By Howard Lee Chuan How, Perak State Assemblyman for Pasir Pinji
I first met Dyana Sofya binti Mohd Daud, or simply “Dy” on the 7th February 2012, learning that she’s a Perakian, whose career was in KL. She had just joined DAP and was keen to contribute to her home state. She joined us, as a proud new member, at a commemorative gathering of the 6th of February Perak Constitutional Crisis under the ‘Tree of Democracy’ in Medan Istana.
We got off to a good start, and got on like a house on fire. I did not hesitate to get her involved in party activities, and she was also proactive in seeking platforms to contribute. She never hesitated to get involved; and as a result, her enthusiasm manifested in the form of a sharp rise within party ranks. I wanted her to stay for a prominent role in the Perak state machinery for the GE13; but Sdr Kit Siang beat us to it and had drafted her to face the ‘Battle of Gelang Patah’ as Part of the Johor machinery.
She was eager, from the word ‘go’, and remember her saying once, “it’d be cool to have someone to hang out with when I come back to see my Mama”, I never knew that I would end up being her Mama’s ‘anak angkat’ one Raya later, and now preparing for her campaign to enter Parliament so soon.
From the wide-eyed, enthusiastically excited young activist, to the matured yet youthful, sharp thinking and bold acting ‘political operatoress’ that she is today; like all other DAP front liners, Dyana has gone through the ‘boot camp of political hard-knocks’, come out on the other end smelling of roses, make-up still intact and smiling cheekily but sincerely like we’re about to see on posters all over Teluk Intan.
But, Dyana being fielded for this by-election has attracted a stupendously large amount of speculation. Some of it has been sensible but totally inaccurate; others have been accurate but fatally misunderstood. They range from the accusation that it being a move to reach out to Malay voters in countering deterioration in Chinese support; to it being a symbolic gesture to pacify internal squabbles through Dyana’s perceived neutrality; all of which make good propaganda and exciting stories’.
Due to the inescapable racially-tinted visors that Malaysians put on when we observe or analyse our politics, it actually makes our politics a whole lot more complicated than it needs to be. It provides extra layers of polarising materials that keep negative peddlers and hatred spin-doctors in their scornful jobs. Reality is that the truth is a lot simpler and has nothing to do with race; and a hell less conspiratorial than that.
Myth No. 1: Being a Malay in DAP makes things easier?
It’s much easier to interpret Dyana’s selection solely and simplistically as DAP’s attempt at painting a picture of a multiracial talent pool. Analysts, speculators and even some members would thereby conclude that Dyana must have been given a fast-track easy ride to higher sanctum of the party hierarchy. Though they would be wrong.
In the short two years that Dyana has been involved with DAP activism, she has been actively contributing to the Pakatan Rakyat Perak official thinktank, PROSPECT under my management. For those in the know, work carried out by thinktanks are more often than not labour intensive and invisible from the public. Her contributions have been tireless and thankless yet quiet and plentiful.
She also carried out several major social outreach programmes organised by the Selangor State Government, and Pesta Lagu Jalanan was one of the few that I was proud to have assisted her in. In fact, most of those involved in that project under her leadership, such as Kasturi Patto and Yeo Bee Yin, and myself are now elected representatives.
All the above was done and dusted before the 13th General election. During the election as mentioned before, she was instrumental in the Gelang Patah campaign tasked with braving some of the fiercest battle fronts deep within rural UMNO fortresses. Being physically chased out by gangsters were but business as usual building up to, during, as well as after the campaign. Her minute but significant contribution to the campaign earned her the appointment as Lim Kit Siang’s political secretary. She has since served the Gelang Patah MP’s office.
Some of the above were done whilst she was holding a full time, high expectation city job. Yet, these are but some of the things that I am personally aware of, notwithstanding the countless other initiatives that she has been drafted in to do.
If what I’ve described above is the easy, fast-tracked and expedited route to winning trust in DAP, then I can only say that some have had much easier journeys for higher recognition.
Myth No 2; it’s hard being a Malay in DAP.
I have heard many pundits from all sides peddle the only too familiar narrative of ‘being a Malay in DAP can’t be easy’. Although I’m not Malay, I’d like to debunk the aforementioned myth, as I believe that being anyone in DAP is not easy. Being Malay or otherwise has very little to do with it.
When one joins the DAP, one is fully aware and must be ready to accept that no amount of cabling and internal connections is enough to win trust and recognition. That only comes with sheer grit and determination to walk the journey with fellow comrades, often having to suppress completely the notion of self. Though self sacrifice to the tune of what some of our earlier leaders have gone through, like imprisonment is never encouraged and no longer as applicable; but the sacrifice of ones own shoulder for one’s comrade to stand taller is the rule and not an exception.
Dyana, like all Malays, Indian, Chinese, Iban, Kadazan, Dusun, Dayak Melanau or any other ethnicity who have joined DAP are recognised and given the opportunity in accordance to the Party’s ideology, principles, cultures and the notions of universal equality and social justice.
Whatever mud UMNO and BN would sling at a Malay DAP leader, the same mud is slung equally as hard and as often at a DAP leader of any other ethnicity. There is absolutely no prejudice when it comes to UMNO BN’s targeting strategy; If you ain’t with me or for me, I’m 100% against you. If it’s hard being a Malay in DAP, it’s only as hard as it is being any other ethnicity.
Whilst holding steadfast to the fact that DAP is indeed an ethnically inclusive party, I would like to challenge the conventional notion that DAP is a multi-racial party. Whenever we put forth the argument that DAP is a multiracial party, we often get suitably questioned of the racial breakdown of our membership. The answer to that question unfortunately paints an altogether incongruous reality with the principle and ideals of the party.
The reality of DAP and Dyana for Teluk Intan
Perhaps it’d be disingenuous to say that Dyana’s selection as the candidate didn’t take into account the fact that she’s a rather attractive, young, female and Malay. But the intention behind taking these factors into consideration I believe is, but supplementary. If any of the aforementioned factors were taken away, she would probably fit more comfortably in the orthodox DAP candidate profile.
For those out there, regardless of your ethnic origins, academic background, social strata, religious beliefs, the overarching message is that there is no easy ride in politics, especially frontline politics with DAP. None of the above differentials will render anyone worse or better off, advantaged or handicapped, as we as a party that genuinely practices universal equality.
I put it to the nation and my comrades that we throw away the notion of our multiracialism; and in contrast, embrace unequivocally the idea that DAP is a non-racial party. This is an idea that Dyana and I once debated and agreed over her Teh Tarik and my Teh-O Ais Limau, at a Mamak stall in Ipoh some time back. I believe that is one of the many things that drives Dyana’s passion to continue on her chosen path.
All above aside, there is no escape that some will see that a young, female, Malay, professional candidate is a seismic shift that will crack open a completely new political paradigm for DAP. It is also a view that I have no objection against. It’ll hopefully lift the iron curtain revealing the forty seven years old lies of UMNO, MCA and BN against DAP, and also more importantly that regardless of your ethnicity, age and gender, anyone can make it in DAP, even when everything seems stacked up against you.
Yes, even a Malay, female, youngster can make it in DAP. But Dyana didn’t make it because of that. She’s going to contest and hopefully win Teluk Intan because she’s Perakian, young and envisioned, and rearing to roar. -The Rocket