(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The DAP Central Executive Committee at its meeting last night unanimously decided that the theme for the 12th DAP National Congress on August 22/23 is uniting the "old, middle and young" for a New DAP to deny the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority and create a New Malaysia where there is justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
In the past three months, following the national outrage at the injustice of the Lim Guan Eng case, which would be heard by the Federal Court on August 24, the national movement for Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance received tremendous support from Malaysians from all walks of life and strata of society, transcending racial, religious, linguistic and cultural barriers.
This has created a new political phenomenon which holds out a great promise of political change and maturity in Malaysia, where for the first time in Malaysian political history, the possibility of denying the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority in the next general elections is real and near. A New Malaysia is waiting to be born.
Although the DAP has emerged from the doldrums of 1995 and reached new heights never imagined it could achieve, which are some of the fruits from the party reform and renewal programme in the past three years, very much more could have been achieved if everyone in the Party had put their heart and soul into the programme.
Every political party has periodically to renew itself, to enable it to bring new life and new policies to the country as new times offer new challenges and that the DAP is no exception. The greatest challenge of the DAP is to create a New DAP, which can keep faith with the DAP heartland in the country in the past three decades and reach out to win the hearts and minds of new generations of Malaysians in the 21st century.
The 12th DAP National Congress will be asked to reaffirm the need for the party reform, renewal and rejuvenation programme to be given the fullest thrust to create a New DAP in the same way that the British Labour Party had successfully created a New Labour to win the last British general elections.
The creation of a New DAP would take years just as it took over a decade for the reinvention of New Labour before it won the last British general elections with a historic landslide victory, ending not only 18 years of Conservative rule, but achieving a 179-seat majority in the House of Commons, the largest any party had achieved in an election since 1935.
What is most unfortunate is that there are people who deliberately misconstrue and distort the meaning of a New DAP, alleging that it is an exercise to get rid of all the "old-guards" and replace them with young blood or even a sell-out of the DAP’s principles.
The DAP National Congress will make it very clear the call for a New DAP is not a rejection or repudiation of the DAP’s founding principles, struggle or history of the past 32 years. DAP remains inextricably wedded to the principles of social democracy to build a free, fair and just order - not only in Malaysia where all Malaysians could develop their potential to the fullest but also for an international civil society.
DAP leaders and members are rightly proud that in the darkest hours of Malaysian nationhood, the DAP had almost single-handedly kept alive the vision of a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia and the fundamental issue that nation-building policy should be one of integration rather than assimilation.
The country dissipated enormous amounts of national time, energies and attention in the sixties, seventies and eighties because of misguided nation-building policies aimed at assimilation rather than integration – such as the "One-Language One Culture" policy enunciated in the early eighties.
Many DAP leaders had to pay a heavy price in terms of loss of personal freedoms or being persecuted in the courts for courageously defending and upholding the rights of all races, languages, cultures and religions in a plural Malaysia.
As a result of the vision, commitment, foresight and sacrifices of DAP leaders, members and supporters, some light can now be seen at the end of the tunnel, when before there was absolute darkness. It is precisely because of the DAP’s political vision and tenacity that Malaysia’s multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious characteristics are the country’s greatest strengths that the country is a bit more prepared to face the challenges of globalisation and Information Technology.
The battle is not over however, as the "minor liberalisation" in language, education and culture is not adequate – for what Malaysia needs is a "Full Liberalisation" of nation-building policies to fully harness the diversity of the country to position Malaysia as one of the top-class nations in the world in the new millennium and "Full Democratisation" to allow the talents, skills and energies of Malaysians to reach their full potential for the larger good of Malaysia.
1998, however, is a very different world from 1966 when the party was first formed and the aspirations of the young generation of Malaysians in the sixties are very different from the aspirations of the present young generation.
Malaysia as a nation in 1998 is also faced with a completely different order of challenges from those of the sixties – and not just the twin currency and stock market crises, but also the uncharted territory of information technology, which is critical in determining the future success not only of individuals, groups, communities but also nations; affordable quality health care and improved educational standards; the elevation of the workers’ status in society; women’s rights and children’s rights; the new emphasis on environment where clean air, clean water and quality environment are moved from the periphery of public consciousness to become the national mainstream concern of all political parties; the battle for democratisation in Malaysia and ASEAN; the goal of a new political culture with zero tolerance for corruption; an independent judiciary; a vibrant civil society - all encapsulated in the battle-cry for "Justice, Freedom, Democracy and Good Governance".
Finally, the DAP National Congress would issue a call to all party leaders and members to give full support to the creation of a New DAP, as the ability to contribute to the party reform and renewal process to create a New DAP is not dependent on the question of age.
Whether a leader, veteran or young blood, can contribute to the party reform and renewal process is not dependent on his physical or party age but his political age and performance. In politics, the physically young can also be politically old while the physically old can be politically young.
In the process to create a New DAP, the party need the whole-hearted commitment of all party leaders, whether party veteran, ‘medium’ or "young-blood" - in another words, the unity of the "old, medium and young"! In fact, we would also welcome former party stalwarts who are no more active in the political scene to return and help in writing a new political chapter for DAP and Malaysian politics.