Formed in October 1965, Democratic Action Party (DAP) Malaysia was formally registered six months later on March 18, 1966 as a political party “irrevocably committed to the ideal of a free, democratic and socialist Malaysia, based on the principles of racial equality, social and economic justice, and founded on the institution of parliamentary democracy”. (SETAPAK DECLARATION, made in the first DAP National Congress in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur on July 29, 1967).
In August 1966, the official organ of the Party, the Rocket, made its inaugural appearance. DAP contested its first general election in 1969 and won 13 Parliamentary and 31 State Assembly seats, securing 11.9 per cent of the valid votes cast.
As a political party, it experienced its ups and downs in the various general elections contested between 1969 and 2018, including from securing only 9 Parliamentary and 11 State Assembly seats in the 1995 general election to capturing 42 Parliamentary and 99 State Assembly seats (or 106, by including results of the 2016 Sarawak State Election) in the 2018 general election.
From a small opposition party, DAP is now part of the new Pakatan Harapan Government that ended the reign of Barisan Nasional for the first time at Malaysia’s General Election on May 9, 2018.
Through thick and thin for over three decades, DAP has been second to none in the battle for democracy, justice, equality and a united multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia.
DAP leaders, members and supporters did not flinch when many of them had to pay a heavy price for their political beliefs, losing their personal liberties when detained without trial under the Internal Security Act, prosecuted, convicted and jailed on politically trumped-up charges or victimized in a large variety of ways.
In the 1999 general election, DAP teamed up with Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), Parti Keadilan Nasional (Keadilan) and Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) to form the Barisan Alternatif (BA) in an attempt to shatter the BN political hegemony, attributed to its undisrupted two-thirds parliamentary majority – the root cause of the BN’s political arrogance, undemocratic rule and repression of the fundamental rights of Malaysians.
Unfortunately, however, subsequent events that transpired, especially the insistence of PAS in forming an Islamic State – an idea deemed incompatible with the pluralistic nature of a Malaysian nation cherished by DAP – forced DAP to pull-out from the coalition two years later.
DAP remains unswerving in its commitment that Malaysia shall remain as a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation. DAP’s co-operation with the other three opposition parties was based on the BA common manifesto, “Towards A Just Malaysia” in order to break the BN’s political hegemony and smash the chains of repression fettering the rights and freedom of Malaysians and undermining justice, freedom, democracy and good governance. Once the common objectives of the BA coalition had been tainted by one component party’s insistence that the secular nature of this country should replaced with an Islamic one, it was no longer tenable for DAP to continue in the BA.
Nonetheless, the biggest challenge for Malaysia lies in the future and not in the past – to realise a Malaysian Malaysia where all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, can enjoy justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
In March 2008 general election, a new political scenario emerged in Malaysia with the unprecedented denial of two-thirds parliamentary majority of the Barisan Nasional and its loss of power in five states – Penang led by a DAP Chief Minister, Perak, Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan. This led to the formation of Pakatan Rakyat by the three opposition parties – DAP, PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (a merger between PKN and PRM) – which together totalled 82 of the 222 parliamentary seats to usher in a just, united and democratic Malaysia.
In May 2013 general election, the aim of defeating Barisan Nasional was almost achieved when Pakatan Rakyat won 52% of the popular votes, however the gerrymandering of the Parliamentary seats denied the opposition’s victory. DAP continued to improve its performance by garnering 38 Parliamentary and 99 State seats, helping the opposition to increase the number to 89 Parliamentary seats.
When PAS left Pakatan Rakyat, a new coalition was set up. The group that split form PAS formed Parti Amanah Negara to join forces with DAP and PKR, and the new breakaway party form UMNO led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. The new coalition is called Pakatan Harapan.
History was made in the 2018 general election. Barisan Nasional was ousted for the first time. Pakatan Harapan won 113 Parliamentary seats while Barisan Nasional managed only 79 seats.
Even when it is in power now, DAP will continue to retain its political commitment to bring about a fair, just, democratic and united Malaysia so that the country can rise up to the challenges of the information technology and globalisation era, and also the impact of Industrial Revolution 4.0, to take its rightful place in the international arena.