DAP maintains its founding principles

DAP 13 th National Conference
by Kerk Kim Hock

(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday):  Sixteen months ago on 18and 19 of August 2001, we had gathered here to deliberate on the question of the DAPís membership in the Barisan Alternative (BA) due to the Islamic State controversy between DAP and Pas. A mandate was given by the Congress for the new Central Executive Committee to take all necessary final decisions without having to refer back to the Congress.

DAP was willing to take all political risks to help form a coalition which would be a political vehicle to bring about political change in Malaysia. Despite having suffered our second consecutive electoral debacle in the 1999 general election due to the Islamic state factor, we remained committed to the BA----- a political attempt to rally all Malaysians regardless of race and religions to fight for the common cause of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

However, when it was no longer tenable for the DAP to stay on, the Central Executive Committee made the decision to quit the BA on 22.9.2001.

This shows we are a party of principles. We did not quit because of fear of losing votes, but because we must maintain our principles. We must not betray our supporters.

As we meet here today, let us reiterate that the DAP cannot and will not compromise our founding principles that Malaysia shall remain a secular and democratic nation.

Although the question of the DAP returning to the BA does not arise anymore, we pledge our preparedness to carry out seat negotiations with all Opposition parties to ensure that the Opposition will be able to take on the BN in one to one fights in the next general election.

Factors influencing the date of next general election

After announcing his retirement date, it is only logical that the Prime Ministerís successor Datuk Abdullah Badawi be given the chance to lead the next general election so as to provide him with the opportunity to seek the necessary mandate for himself and his new policies.

However, there is now increasing speculation that the Prime Minister may do the illogical and dissolve the Parliament before October 31, this year.

With the increasing inter and intra BN component parties disputes becoming more intensified, there is now strong expectation within the BN circle for the Prime Minster to personally lead the next electoral battle before he retires so as to enhance the BNís chances of a landslide win.

The other factor, which may influence the Prime Minister to dissolve the Parliament either in May or July this year, is to seek a mandate for the continuation of his twilight policies, which he has laid the foundations.

Since announcing the date of his retirement, the Prime Minister has been trying to implement or rectify policies, in a period of 16 months, which have failed or which he has not carried out for the last 20 over years. He has been pushing through his twilight policies or set the foundations of such policies.

The three trump cards of the BN

In the coming general election, there are three trump cards that the BN will definitely exploit.

The September 11 incident has changed many things in the world. In Malaysia, the impacts on the voters are two aspects:

It has created a general sense of uncertainty where there is the general sense of fear about what could happen tomorrow e.g. will there be another bombing incident?
It has created a general sense of fear where the people fear anything they perceive, whether real or unreal, as extreme, violent or militant.

The past election tactic of BN in appealing for voters to vote for stability, certainty and strength will now come in the form of terror.

Seizing the voters mood of fearing what they feel or perceive as militant and extreme, BN will exploit the religious card by calling on the voters to vote for the moderate BN coalition and its moderate Islam In fact, MCA President who has s supported the BN Ďs Islamic state declaration and coined the oxymoron that that Malaysia is a secular Islamic state, has described Pas as the Taliban of Malaysia.

The third card, which perhaps will be the most powerful, is the gratitude card where BN leaders will call on the people to support the BN as a way of showing their gratitude to the Prime Minister fro his contribution to the nation.

What is the DAPís trump card. We believe the people possess the sense of justice. We believe the people want development and appreciate development, but they also want fairness. We believe they have values, principles and souls. We are going to fight on values, principles and souls.

Gearing up for the battle

Undoubtedly, the next general election is going to be the toughest electoral battle in the DAPís history. It will also be the dirtiest in the nationís electoral history. We must therefore immediately gear up for the election, which can be held even as early as May or July this year.

In preparing for the election, we need to learn from past lessons. Every lesson must be learned.

Past weaknesses must be improved. Mistakes must be rectified. Internal party disputes and problems must be solved or their impact reduced.

In the face of the toughest general election, all leaders and members must put Party interest above everything and display the highest degree of party unity and discipline.

Party Reform Ė the process continues

Despite the fact that the BN leaders think that they are born to rule, there is no divine right for any political party to rule. Likewise, there is no divine right for any political party to exist. This includes the DAP.

All parties must always keep with the times and modernise to be relevant to the new era and the changed political landscape.

Political deaths can come in many forms. The DAP can die of old age if our old supporters become older and older while the young people are not supporting us at the rate their parents did.

We can also die if our struggle is not relevant to the era and the people. Parties of irrelevance can survive with lofty ideals but they cannot win elections.

Hence, the DAP must continue its Reform process to remain young and relevant. No matter how difficult the reform is or no mater how long the process will take, we must be determined to continue the process.

Change has its doubt and enemies. Change has its resistance to and change is not without pain. Change can have failures and delays too. But what is important is to know that we cannot rely on the past to fight the future battle.

As someone once said, if you dislike new ideas, you have grown old. But if you curse new ideas, you are finished. We can remain young if we have more dreams than memories. We can remain young if we modernise. We can remain young if we change.

We must always propel the Party forward to make it a vibrant, dynamic, relevant and forever young Party.

I am glad that the Central Executive Committee has adopted my term limit proposal for the office of the secretary general. This is not to change for popularity or media reporting. Neither is it a change aimed at any individual but it is a change which will act as a catalyst for more changes which are necessary for DAPís survival and development.

We have carried out some changes and completed our rethinking of policies. But there are more to be done. We should move in the direction of more changes, some of which are óthe direct election of key officials, the opening up of the Party Congress, the creation of a transparent branch candidate preselection system, the introduction of the Friends of the DAP Clubs nationwide, the set up of DAP Clubs in overseas universities, the efforts to make branches as local centers of influence,

We are as determined as before

We are gathered here today knowing fully conscious of the fact that it was about eight months ago when the Prime Minister announced that the Opposition would suffer humiliating defeat in the next general election.

We admit that there are worrying signs for the Opposition. We know that the BN is set to wipe out the DAP.

The BN has tried to wipe us out for the last here decades but they have failed. In the face of such formidable challenge, we are not retreating but we are going to immediately gear up for the next general election to face the toughest electoral battle in our Partyís history.

In fact, despite all the unfavorable signs and worries and all the odds we know we are going to face, we are as determined as before . This is simply because, we love Malaysia, and we want to make this a better and fairer nation for al. We want to save Malaysia.

We have fought eight elections and we have had our successes and failures, joys and sorrows. One thing that is constant is our determination to fight against all odds to realise our vision of a secular, democratic, united, progressive and tolerant Malaysia where justice, fairness and equality will prevail.

We were not wiped out but we successfully halted the BN Ďs assimilation policy. Today, we are determined to fight another major battle. Nothing is more important in the next general election than for the DAP and the voters to send a clear message to the BN government that Malaysia must remain a secular and democratic Malaysia.

DAP must therefore not only win, we must win big, and emerge as the largest parliamentary Opposition party so as to send the clear message..

I call on Party leaders and members, young and old, and Party veterans to participate in this historic battle and make the DAP again the natural hope and automatic choice of the voters.


* Kerk Kim Hock, DAP Secretary General