(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): I am distressed by the way the mass media, particularly certain newspapers, continue to perpetuate the image that there is no room for criticism, dissent and differences of opinion in the DAP.
The New Straits Times today, for instance, in its front-page report under the heading "Four Penang DAP leaders resign from party posts" said their resignation is "to show their dissatisfaction with the top leadership for disallowing dissent and differences of opinion".
In the last two days, the English and Bahasa Malaysia newspapers in two consecutive days reported on DAP National Deputy Chairman, Sdr. Karpal Singh warning of expulsions against certain Penang DAP leaders involved in the KOKS (Knock Out Kit Siang, Knock Out Karpal Singh) campaign, although Karpal had never said anything about expulsions and had immediately issued a statement of correction the next day.
There seems to be an agenda to perpetuate the impression in the mass media that there can be no room for criticism, dissent and differences of opinion in the DAP at the risk of expulsion.
I have spent 32 years of my life in Malaysian politics criticising the Barisan Nasional government leaders and policies, and I would make a complete mockery of what I had fought for over three decades for greater democratic spaces for Malaysians particularly in freedom of speech, expression, assembly, press and information, if I ever take the position that there is no room for criticism, differences of opinion and dissent inside DAP.
As an opposition party, the DAP cannot survive and grow for 32 years if criticism, differences of opinion and dissent are stifled inside the party.
There is even nothing wrong in a KOKS campaign, and if the majority of the delegates at the Party Congress on August 22 support the KOKS campaign that it is time for Kit Siang to be "knocked out", I accept such a verdict as the democratic wishes of the delegates.
If there is any proposal inside the CEC that those involved in the KOKS campaign should be subjected to discipline, I would be in the forefront objecting to any such suggestion. There is nothing wrong for the KOKS campaign to use the slogan "32 is Enough", although I find it most offensive and insulting to be compared to Suharto, who in 32 years became one of the richest billionaires in the world with a property estimated at US$16 billion. What have I got after 32 years? - Two terms of detention under the Internal Security Act, prosecution and conviction under the Official Secrets Act, among other trials and tribulations as an opposition leader.
However, what the DAP or no organisation can allow is the refusal of the leaders to accept the principle of collective leadership and responsibility. Just like the Cabinet, there can be the fullest divergence of views before a decision is taken, but when a decision is taken, all Cabinet Ministers must be prepared to accept the principle of collective leadership and responsibility or be faced with the prospect of being dismissed from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister. The same principle applies for the leadership of any human organisation, political party or otherwise.
I can accept the right of anyone in DAP to support or lead the KOKS campaign, to give reasons I should be "knocked out", for this is a democratic process we are committed to. But what no political party can accept are devious plots of lies and falsehoods carried out surreptitiously and underground to character-assassinate party leaders, causing dissension and disunity, at a time when the Party should be focussing all its energies and resources on creating a new political equation in Malaysia in the cause of justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.