Saturday, January 16, 2016

It takes more than just candidates to become a multi-racial party 

Salleh Said Keruak 

The current discussion in the social media is about DAP not being able to attract enough Malay support. The discussion is centred on DAP fielding more Malay candidates in the next general election, especially in those seats that PAS currently ‘owns’. Of course, they mean the seats that PAS owns in the urban or ‘mixed’ areas and not seats in the Malay heartland, where the voters are 90% or more Malay and therefore where DAP would not stand a chance of winning. 

The late MGG Pillai used to say that Umno is a Malay party. PAS is also a Malay party. PKR, however, is a Malay-based multi-racial party. The reason Pillai said that PKR is a Malay-based multi-racial party is because the bulk of its membership and support base is Malay even though its leaders and the candidates in the election are not. 

DAP also claims it is a multi-racial party. But then it is a Chinese-based multi-racial party and whether it can legitimately claim to be a true Malaysian party (meaning not Chinese-based) is a matter that is still open for discussion because of the lack of a strong presence of Malays in the party. 

Umno can field Christian candidates in Sabah or PAS field Hindu candidates in Kedah but that does not take away the fact that Umno and PAS are still Malay parties. In that same context just because DAP fields a few Malay candidates in the next general election that, too, does not take away the fact that DAP is a Chinese party. 

And that was why the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein formed Barisan Nasional more than 40 years ago. Other than Umno, we had MCA, which is a Chinese party, and MIC, which is an Indian party. And then we had Gerakan, PPP, etc., which are multi-racial parties although they were Chinese- or Indian-based respectively. And to be able to come out with a true non-race-based Malaysian party it was necessary to form a new multi-racial coalition. And that is what Barisan Nasional is. 

Umno does not claim it is not a Malay party, just like MCA and MIC do not claim they are not Chinese or Indian parties. But for Umno, MCA and MIC to agree to form a coalition party with about ten other parties demonstrates that what used to be called the Alliance Party wanted to give birth to a party or coalition that is none racial in nature. 

DAP would have to do more to shed its Chinese image than just field a handful of Malay candidates in the election. The make-up of its leadership plus its support based needs to reflect its claims. Malaysia is demographically 60% Bumiputera with about 50% or so Malays. So unless the support base of any party reflects this it cannot yet claim to be a party for all Malaysians.

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