DAP’s historic Bagan by-election victory on 9th September 1995 was the first salvo of a new crusade to uphold democracy, justice and integrity in Malaysia after the worst DAP electoral defeat in the 1995 general elections.
The Bagan by-election was held when the DAP was at the lowest ebb in its 30-year history, when the prospect, whether for democracy or DAP was never so bleak in the aftermath of the April 1995 general elections, as the DAP was not only virtually wiped out in the Penang state assemby elections apart from the sole survival of the lone DAP Assemblywoman for Batu Lancang, Chong Eng but nationwide, the DAP suffered our worst defeat in party history.
The unprecedented DAP victory in the Bagan by-election, where Lim Hock Seng won with a majority 100 times that of the late Sdr. P. Patto less than five months earlier in the general elections, not only gave the DAP a new lease of life but democracy in Malaysia a new hope.
The significance of the Bagan by-election was that the DAP made it very clear that the electoral contest was solely about democracy, that the Barisan Nasional’s choice between development or democracy was a false one as the people not only wanted development but also democracy.
This is why Bagan has won for itself the appellation of "Bandar Democracy" for it was the people of Bagan, during democracy’s darkest hour in the country’s recent history, who spoke loud and clear for democracy!
Last September, when we celebrated the first anniversary of the historic Bagan by-election victory, we also celebrated a new milestone in the new crusade to uphold democracy, justice and integrity in Malaysia – another DAP historic victory in winning three constituencies in the Sarawak state general elections, the first breakthrough in 18 years.
Tonight, when we gather to celebrate the second anniversary of the Bagan by-election victory, we also celebrate another new milestone – the Richter 6 political earthquake created by the people of Teluk Intan to "write history, create miracle" in the Teluk Intan by-election on May 17, effecting an awesome 16,884-vote turn-around by not only wiping out the 13,968-vote Barisan Nasional majority in the general elections but giving S. Kulasegaran a 2,916-vote majority to be the new DAP MP for the constituency.
Just like Bagan won for herself the appellation of "Bandar Democracy", Teluk Intan has taken the crusade to uphold democracy, justice and integrity a step further to demand a halt to outrageous erosion of the many fundamental rights and principles in our country – and thus won the appellation of "Defend Constitution Town".
The battle to uphold democracy, justice and integrity, however, is not over just because of the these three DAP political milestones of Bagan by-election, Sarawak state assembly breakthrough and the Teluk Intan by-election. In fact, we are still in a very preliminary stage of the battle.
With its unprecedented landslide victory in the 1995 general elections, gaining virtually nine-tenth majority control of Parliament with the return of Semangat 46 to UMNO, the ruling coalition does not feel threatened at all and is not minded to listen or respond to people’s messages in the Bagan by-election, the Sarawak state general elections and the Teluk Intan by-election.
This is why, for instance, the government has not given any serious response whether to the demand of the people of Bagan that they want both democracy and development, or the people of Teluk Intan, entrenched in the famous Teluk Intan 20-Points for a free, fair, just and prosperous Malaysia.
It was the people of Teluk Intan who, in the by-election, placed corruption at the very top of the national agenda, demanding that Malaysia should have the national target to be among the 10 least corrupt nations in the world with a new culture of integrity in politics and public life with zero tolerance for corruption.
For a while, the Teluk Intan call for a corruption-free Malaysia seemed to get some response from the government but unfortunately, the weak responses to declare an all-out war against corruption could not be sustained and has fizzled out altogether.
There are those who believe that the next general elections will be a "walk-over" for the DAP going by our three political breakthroughs in Bagan, Sarawak and Teluk Intan – and that there is no need for the DAP to do very much, but just to wait for the "durian" to fall on its lap.
This will be the DAP’s fatal mistake if DAP leaders, members and supporters succumb to this belief that victories and gains in the next general elections are just waiting for them to collect, without having to put in any work.
DAP leaders, members and supporters must realise that the world has changed radically since the party’s establishment 31 years ago, that DAP must not be seen to be a party to restore the past but one to chart out the future, that DAP of yesteryear cannot meet the aspirations of the new young generations and that the DAP must make itself relevant to the needs and dreams of Malaysians in the new millennium by remaking ourselves into a New DAP.
This is the new challenge of the party leadership and membership – whether we can collectively create a New DAP, comprised of veterans and new blood – to meet the challenges of the new era, to make the DAP the automatic hope of the new generation of Malaysians for a better tomorrow as the DAP had been such a beacon to the young generation in the first three decades of the DAP.