DAP needs give-and-take to move past race barriers, says party’s sole elected Malay official

Ketari assemblyman Young Syefura Othman speaks to Malay Mail during an interview on May 17, 2022 . — Picture by Choo Choy May
Ketari assemblyman Young Syefura Othman speaks to Malay Mail during an interview on May 17, 2022 . — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — New DAP central executive committee member Young Syefura Othman said party members both old and new must compromise with one another if it is to overcome its reputation as race chauvinists.

In a recent interview with Malay Mail, the Ketari assemblyman nicknamed Rara acknowledged there were some in the party, particularly at the grassroots levels, that were “taking their time” to embrace DAP’s newer approaches, such as pushing to include more Malays.

“Maybe they feel that DAP is for minorities. It is also true that the old DAP used to focus on representing the working class and those that were discriminated against. Now as we have become more open, maybe they have difficulty accepting it,” she said.

“What is good for us (those wanting to make changes) to do is to accept these members’ stance, but at the same time we need to make the changes, and we need to show them the benefits these changes can bring to the party.

“I hope these (opposing) members can understand the principles being brought forward by the party. For me, these changes are better for DAP,” she said.

Young Syefura stressed, however, that she personally experienced being well accepted within the party despite her ethnicity.

Officially, DAP is a multiracial party but its overwhelmingly Chinese membership and leadership meant the party remains seen as a representative of the community. This view is reinforced by its tendency to be a foil to MCA, the Chinese-only party of the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Following efforts to reform this Chinese-first image, DAP has been contending with growing pushback from core supporters of the community in recent years, notably since the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government in 2020.

In the party’s latest elections, Young Syefura was the only Malay leader to be elected into its CEC, with former members such as Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji and Zairil Khir Johari failing to secure the votes needed for automatic spots.

However, Tengku Zulpri was eventually co-opted into the committee, along with Syahredzan Johan, the political secretary of party veteran Lim Kit Siang.

When asked how DAP might improve its appeal to the Malay community, Young Syefura said that DAP has been doing well in urban areas but now needs to increase its outreach to outskirt areas.

According to her, it was a matter of putting in the time and service to win over the community that has long been taught to fear DAP by Malay parties such as Umno and PAS.

“Yes, people will say that Malays don’t like DAP, or anti-DAP. But I believe if you frequently go down to your (Malay) area, speak to them, help them even if it’s a little, ask how they are doing; in the long run their perception will change.

“And this is what I did in my area (Ketari). My area has a Felda statement, which people would say is hardcore Umno. I was afraid of their perception of me, a Malay woman from DAP.

“But as time went by I constantly mingled with them, and every time there was a natural disaster I made sure I was the first person there, no matter how many times there were floods, I would arrive early and be there; and they saw this and accepted me well.

“This is what I think DAP representatives need to do. Even if at the start they will only look at you from afar, but as time goes by they will be sitting beside you,” she said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.