By Syed Jaymal Zahiid
KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — The idea of real cooperation between PAS and the DAP seemed absurd just months ago given their ideological differences but they have been working to win popular support while ally PKR trips over sniping party rebels.
Leaders from the staunchly Islamist and secular parties have been working together in earnest to dispel the “chauvinist” label stuck on the DAP through a vigorous ceramah campaign on a daily basis across the nation.
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng squeezed time from his punishing schedule as Penang Chief Minister to make an overnight speaking tour in the Malay heartland of Terengganu last Tuesday to counter claims that he is “anti-Islam”
PAS leaders say Guan Eng was well received and greeted by the mainly Malay crowd in what appears to be a symbolic acknowledgment that the chauvinist tag given to the DAP by its rivals Umno cuts no ice with the community.
“It will help address that,” DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang replied when asked if ceramahs will be effective in quelling the anti-Malay label stuck on his party.
Both parties’ ally PKR in the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) have also joined the ceramah circuit but has held its own “Save Malaysia” road-show to stem the fallout from four lawmakers who turned independent and to explain the latest sodomy charge against its de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“This is to flesh out that Pakatan Rakyat are forging a more cohesive and active coalition,” Kit Siang told The Malaysian Insider in a brief interview.
What the Ipoh Timur MP is saying is significant considering the idea that PAS and his party are still ideologically worlds apart after a previous alliance but are now working in a new bloc aspiring to take over Putrajaya.
Any sign of strong and deep ties between a “Chinese party” and not just a “Malay party but Islamic” one as well will only work to their advantage in reinforcing the perception that the DAP has accepted the constitutional clarions that recognise Islam as the nation’s official religion, Malay rights and the indomitable position of the Malay Rulers.
“This is what the public perceive, that the DAP is against what is provided in the Federal Constitution, that they are against Malay rights, against Islam as the official religion, against the position of the Malay Rulers when in fact, the DAP have actually accepted all
this,” said PAS central working committee member Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa.
The Parit Buntar MP said holding ceramah together is one of the effective ways to help send the message to the Malay public that if DAP and PAS can stand on the same ceramah stage together, it can also stand hand-in-hand together ideologically.
Umno have been relentless in its attack against the DAP especially towards Guan Eng’s fledgling Penang government and PAS, being its ally, have suffered as the collateral damage.
Umno’s mouthpiece Utusan Malaysia have been used to paint the DAP as a “Chinese chauvinist regime” and a grim future for the Malays of Penang and the country should the DAP take over, claiming that the majority race will be “marginalised in its own country”.
PAS on the other hand, has been portrayed as a traitor to Islam for endorsing the DAP by working together with them.
But for leaders from both parties, the more intense the assault is on them, the stronger they become.
“Actually, PAS and the DAP forged stronger ties after the Barisan Nasional coup in Perak,” revealed Bukit Bendera DAP MP Liew Chin Tong.
PAS have been actively inviting the DAP to its ceramah events, said Liew, and their relations had grown stronger in the recent four months.
“On the ground, our leaders have been received well by the Malay audience courtesy of PAS so yes I am confident that it can help us gain Malay support,” Liew told The Malaysian Insider.
The predominantly Chinese party, however, have been struggling to translate the growing support into membership.
It had made it a point in the party’s last annual general assembly to beef up efforts to increase Malay membership and is now publishing a Malay edition of its Rocket party organ.
But the DAP knows the way to win more support among the majority Malay population is through ceramahs and a stronger working relationship with PAS which has a better ground network than any other party in the opposition pact.
That means seeing more DAP leaders speak in rural areas, leaving the comfort of their dinner campaigns in the city as they attempt to widen their appeal.