Cover Story, Interviews

DAP Then and Now: Interview with Fong Kui Lun

1) As DAP turns 45 this year, what is the party’s legacy?

DAP has performed its role well in upholding the constitution by protecting the rights of the various ethnic communities. While we have supported to upheld Bahasa Malaysia as the national language, we have also strived to protect the rights of the minority communities in learning their own language and practising of their cultures.

DAP has always emphasised that the multi-racial aspect of the Malaysian society is the strength of the country and should therefore be respected and protected. Even Tun Mahathir in 1996 when he was still the Prime Minister of Malaysia acknowledged to the Time magazine that “we now accept that this is a multi-racial country. We should strive to build bridges instead of trying to remove completely the barriers separating us.”

In addition, DAP has also performed its role as an effective opposition in checking the abuses of the Alliance and Barisan Nasional government from its inception. We have often raised issues that concern the well-being and welfare of the country and its people, forcing the government to remedy and act more justly to Malaysians.

2) Having being in politics in the 1970s and 1980s, what do you think of the political scenario today compare to those days?

Having being involved in DAP’s fourth by election in Serdang in 1969, I was privileged to witness the changes for political campaigning that has taken place through the years. The democratic contesting condition then was fairer and more even; political campaigning period was more than a month long and public rallies were allowed. We had more time to explain our party platforms and policies to the people. After the 1969, when the BN government began to tighten the noose on opposition parties’ campaigning space, our movement and effectiveness was more restricted.

Although today we have the Internet and alternative media and SMSes to help with transmitting information, their appeal is still mostly confined to the younger generation. The older folks would generally want their information from the ceramahs and rallies.

One thing that has not changed is the people’s willingness to contribute and sacrifice, be it in terms of financial aid or manual labour, for our party. They do this without expecting favours in return; it has remained the same through the years. It is reassuring to know we are still seen as fighting for the people and they genuinely identify with our struggle.

3) Are the DAP members today still fighting for the same founding values and principles that you joined DAP for?

Most of the party members are aware of the party’s struggle. However post March 2008, we have seen a huge influx of new members coming into the party. Some of these new members are still unfamiliar with the party’s principles. I think we need to conduct more indoctrination classes and courses for them. We need to embark on conducting these indoctrination classes in every area and constituency where we are represented for the new members.

4). Where does the future holds for the party for the next 45 years?

DAP’s unexpected success in forming state governments in Penang and Selangor in 2008 has opened the eyes of many as to what DAP is able to do when it comes to power. We have made a clear difference by delivering on what we have promised and in implementing people friendly policies.

To aspire higher, we have to be realistic in that we have to depend on our Pakatan partners to excel as well. We have to have common goals such as emphasising that we are Malaysians first and others second so that we can fight for a better Malaysia. Towards this end I am optimistic that DAP will reach there. -The Rocket