Friday, December 21, 2012

My First DAP Congress

Last weekend I attended my first party congress. 

Many of my comrades and media shared a lot about the congress, from the fact that it's our biggest congress ever (more than 2000 delegates, 1000 observers and 100 media), to the touching momento in appreciation of our old-time comrades, the funny "Ubah Rocket Style" sneak preview and the much anticipated new line-up of leadership. 

So I am not going to tell you all that, I am writing this to share with you my personal experience attending the congress and how it has left a mark in my journey as a new DAP member.    

I remember the Tuesday before the congress weekend, my boss Tony Pua texted me and said that our Sec-Gen Lim Guan Eng requested that his speech cover should be a picture of multi-racial children. Since I was in-charge of the costumes in the "Ubah Rocket Style" video, Tony asked if I could find children-size multi-racial costumes

So I called up all my contacts but none actually rent children-size East Malaysian costumes. I asked the bosses if we could change the cover design to something else. I was still recovering from fever then, I was really hoping that the bosses would give up pursuing this so I have some time to rest. But the reply we got from Lim Guan Eng was this: we try our best, exhaust all avenues, then tell him. That, in another words meant, you 'die die' also have to come out with them. To cut the story short, eventually very unwillingly, I managed to get the costumes and the picture shot on Wednesday.  

I didn't understand why did we need multi-racial children picture just for a policy speech cover. 

I was also assigned to be 1 of the 3 masters of ceremony for the congress. During the script preparation and rehearsal time, I wasn't sure why we needed to use 3 MCs and 4 languages (Malay, English, Chinese & Tamil) since Malay should be sufficient for everyone to understand. Anyway, I just did what was assigned to me lah. 

So the day came for my first party congress. Here is the picture the congress. 

Source: Facebook (original source unknown)

We had only two live performances in the congress, one performed by the Sabahan and another by the Sarawakian comrades. When I saw the enthusiasm of the performers to be a part of the event and telling us their stories (instead of just attending as audience), I understood why the multi-racial cover. East Malaysian comrades is a part of us, we should include them in our work and not only to invite them to be the audience. A party for all Malaysians should in every way show true Malaysian spirit even in minor things such as a speech cover.  

When I saw the different reactions while our scripts were spoken in national and mother tongues among the audience, I understood why it had to be done in 4 languages. It is one thing to understand a language, it is another to feel belong. After all, the real beauty of Malaysian culture is the commonality we share in our differences. A true Malaysian party should not advocate assimilation of the members but to promote and celebrate the uniqueness among ourselves. Here's myself and the fellow MCs (Arul and Edry). I spoke in English and Chinese. 

Source: The Rocket Facebook Page 

Then it was the election result. I was quite disappointed as there was no Malay and non-Chinese East Malaysians elected to the top 20. However, I was relieved when I heard the next morning that the elected committee include Malays and Bumiputra East Malaysians into the Central Executive Committee (CEC), injecting diversity much needed to bring the party forward. 

Yes, I would agree with you if you think that DAP is not multi-racial enough now. However, I would NOT agree with you if you think that the leadership is not committed to make this party a multi-racial party in the future. I can see deliberate effort of the leaders to include people from all ethic groups, from CEC line-up to the minor details like a speech cover. After all, it was not until after 2008 that DAP could gain enough political capital and finances to think about the demographic composition of the party leadership. What we need is sufficient time for this to evolve. 

So can we do that? I believe so. 

I met Auntie Mary Patto, who is the wife of the late P.Patto, a strong party veteran, and the mother of my friend, Kasthuri Patto. Kasthuri told me that Auntie Mary actually hurt her foot but insisted going to the congress. At her late sixties (or early seventies?), she wrapped her foot, bought a pair of new shoes big enough to fit her foot with bandage and came. When I talked to her, she shared with me her body complications without a sense of self-pity. Although weak in the body, I saw such a strong spirit in her. That is the spirit of DAP that veterans like Auntie Mary, her husband and many others have left for younger generation of leaders and members. 

Yes, we may have our weaknesses now, but just like Auntie Marry, we'll work around it and eventually come forth victoriously. Here's a picture of her I curi from Kasthuri Facebook. 

I am looking forward to a day when I read this article again, DAP is a truly multi-racial party with leaders from all background elected based on personal merit. We may still have a long way to go, but I dare say that we've started the journey, and started it well. 

We've started a journey that UMNO, MIC and MCA will never ever be able to embark,  we've started a journey to a truly inclusive party for all Malaysians. 

The Image of Lim Guan Eng Policy Speech Cover at DAP 16th Party Congress, designed by Ooi Leng Hang from DAP HQ.