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DAP yet to win war of perception

KUALA LUMPUR: In an ideal situation where policies are favoured above personalities, the only way to rise through the ranks is by proving one's worth and not relying on a sense of entitlement.

This may be the lesson which has escaped the radars of disgruntled DAP members who accused its leadership of being "anti-Malay" and "racist".

While the DAP has emerged "victorious" in what it claimed to be a battle with the Registrar of Societies, with a successful re-election of its central executive committee (CEC) members, there is still a long way to go before it can win the war of perception.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, in a rare show of humility, has admitted that the party will need more time to prove its multi-racial stand and the “new” line-up of CEC leaders must work hard towards securing more Malay support.

"No amount of racial sentiments can deny successes achieved based on merit and strong policies.

"If we [DAP] have a proven track record, then we can use it to convince the people of our worth," said the Penang chief minister.

Lim, however, also did not cease to remind critics that the feeling of "hatred" towards the DAP was one which has been allegedly perpetuated by Umno and Barisan Nasional – not a far-fetched statement if solely judged by the almost immediate outcry to the outcome of the CEC's re-election on Sept 29.

All 20 CEC leaders were returned to their positions by 1,725 delegates who voted at the special congress in Kuala Lumpur, a decision which "vindicated" the party of allegations that it had manipulated the outcomes of its December polls to elect Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari as a "token Malay leader".

Besides Zairil, seven other Malay leaders also contested for the 20 CEC seats, including Dr Ariffin Omar, who was later made one of the 10 appointed CEC members.

It is also worth noting that all the eight Malay leaders who contested, including Zairil, had received more votes this time around compared to during the December polls.

A need to reaffirm the decisions made in the name of party unity is a sentiment shared by delegates and leaders met by theantdaily during the special congress, silencing the minority voices who cried foul over the alleged "anti-Malay" stand adopted by the party.

DAP international secretary V Sivakumar said the party has never stopped any individuals from forming their own branches and building up a grassroots support base.

"I can have as many branches to support me. If I can't make it, then it is my own fault. If I am not elected [to the CEC], then it is my own failure [as a leader]," he said.

DAP disciplinary committee member Dr Tan Seng Giaw also noted that politics is about perception and that the party has been facing an uphill battle to shake off its "racist" tag.

"We must make everything we do non-racial [in order to succeed]," said the Kepong MP.

An integral part of winning the hearts of the people is through communication and when asked if a perceived weak command of the Malay language is a handicap for some DAP members, Tan stressed that a merits-based approach is the only way to resolve the matter.

"If equal opportunities are provided for based on merits, instead of race, under condition that one must be proficient in the national language, then the issue will not arise," he said.

Former DAP vice-chairman Zulkifli Mohd Noor, who is also a veteran party member, had led the voices of dissent against Lim for failing to field any Malay candidates in Penang, except Zairil (who was accused of being not an “original” Malay), during the 13th general election.

A delegate from Batu Gajah, Mat Husin Mohd Yusof, however, argued that in the context of a general election, the DAP is also working together with its Pakatan Rakyat allies who have a stronger hold on most Malay-majority seats.

Now that the DAP is ready to move forward towards the larger aim of taking over Putrajaya, any hopeful candidates should start working hard to prove their worth instead of raising a storm after they have missed the boat.

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