On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Pact could be a double-edged sword

DAP and PAS can present a powerful combination without
eating  into each other's turf. As
established parties, their leaders command a huge following.

Despite their complaints of alleged media blackouts, their prominence is
certainly due to continuous coverage by the local media  and not the occasional coverage by  the foreign media.

Their leaders are realistic  enough to
invite the local media to  all its press
conferences., even  when these opposition
leaders decide to deride their guests.

The cooperation between DAP  and PAS is a
sensitive issue to both  sides because it
can be a double edged sword.

It makes good political strategy  but at
the same time allows the  nemesis of the
two parties to attack  them.

There is no love lost between the  MCA
and DAP as both try to outdo  each other
to win the support of the  Chinese electorate.

As much as it tries to project itself as a multi-racial party, the  DAP is predominantly-Chinese in  membership.

PAS, on the other hand, is rural based and boasts strong backing in  the east coast. It now hopes to bank  on the resentment among Malay  voters over the sacking of Datuk  Seri Anwar Ibrahim to gain electoral

Following Anwar's ouster, both  parties
have worked on the question of democracy, human rights  and justice with other parties and  NGOs.

DAP leaders have also appeared  at PAS
ceramahs at their Gombak  headquarters
and in other states.

That has been enough for Barisan Nasional leaders, especially  those from MCA, to challenge the  DAP on its stand regarding the setting up of
an Islamic state  an  ultimate objective of PAS.

The apology by DAP deputy  chairman
Karpal Singh over his  “over my dead
body'' remark in the  1990 general
election, and subsequently front-paged in Harakah,  did not help clear the confusion.

But in all fairness to DAP secretary-general Lim Kit Siang, he has  reiterated several times that the  party is against the setting up of an  Islamic state.

It must be pointed out that he has  also
said that the DAP will not have  any
electoral pact with PAS in the  next
general election.

Lim is well aware of the sentiments of party members and the  community on the issue. That, perhaps,
explains why the party leadership is agitated over the constant  demand by the MCA for an explanation on its
cooperation with PAS.

MCA leaders are now claiming  that the
DAP is evading the issue  by attacking
the performance of  party president Datuk
Seri Dr Ling  Liong Sik as Transport

They have also questioned why  Karpal
Singh should make the apology, asking whether it was aimed  at appeasing PAS supporters.

On Friday, Lim said that he  would
convene a meeting of political parties, NGOs and prominent  Malaysians on March 16 to examine and study
the threat of a purported biased mass media to democracy.

The press, he said, had attempted  to use
the issue of Islamic state and 
misrepresent the DAP's stand on 
the Islamic issue.

The DAP leadership should not  blame the
press, which is merely  reporting
statements by Barisan  leaders
challenging the DAP to explain the status of its cooperation  with PAS.

The party cannot claim there is a  media
blackout if its rebuttals have  no direct
relevance to the original  issue.

Malaysians can judge for themselves the merits of the case by  reading the full transcript of statements
issued by the party on its 

Whether the issue has been ignored by the press or not, the subject is likely
to surface during the  election

Barisan and the DAP should cut  their
rhetoric, press intimidation  and
name-calling over the “opposition pact'' issue. Malaysians are  more interested in the substance of  the argument.

One way out for the DAP is perhaps to cut all linkages with PAS  and to concentrate only on HAK  and Adil.

The Islamic state issue aside, the  DAP
has also put to test its decision  to
support the reformasi campaign.

Chinese-based Barisan component leaders seem convinced that  Chinese voters are not as passionate as their
Malay brethren on the  Anwar issue.

Some have even said that the reformasi movement, especially with  its demonstrations in the early  stages, were equated, rightly or  wrongly, with the protests in Indonesia which
led to racial riots.

They argued that the Chinese  voters have
a phobia about luan  (chaos) and that
their concern  would be political and
economic  stability.

The DAP protest against toll  rates was
more practical as the  matter had direct
impact on people's pockets, which explained why 
the MCA and Gerakan joined in the 

Cooperation with groups supporting the reformasi issue is another  double-edged sword for the DAP.

The move may win the support of 
liberals, particularly the English educated urban middle class, but  among the Chinese grassroots, the  scenario is less clear.

Still, Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah  Wan
Ismail is convinced that the  support
from the Chinese is there,  saying the
community had given  her family “quiet
but firm moral  support in this critical
time of trial  and tribulation.''

The DAP is also sure that any  form of
injustice and the lack of  transparency
will be sufficient to  generate protest
votes at the polls.

It also hopes to get the support of  the
voters by highlighting the imprisonment of Kota Melaka MP  Lim Guan Eng.

In the spirit of Gong Xi Fa Cai, 
Malaysian Chinese politicians must 
remember that they can disagree 
on many issues but they must never be personal in their

If Barisan leaders must tolerate 
dissent, oppositionists, who make a 
career attacking the government, 
must sportingly accept the knocks 
when their turn comes. That's democracy.