MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Selection of DAP polls candidates needs reform


From Kua Kia Soong

The ongoing wrangling between Lee Lam Thye and Lim Kit Siang over whether Lam Thye was given the signal to vacate his Bukit Bintang seat in 1990 is irresolvable simply because the method of selection of candidates all these years has been the sole prerogative of the secretary-general of the party.

The spat could have been avoided if there was democracy in the first place to allow the DAP Federal Territory committee itself to first decide on its candidates.

In my latest memoir, The Malaysian Dilemma, I shared my experience of DAP’s “dia mau kerusi” (he wants a seat) culture between 1990 and 1995 when I was in the party.

Apart from those who have political ambitions, no-hopers can stand to gain from being candidates just because of the generosity of donors who wanted to get rid of the Barisan Nasional (BN) government (if they are on the right side of the secretary-general). This “dia mau kerusi” culture has become routine as part of DAP’s culture.

While the secretary-general talked about party reforms in the 1990s, these reforms did not extend to structural reforms which could ensure greater democracy in the selection procedure for candidates, one that would replace the pattern of selection where the power rests solely in the hands of the secretary-general.

At the same time, in the 1990s, the protracted problems of factionalism in Perak, the Federal Territory, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Melaka and Johor were never brought into the open to be resolved.

The secretary-general’s solution to these factional problems was to maintain a “balance of power”. He had developed this strategy into a fine art in the various states under his patronage system.

There is little evidence today that these factional problems have been solved. On the contrary, recent battles between the so-called “Chinese chauvinists” and the “Great Lovers”, and with unhappy leaders announcing that they are stepping down in the coming general election (GE15), it seems such problems continue to thrive within the party culture.

In my memoir, I also wrote about the “little revolution” we (the civil rights activists) created at the central executive committee (CEC) meeting in 1993 when we called for democratic election of office bearers, instead of these posts being unilaterally announced by the secretary-general after the party elections.

We were told that this was the way things had always been done in DAP.

This election of committee posts was already practised in our branches and the Selangor state committee. Thus, there was no reason why it could not be practised in the highest decision-making body of DAP.

This simple proposal to have basic democracy in the CEC was received by the stalwarts in the party as if it was an attempted coup d’etat or revolution.

There were a few weak protests about how we were rocking the boat (of traditions), but we knew that no one in a party that champions democracy could disagree with our proposal.

The party stalwarts were not pleased at all with this “little revolution”. It was the beginning of the “cold treatment” by the secretary-general’s faithful against us, the civil rights activists.

Nevertheless, I also pointed out in my memoir that on the eve of the 1995 elections, it was not the right time to explain to the people our misgivings about the party.

If we had decided not to stand in the 1995 general election, the adverse publicity for DAP would have been unimaginable. We did not want to repeat what Lam Thye did just before the 1990 general election (in quitting the party).

As it happened, I never expected that my candidacy at the 1995 general election would be sabotaged by a DAP cadre.

My nomination form witness, Richard Yap, a long-time DAP member, omitted to sign one of the triplicate forms and was also missing during nomination day itself, a strange coincidence indeed.

The DAP leadership knew about this but did nothing to stop their keyboard warriors from spreading the lie that “a PhD holder” didn’t know how to fill the nomination forms.

Yap was later given a state seat in Ampang Jaya to contest in the general election of 1999. The rest is history. - FMT

Kua Kia Soong is a human rights defender and a former MP.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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