Thursday, December 11, 2008

DAPSY is center-left.

Dapsy - leaning left or right?
Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Dec 11, 08 1:09pm

The DAP Socialist Youth (Dapsy) lacks a clear ideological outlook, concedes its newly-elected chief.

However, Anthony Loke, 31, is quick to add that just as its name connotes, the wing thrives on the principles of socialism.

"Although we carry the name socialist youth, the party has always been centre left. We are not so much socialist left because if you look at the policies and issues that we have brought, we have always taken the centrist approach.

"Although we are centrists we sustain the socialist elements, our values have always been like equality, freedom and justice and so on. We are definitely a centre-left party," he told Malaysiakini during an interview yesterday.

He also said Dapsy members, numbering around 20,000, are not sufficiently exposed to ideological debates and more must be done to educate them.

Political observers have long criticised Dapsy for its inactiveness - averaging at one national executive council meeting a year. Some have blamed this on the lack of party ideological understanding among its members.

More must be done

As the leader, Loke said, he takes full responsibility for this and promised to step up efforts to educate party members.

"I do not deny in terms of ideological debate we have not done enough in terms of imparting the ideology to our members, especially younger members.

"For improvement, there must be more internal debates, more political education and I think one of the biggest challenges is we have to instill a reading culture among our members which I think is still quite lacking," added the Rasah MP.

Despite this shortcoming, Loke is confident that Dapsy will head in the right direction.

Below are the excerpts from the interview.

Many analysts say that Dapsy members are not clear about the wing's ideology. For example, at the recent meeting, the Internationale (socialist anthem) was sung and members ask if Dapsy is left or right?

Loke: I do not deny in terms of ideological debate we have not done enough in terms of imparting the ideology to our members, especially younger members.

But of course in the Malaysian context, ideological debate has always been the at the backburner and not at the forefront because it is hard to define left and right as two spectrums.

How do you improve this?
For improvement, there must be more internal debates, more political education and I think one of the biggest challenges is that we have to instill a reading culture among our members.

Because all this ideological understanding only comes with reading books and articles and following the development in other countries.

In three years, Dapsy has held only three meetings and many are saying that this reflects its inactiveness. That's why we have to reactivate it. In the coming months and years, I would ensure that national executive council meetings are held more frequently, at least once in two months - that is the minimum.

I would also have to start a series of visits to different states to visit our divisions, to at least meet the members and tell them what needs to be done and so on, give them a clear direction where to go from now.

When you use the term socialist, it carries with it a heavy ideological baggage. As the leader, would you describe Dapsy as left-wing?

Although we carry the name socialist youth, the party has always been centre left. We are not so much socialist left because if you look at the policies and issues that we have brought, we have always taken the centrist approach rather than the left.

Although we are centrists we sustain the socialist elements, our values are like equality, freedom, justice and so on. We are definitely a centre-left party.

Do you think this is a deterrent in attracting Malays into your party?
We have difficulty in attracting the Malays and this is also because of the historical baggage. DAP has always been labeled as, or given the impression, that we are opposing Malay interests.

It's not so much the socialist ideology that deters Malays from joining but more so that Umno has successfully painted us as an anti-Malay party.

Do you think the party has done enough to garner Malay support?

There is room for improvement. I do not deny that we have not done enough but of course we have limited channels to reach the Malays because ... the Malay media is not with us, they have never given us enough space.

But having said that, I see that things are improving. We have improved in the sense where we have a Malay 'Rocket' edition (party organ) and through my articles and writings, I try to tell the Malays what DAP stands for.

One of my recent articles was entitled 'DAP anti-Malay?' where I tried to answer the kind of anxiety and questions the Malays have about the party, but of course, this is a baby step when it comes to reaching out to the Malays.

But we take every opportunity to reach out to the Malays. For example, we have taken the opportunity to appear in Malay media programmes if there are chances.

We are not hostile to the Malays, we have always been receptive to them and we do hope that they would join our party.

But at the last party AGM, Chinese was the dominant medium for communication

It's not true that we use Chinese as the main medium. Bahasa Malaysia has always been given prominence in all the party congress. All our party documents for the congress were done in Bahasa Malaysia. We have stressed on using more Bahasa Malaysia in our congress or the AGM.

Suppose the Malay membership in your party grows, would the party leadership be willing to share leadership posts with the Malays?

That’s not an issue. Whoever comes in and is willing to work and willing to contribute... everybody would be given opportunities. Not that we want all the leadership positions to be filled by Chinese, if they are capable we are more than willing to groom them and so on.

And you feel that your party members would support this?

I think we have no problem with that. We never had any problem with that. You have to know the mentality of DAP members. People might think DAP is a chauvinist party, that is not true.

If you look at the history of the party, whenever there is a prominent Malay, party members would definitely support the person as either a candidate or a leader... there has always been cases where Malay leaders are promoted as national leaders for example, the late Ahmad Noor (former DAP vice-president) - he stood in a Chinese-dominated area, this shows that we are receptive of Malay leaders.

Do you have some sort of a plan to get more Malay members?

The most important thing is to break the mold of the Malay first, the impression of the Malays towards DAP, not so much as attracting them to be members yet.

What's important is to get the Malays to accept DAP as a multi-racial party before we talk about a plan of recruiting Malays. Most important is to win their support and to win their trust. If we can’t break the mold we can't talk about recruiting them as members.

In the last elections, we managed to gain support from the Malays. For example, in my constituency I got about 40 percent of the Malay votes, which is quite good.

Now back to the ideological debate, some senior leaders in the party are known to be proponents of market democracy ideas or very right-wing economic ideas. How do you reconcile these differences?

Yes, of course there are a couple of leaders that came from different backgrounds. For example like the corporate sector, who are proponents of a more liberal type of economy and more liberal policies. But I think that we have to reconcile in a sense where a balance must be struck.

I can understand that some believe we have to have competitiveness but we have to strike a balance. If we have a far left agenda, it’s not going to work in DAP. That is why we have always adopted the centrist approach.

The problem with social democratic systems is that in a globalised economic system where you are confronted by bigger neo-liberal forces like the United States. social democratic systems would often be integrated, assimilated or forced into neo-liberal ways given the global economic mechanism. How do you survive in this environment?

I think this is the biggest challenge faced by all social democratic forces throughout the world. I think the most important thing is the difference between us and the neo-liberal forces.

Of course in terms of economy, we have to abide by the global economy but the challenge is how we present a more humane face of market economy, how to place a certain safety net, a certain social agenda in the economy and how to protect the poor and the marginalised.

We have to adopt the global market economy but within our society, within our government, they have a role to play or the government can play a role to provide a safety net for society.

Your party's relations with PAS is not exactly peachy, do you think that the youth from both sides share similar ideals, which are not shared by the senior leaders?

I'm quite happy to say that there were several PAS Youth representatives at our congress last week and they are national PAS exco members. I had a chat with them and we agreed that it’s time to move forward.

I don't deny that we have a hard relationship with PAS, but I must stress that we have no problems with the moderates in PAS, we do not see eye-to-eye regarding certain policies with the conservatives.

For example in Parliament, we have a very good relationship. My neighbours in Parliament are all PAS MPs, we don’t see any problems in engaging them and having a better relationship with them and the same goes to PAS Youth.

I'm sure the majority of the leadership in PAS Youth are quite progressive in nature, they’re quite forward looking and I think they know that we need to work together more in Pakatan. Both sides have to be more proactive in engaging each other.

I can see that there will be more controversial issues along the way, I can foresee that in the next two or three years. For example, the recent call (by PAS) to ban street dancing in Penang, this did not go down well with Dapsy.

When we are talking about young people, I told the PAS representatives, if you want to attract the younger generation, you cannot have the mindset of banning everything.



Loke Siew Fook said...

Note: The above interview was done by malaysiakini journalist.

Thank you

Bentoh said...

I think DAPSY should assume a more independent role with its parental body, and it's kind of worrying that you could just be too busy dealing with workloads from being an MP, an ADUN and the political education bureau chief of DAP, and conveniently ignored the DAPSY's work...

Something need to be done with DAPSY consider how the congress involved election can only attract 35% of the delegates...

Ideology-wise, I think the DAP as well as DAPSY leaders should re-read (if not already) Hew Kuan-Yaw's book released last year... I find it a very interesting reading, especially after the March 8th...

Anonymous said...

I told someone, "I want our government to be a little communist. And a little bit capitalist." Yep central left.

If we let free market run wild, the people will suffer. I think 1 of the reasons our inflation and cost of living gone crazy is because of free market mechanism.

Land & property speculation, corporate exercise and branding are among the things that add value or, simply put, increased the cost of goods and services to spectacular proportion.

My dad's generation lived well on salary of RM2,000 or slightly below that. Even the dog had good food. Try to live on that now with a family minus the dog in KL.

As a result, pension and EPF contributions calculated on salary levels of our fathers and mothers are a betrayal and disservice to their toil, sacrifice and hard work.

DAP's economic policies, as I gauged from the alternate budget, lean towards more government intervention and sharing of wealth amongst the people.

This I like, compared to Mahathirism where public goods funded by tax payers are awarded to connected profiteers like PLUS, IPPs, Alam Flora etc. Albeit the income tax rate has decreased from 35% in the 1980s to 28% now, Ali, Chong and Samy's tax savings been diverted into higher electricity tariff, toll and inflated cost of living.

Too late to turn back the clock now. Even Singapore is not spared by the impact of free market capitalism but at least in Singapore, owing to its labour union roots, the PAP has certain working class friendly amenities like good welfare system, good medical system, national bonuses and HDB buy back arrangement.

I am a closet commie

Lee Wee Tak

Anonymous said...

YB Loke,

I like the idea of DAP engaging the Malays so that its image can reflect its substance.

If I analyze the NS GE results carefully, the heartland NS was won, and won very well indeed, by UMNO. It is a bastion of votes for UMNO.

Taking the first step is hard. I suppose back breaking hardwork, proactive engagement and out of box thinking is necessary.

I suppose DAP should work with PAS and Keadilan to raise PR's profile in areas like Sri Meranti, Rembau, Tampin etc ... those places where dissemination of info is not as even as in KL, for instance

The time to campaign for the next GE is now. You need time to break into a new market and you can afford some learning time if you start now. Roket is a good start; engaging the people there is a daunting and necessary task

All the best

Lee Wee Tak