Straying from reform path cost DAP support, says ex-Johor chief

DAP stalwart Dr Boo Cheng Hau says the party made a blunder by allowing PPBM to join PH and dominate the narratives.

PETALING JAYA: A DAP stalwart has criticised the party for its alleged lack of determination to stay on the reform path, saying the price has been a loss of support.

Dr Boo Cheng Hau, a former Johor DAP chief, told FMT he believed the party had lost support among both Malays and non-Malays, especially after the 14th general election.

“I would say we made a blunder of a golden opportunity to reform by allowing PPBM to join PH (Pakatan Harapan) and letting PPBM dominate the narratives,” he said. “It cost not only our Malay bases but also non-Malay bases.”

He said the party’s support among the Malays should have risen after it became part of the administration because it had ceased to become taboo, especially among Malays in urban and semi-urban areas, to back the party even as far back as during the campaign for the 12th general election.

However, some young party leaders were caught in a siege mentality and it made them believe DAP could not gain Malay support. This had “cost the party a great deal”, he said.

Former Johor DAP chief Dr Boo Cheng Hau.

Boo also spoke of the party being weakened by “unnecessary inflammatory issues” such as the PH government’s plan to introduce Jawi calligraphy in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus which, he said, was exploited by PAS and Umno to demonise DAP.

On the possibility that loss of support had also been caused by controversial statements from the likes of “Superman” Hew Kuan Yau, he said the top leadership should have made the party’s official stand clear and should have prevented such figures from going on DAP’s campaign trail.

“It is sad that we have not made the organisation of the party and its campaigns more professional like a true government or government in waiting,” he said.

Boo said polarised approaches to please various racial groups backfired after PH won the election.

A party insider who asked not to be named disagreed, saying Malay support for DAP had been unchanged.

“DAP hasn’t lost its appeal,” she told FMT. “It’s still pretty much the same and may have even increased since the change of government from PH to Perikatan Nasional.”

However, the source also spoke of a recent amplification of attempts by “desperate politicians struggling for power” to demonise the party.

She said social media had sped up the spread of slander and misinformation.

Boo said the way forward for the party was to set up political training schools to educate members and leaders to prepare for the future.

“We have to recruit Malay and non-Malay members, preferably with no previous partisan affiliation, who have shown an ideological inclination for a progressive and multicultural Malaysia,” he said.

He also said the party had to stop being on the offensive against its enemies and former allies, noting that some DAP leaders had shown that they lacked tact.

“That not only irks long-term political foes and former allies turned new foes but also the rank and file of DAP and PH,” he said.

Two political analysts said they believed there had been a drop in Malay support for DAP and they attributed this to Umno and PAS propaganda.

Azmi Hassan of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia said the demonisation increased in intensity after DAP became part of the government. Umno and PAS gave out the message that government policies had become friendlier towards the Chinese community, he said.

“And when the Malays seemingly did not benefit from the policies, it was easy to blame the DAP and former finance minister Lim Guan Eng even when the policies had nothing to do with the ministry,” he said.

Oh Ei Sun, a fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Umno and PAS had been successful in painting DAP as chauvinistic.

At the same time, he said, the Malay electorate had lately become more conservative and more attracted to PAS and Umno.

He noted that the combined popular support for PAS and Umno was 75% in the 2018 polls and said this showed DAP had not made much of an impression among Malay voters.

Malay support for DAP had “remained very small”, he added.

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