The 16th DAP National Congress, held in Penang on 15th and 16th December 2012, is a manifestation of DAP’s preparedness to be a partner in federal power through the re-affirmation of the Middle Malaysia agenda.
DAP holds a congress once every three years but the 16th Congress, originally due to be held in August 2011, was postponed in anticipation of the 13th general election. “National Conferences” are held in the intervening years between two Congresses.
Since the Prime Minister Najib Razak could not make up his mind on when to dissolve Parliament, the DAP leadership decided to call the 16th Congress to elect a new team as well as to “rally the troops” for “the mother of all elections” which will be called in the next hundred days.
Looking back, DAP has “arrived” at the 16th Congress. Not only that the journey is not always smooth, it was long and winding.
The 15th Congress on 23rd and 24th August 2008 was of course held in jubilant mode after the successful electoral outing in the 2008 general election. But the DAP was at its lower ebbs in the three preceding Congresses. The 12th Congress in 23th August 1998 saw bitter contest launched by the KOKS (kick out Kit Siang) group. While Kit Siang prevailed, never had the party so divided. Lim Guan Eng lost his appeal at the federal court on 25th August and was sent to the Kajang prison. It was probably the saddest Congress in DAP’s history. The 13th Congress in August 2001 was held admist serious discussion on the the party’s future in the previous opposition coalition Barisan Alternatif. DAP eventually pulled out from BA on 22th September 2001. When the 14th Congress was held in September 2004 there was no Secretary-General as the incumbent Kerk Kim Hock lost in the 2004 general election in Kota Melaka.
This Congress saw the growth of the party’s strengths. Between 2008 and 2012, the party has doubled its membership from 84,000 to 150,000; branches from 311 to 1128; and delegates from 948 to 2576. Guan Eng was quick to stress that it is not the number of members that matters. It is our priciples, ideas and ideals that distinguishes us from Barisan Nasional.
More importantly, DAP is now a mainstream party that can no longer be forced back to a corner by its opponents as it used to be. DAP is now a party that represents Middle Malaysia. DAP has the larger ethnic Indian elected representation than MIC. The party has now developed a decent base among the Orang Asal in Sabah and Sarawak. And it is reaching out to urban Malays. DAP also aspires to be the party for the youth and women.
DAP and PAS used to be castigated as permanent opposition parties not given fair representation among the national audience and their resources being limited and constrained, and, worse still, presecuted. The parties were painted as extremists by Barisan Nasional – DAP the party that Malays must not vote for regardless of how bad BN is while PAS the non-Muslims must avoid at all cost. DAP was constrained in urban Chinese majority seats while PAS was limited in the Malay belt of Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan Terengganu.
This is no longer the case.
Barisan Nasional knows full well that apart from the challenges from Anwar Ibrahim and Parti KeADILan Rakyat, the day when non-Malays vote for PAS in full enthusiasm while Malay voters support DAP solidly in the context of Pakatan Rakyat, BN will sits in the opposition bench. While Barisan Nasional keeps vilifying DAP as anti-Malay and anti-Islam, we know what we aspire to be – a party that represents all Malaysians and for all.
Guan Eng ended his policy speech with a clarion call – that while the DAP is still the best opposition party with a track record, the party must gear up to be the part of a great government.