Two options before DAP - return to its traditional non-Malay and basically Chinese political niche or create a new Malaysian political movement for all races and religions

Media Release
by DAP Hqrs

(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): DAP National Chairman Lim Kit Siang said the DAP has two options after its pull-out from the Barisan Alternative - return to its traditional non-Malay and basically Chinese political niche or create a new Malaysian political movement for all races and religions

He said this in an interview with Eddin Khoo, editor of online Saksi in its November/December 2001 edition (

Asked what is the future role of DAP, Lim said there are two routes for the DAP to take after it has broken away from the Alternative Front: one is to go back to its traditional niche which is basically Chinese and non-Malay.

He said:

“Although the natural thinking is to feel that this is what we should be doing, we do not want all that we achieved in the past two, three years to go down the drain and go to waste.

“The DAP has reached out and it has been an exciting period for us. It has been an opportunity for Malaysians to see that the DAP is not a Chinese party in its concerns but is genuinely Malaysian in commitment and to realise that the propaganda against us (that DAP is anti-Malay and anti-Islam) were baseless. Our pullout of the BA should not change that perception. This is the second route.

“DAP has demonstrated that we are not anti-Malay or anti-Islam. We want to build on the position achieved over the past few years and play a role which is as close to what we have tried to do during this period. We should not think in terms of throwbacks to past roles but carve out new niches and spaces.”

Lim proposed five essential and fundamental issues at this stage of   the nation-building process to build a new Malaysia - a democratic, secular, multireligious, tolerant, progressive Malaysia - which are crucial and critical as the country faces a tectonic shift with the whole political thrust moving away from the 44-year focus to defend a democratic and secular nation to what kind of Islamic state Malaysia should become, whether Islamic State ala-UMNO or ala-PAS.
In the interview, which ranged from the DAP’s withdrawal from the Barisan Alternatif to the issue of the Islamic state, the future of the DAP and matters relating to the contemporary political climate in Malaysia, Lim was asked whether the Barisan Alternatif (BA) as a viable political alternative to the Barisan Nasional (BN) is dead?

Lim said that as a unified force, it has certainly been ruptured and it is back to the status quo ante before the formation of BA.  Whether the rupture could be repaired and a new basis found where Opposition parties   can co-operate on common issues will have to be seen.

He said:

“As far as the DAP is concerned we are open to co-operation with anybody - that goes for the BN as well - on issues where we can come together. In fact, we have done so before on the issue of French nuclear testing, for example, or broad questions concerning the rule of law. But where a unified opposition force, arrayed on the one hand against the BN, in the sense of the BA, I think for the moment this has been overtaken by events. There will have to be another format for co-operation. What that will be has to be worked out.”
On DAP’s pull-out from Barisan Alternative because of irreconcilable differences with PAS on the Islamic State issue, he disagreed with those who said that with the declaration by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad that Malaysia is already an Islamic State, the Islamic state question is no longer an issue and it should never have become a breaking-point between DAP and PAS in the BA.

Lim argued that on the contrary, the Islamic State issue has become even more urgent,   pertinent and   imperative.

He referred to the “somewhat anomalous situation” where the DAP and PAS find themselves on common ground in rejecting Mahathir’s contention that Malaysia is already an Islamic state but on totally diametrical grounds  - PAS’ claim that Malaysia is not an Islamic state because its law are not based on the syariah while the DAP ’s arguments are grounded on the 44-year constitution of Malaysia as a secular nation with Islam as the official religion.

In the interview, Lim explained the reasons why the DAP agreed to form the BA in 1999.

He said that over the past three decades the DAP had no relationships with PAS and both parties had kept their distance from each other to avoid being misunderstood by their separate grounds as well as allegations of “sell-out” by the ruling coalition.

A new political situation was created by the Anwar Ibrahim affair, which was the catalyst for an unprecedented political ferment in the country with a lot of political promise.

He said: “Like or not, in Malaysian politics, a substantial Malay component is needed in order to make a radical change. And we were seeing that component emerging for the first time although this was met by a lot of questioning among the non-Malays.”

Lim said a major factor in finally influencing the DAP to join in forming the BA was the need to ensure that the multi-ethnic, political counter to BN was viable; and to be viable it had to be Malay-led and that it should be Keadilan-led rather than PAS-led.

DAP felt at the time that if the BA was PAS-led it could not be viable, largely because of the Islamic state issue.

He said:

“So, the only party left was Keadilan. And at that time, as we all know, Keadilan was very new and PAS - it is open secret - had utter contempt or little respect for Keadilan.  Keadilan was bullied everywhere and we felt we ought to be there to shore them up, prop them up, in the hope that come 1999 they would emerge as a party successful enough to provide the leadership. Then, the BA would become a healthier alternative.

“That was a major factor why we felt we had to go in - in order to prop up and shore up Keadilan; but then the results proved otherwise and the whole idea did not take off because PAS became the dominant party, post election, and Keadilan ended up doing very poorly.

“Even then we tried to make a go at  it because there was  hope that the BA could still provide a new political alternative.

“There was the other reason why we entered the BA, because at that time, for the DAP, the question of capturing power did not arise. We were convinced that the  most feasible result  for the BA was  to remove the 2/3 majority, crush the political hegemony, crush the political forces and rearrange the entire political landscape which would be healthy for the whole country. Ours was a more modest target and objective when compared to those talking about forming the next government.”

Lim said that PAS was emboldened by being the main beneficiary of the BA arrangement to depart or deviate from the BA manifesto which committed all component parties to uphold the fundamental features of the constitution,which would preclude the establishment of an Islamic State.

On the DAP-PAS differences over the Islamic State, Lim said the basic issue is whether the PAS idea of an Islamic state is compatible with democracy, pluralism, human rights and women’s rights.

Lim said DAP could not get the PAS leaders to spell out the details of their concept of an Islamic state in the two years after the 1999 general elections. He referred to the recent Parliament speech of PAS President, Datuk Fadzil Noor mentioning Saudi Arabia as a model state for PAS’ concept of an Islamic State, and questioned its suitability for Malaysia as in Saudi Arabia, women cannot even drive and  there is amputation of limbs, secret trials and secret  executions.
Lim expressed shock that Malaysians are largely not aware of the tectonic shift in the political scenario where the 44-year constitutional principle of Malaysia as a democratic and secular nation has been jettisoned.

He said:

“But once you concede that Malaysia is an Islamic state - though the MCA tries to sugar-coat it on the ground by using the term ‘secular Islamic state’ which is unheard-of anywhere in the world as it is a contradiction of terms  - a most fundamental change has taken place and if it cannot be stopped the country will be in for a completely different and very trying times.”


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman