richer people for it.
4. Say sorry
Some of the DAP’s actions in the past, rightly or wrongly, may have hurt the Malay community. For the Malays to stop seeing the DAP as an antagonist, the DAP has to acknowledge the hurt they have caused the Malays and say sorry. If you look at the practice of asking for forgiveness every Aidilfitri, you will realise how important this act is to the culture. The Malays will say sorry even if they did not do wrong. They will ask for forgiveness simply as a good gesture out of respect. They say sorry all the time. That is embedded in the Malay culture. The Chinese may see saying sorry as “losing face” but for the Malays, saying sorry it is to give the other party “face” — an act of high culture.
Sometimes, to achieve bigger purposes we know that we have to humble ourselves and take the wiser path. In this spirit, I suggest that you apologise for the chauvinistic actions the DAP has taken in the past. For example, the DAP’s attempt to forge a “Malaysian Malaysia” in the way of making the Malay culture and all cultures of Malaysia equal. That is wrong to our history. They are inconsistent with the DAP’s objectives as an inclusive Malaysian party.
Once you say sorry, it will not be difficult for the Malays to forgive and to forget. It is part of the Islamic principles that are ingrained in the Malay worldview. Prophet Muhammad also showed the example of a forgiving spirit. The Quran in 8:61 commands: “But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and (put your) trust in God.”
5. Lim Kit Siang must retire
If the DAP is serious about being a multiracial party, it needs to re-brand public perception towards it. There must be fresh leadership so that the DAP is no longer judged based on past actions. The old must make way for the young.
I acknowledge that Lim Kit Siang, in his many years of service, has made tremendous contribution. He has done well as an opposition leader. His background research has given us the precedence that we can now build on as we move forward. But it is time to move on.
As long as Lim Kit Siang remains in power directly or indirectly, I feel that the DAP will continue to be perceived as a Chinese-exclusive party. Detractors will use his past actions as a scapegoat to disrupt the DAP’s multiracial aims. This is why I believe that it is good time for Lim Kit Siang to pass the baton to new leaders.
The government should bestow him at least a Tan Sri-ship and he should accept it with open heart from a Malaysian royalty.
6. Be willing to lose out a considerable portion of the Chinese voter base
I am glad that in terms of theory and constitution, the DAP welcomes all as equal members regardless of race and religion. But to really have this in practice, the DAP has to be prepared to lose out the portion of the Chinese voter base who wishes to remain exclusive.
The DAP can be a positive alternative to race-based political parties. To do this you need to let it be known that the DAP is serious about being inclusive to all. Make it clear to the rakyat that you are willing to give up ties with the chauvinistic Chinese, and all Malaysians will feel assured that you will fairly represent all.
7. Merge the DAP and PKR
The fastest way for the DAP to be a formidable alternative to race-based politics is to merge with PKR. Once you do that, automatically you become a multiracial body — a truly Malaysian party.
Let us be honest with ourselves. The loose coalition of the DAP, PKR and PAS seems similar to the BN formula of Umno, the MCA and MIC. Before long, the rakyat will begin to see you as a copy of BN.
The real issue that needs to be solved here is trust among leaders. When it comes to the membership, the majority will follow the leaders. If you and the DAP leadership make a clear stand to merge with PKR, the majority will follow suit.
It is time to put aside internal struggles. Whoever becomes the leader is secondary to the point that once the DAP and PKR merge, immediately you will be in a better position to be an alternative to BN’s race-based formula.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.