What is DAP’s political strategy?

Malays and Chinese appear to have reacted differently to Namewee’s just released movie Nasi Lemak 2.0.

Popular Malay comedian Afdlin Shauki who stars in the movie received a lot of flak for appearing with the Chinese Namewee (full name Wee Meng Chee), so much so that the former has had to make a public statement explaining his decision to fans.

The Utusan Malaysia newspaper carried an article where the writer Fauziah Arof declared she still has issues with Namewee and would refuse to watch his film even if given a free ticket. Or in other words, the problem for Malays is not the product (the film) but the producer (Namewee who scripted and directed it).

A controversy magnet, Namewee has also at the same time attracted the anticipated brickbats and belligerent threats from the usual suspects, i.e. the Malay ultras such as PERKASA.

It strikes me that Namewee expresses himself in both his controversial 2007 video clip Negarakuku (singing the national anthem) and his 2011 movie in a Chinese way you will not encounter from the likes of DAP 2.0’s newly minted currency – called the Hasnah Yeop political coin.

The label ‘Hasnah Yeop’ describes the federal opposition Democratic Action Party ethnic Chinese politicians, who like chameleons, put on a fake skin to woo the crucial Malay votes.

Caring for the Chinese? Nah

Namewee’s ambivalence about his place under the Malaysian sun is genuine of the generally conflicted Chinese here rather than the one-dimensionality of the DAP political gimmickry and their “I’m-more-Malaysian-than anyone else” chest-thumping.

Truth hurts and Namewee –– being neither a DAP politician nor wily old fox — went on and blurted out the Chinese groupthink. Thus the Malays, in 2007 when Namewee was still an undergrad in Taiwan, got an unvarnished earful of what the Chinese really, really thought.

This same forthrightness cannot today be expected of the DAP as butter won’t melt in their mouth — willing to do anything as they are to win over the Malay electorate.

Hence the DAP does not find it politically advantageous to take up ‘Chinese’ issues such as vernacular education, schools and scholarships but instead bends over backwards to accommodate the Malays, if only for the short-term until the much anticipated general election is held.

In Penang which DAP controls, its chief minister Lim Guan Eng takes so much pride in awarding ‘bumiputera’ (ethnic Malay) contractors 98 percent to 100 percent of the state tenders and this is quoting the Guan Eng’s own boast. Such a state policy shuts out the other races from economic benefits, especially the disadvantaged minority Indians.

Rhetorically speaking too, DAP should have no issues either if 98%-100% of local varsity places were to go to bumiputera given its behaviour over the tendered contracts.

Youths – the biggest voter pool

If they register as voters and take themselves to the polling stations on D-Day, the young will decide surely the next election. Young people tend to be anti-establishment by nature. Not only the Chinese but disaffected Malay youths are rebellious as well. Here is where Namewee steps into the picture. The younger generation can connect with him. He’s popular and has a huge fan base; his Facebook is ‘Liked’ by 623,869 users and counting. Which politician can summon a fraction of the interest or adulation that Namewee inspires? Hence if Namewee is willing to promote the 1Malaysia idea, then Barisan should by all means bring him on the bandwagon.

Crunching the numbers

According to the Statistics Department, Chinese are 24.6 percent of the Malaysian population.

The latest data from the 2010 census (conducted every 10 years) indicate a 22.2 percent segment of the population belonging to Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and other folk beliefs, or non-believers.

Chinese Christians are only a small percentage of the Christian population with the majority being native Sabahans and Sarawakians, and the Roman Catholic denomination comprising Eurasians and Indians.

Yet through the DAP the Chinese Christians are holding the reins of the non-Malay opposition and wielding power disproportionate to their numbers.

Betty Chew, James Ngeh Koo Ham, Nga Kor Ming, Teresa Kok, Chow Kon Yeow, Liew Chin Tong, Teo Nie Ching, Tony Puah, Hannah Yeoh, Edward Lee, Anthony Loke, Wong Ho Leng, Lim Lip Eng and Lim Jack Wong are among the better known DAP Parliamentarians and state representatives.

Although Lim Guan Eng is included by OHMSI’s Prayer Resource listing politicians who are Christians, his detractors have been waiting for him to convert to Islam since the sembahyang hajat done by his PAS admirers in Penang mosques, and especially if he harbours hopes of becoming the country’s first deputy prime minister should Pakatan take over.

Buddhist voices, those who believe in the Tao, followers of Confucianism, adherents of other traditional Chinese faith practices and the non-practising fringe are being drowned out by the aggressive DAP evangelical Christians who have hijacked the public domain.

The tyranny almost hearkens back to the British Raj example where the Colonial Office with its small handful of white officers managed to dominate the majority Hindus, Muslims, pagans and animists. The European colonialists exerted control at the barrel of the gun and aided by coercion, indoctrination, manipulation and deceit.

DAP is only missing the firearms.

Extrapolating Perak nationwide

Buddhists in Malaysia are not quarrelling with the Muslims. The next flashpoints lie along the Christian-Muslim axis with our communal tensions presently at a boil.

(Read, the Penang chief minister’s religious instigation urging everyone bar Malays to join in his DAP-Christian crusade against the Umno proxies.)

“It is time to restore order, calm and harmony in local politics” – words spoken by Penang Umno chief Zainal Abidin Osman but sounding more philosophically Chinese than the DAP Hasnah Yeops. The man is also suing Guan Eng.

You may ask what brought about the last straw that broke the camel’s back and snapped the patience of Guan Eng’s political foes?

“It is time to stop Lim’s hostile politics against Umno, Barisan Nasional and the federal government. His behaviour and slanders against us are unbecoming of a chief minister,” said Zainal Abidin. He is not the only one to note Guan Eng’s incessant hate mongering.

Penang Gerakan chief Dr Teng Hock Nan is another old hand who’s got the current chief minister sussed out:

“To those overcome by emotions, it is like Barisan did everything wrong for the last four decades. They get blinded because Lim [Guan Eng] feeds them with daily doses of hatred and at times, outright slander.”

Yet such is DAP’s butter-won’t-melt-in-mouth duplicity that the party is yet simultaneously trying to convince the Malays that its love for them is greater than the Arabian Sea.

Whose version?

There are two possible outcomes to which way the Malay votes may swing.

One scenario features a political landscape like Perak where the state government is comprised entirely of Umno, with only one MCA representative elected by the people. On the other hand, the bulk of the opposition there is Chinese. This is the realpolitik that DAP has glossed over.

PAS deputy president Mat Sabu – of the Pakatan Rakyat electoral pact comprising his Islamist party, DAP and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR (People’s Justice Party) – recently sparked a national debate on which is the more accurate historical narrative concerning the country’s Independence from the British in 1957. Similarly, who today is painting the real picture of the Chinese?

It might appear lopsided to be juxtaposing a political party with a sensational but single individual, Namewee – so unbalanced seems the scale.

Yet anyone who’s spent a little bit of time online or tried talking to a Penangite or a Chinese living in the urbanised Klang Valley would already have realised how entrenched the “anything but Umno (ABU) and bugger MCA” sentiments are. It’s become near impossible for anyone holding a neutral political stance to communicate with the fanatical hardcore oppositionists.

Namewee is a bright hope to make the breakthrough unless the Perak scenario is what UMNO ultimately prefers.

If the Malays do not want the racial polarisation reflected in the Perak government to be repeated, then cut Namewee some slack. He is one of the few with potential to breach the DAP Great Wall of China and reach Chinese minds and hearts which are closed seemingly beyond rationality.

Helen Ang is a researcher at a non-government policy research centre and blogs in Malay (and some English) at http://helenang.wordpress.com/. She has contributed political essays to the book compilations March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up; Religion Under Siege: Lina Joy, the Islamic State and Freedom of Faith; and Mahathir vs. Abdullah: Covert Wars & Challenged Legacies. The views expressed in this article are her own.

About Helen Ang, Guest Contributor