A Bang of a Convention
The convention kicked off with veteran DAP Chairman Karpal Singh prophetically declaring that he had no doubt in his mind that Anwar would be acquitted. Many of us hope the second part of his prophecy would come to pass as well, which is that he would become Prime Minister.
With an attendance exceeding 1000 branch representatives and observers, the entire hall exuded a huge amount of optimism and expectation. The VIP list included the likes of the Mentri Besar of Selangor, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, PAS Vice President Mat Sabu, PKR Vice President Azmin Ali and PSM President Dr Nasir Hashim. What was more remarkable was the presence of the ambassadors of the French and New Zealand High Commissioners as well as ambassadors from the Singapore, Australian and Japanese Embassies, clearly this was an event to watch!
Despite being wheelchair bound and clearly battle scared, Karpal Singh's message was not lacking in fire or zeal. The DAP is now in the position, in partnership with Pakatan Rakyat to sweep 9 states and Putrajaya at the next general election. He spoke of closing ranks, effective for burying the 'warlord-godfather' hatchet.
He went to great lengths to persuade the delegation present that Anwar is indeed a man of substance. Although, the applause in response to these comments were less than enthusiastic, one could feel that attitudes towards the embattled opposition leader are indeed improving. DAP members are beginning to accept the idea of Anwar becoming the next Prime Minister as they are now, more than ever, determined to rid the Barisan Nasional regime from Putrajaya.
A Veteran's Dream
Former Party Chairman and current DAP Party Adviser Dr Chen Man Hin took the microphone and emphatically reminded that he was still around and not dead! Indeed, this is a legend of a man, who was one of the pioneers of the party along with Karpal Singh and Lim Kit Siang. Another war-torn warrior, he echoed the message of hope to all present.
His dream along with the other leaders of the party is for Malaysia to be a democratic, fair and equal society. Today, he believes that this dream is coming closer and closer to being realised. "Our might is because we believe," he proclaimed to cheers from the delegates. Indeed it is this belief, hope and dream that the party clings tightly on to.
A candid reminder was addressed to the members that the DAP was a party which had a heart for the people and wanted to serve. "If you want to become a minister, don't join the DAP. If you want to serve the people, then we call you one of us!" It is the fervent hope that the DAP would maintain the party's integrity and commitment to the service of the people.
With an inspiring flourish, he concluded by calling on members not to fear anything in pursuit of the final goal. "Do not worry anti-DAP elements. Stick to our principles and we shall win!"
The Epic Keynote
Perhaps the highlight of the event was the speech delivered by Party Secretary General Lim Guan Eng. In the most pumped up speech I have seen him give to date, he outlined the party policy as well as the goals of the party come the general election.
After acknowledging delegates from ever corner of Malaysia, he proceeded to attack the issues one at a time. Never lacking in energy or zeal, Lim Guan Eng preached that the success of the DAP government in Penang was due to the uncompromising commitment to moderation and peace. As a result, Penang is cleaner, greener and safer than any other state in Malaysia. With this already having been achieved Penang, it is now the mission of the party to made all other states cleaner, greener and safer.
The DAP, along with PKR and PAS, is firmly committed to the vision of a country which the government is free of corruption and progressive. He reiterated to achieve this, Pakatan Rakyat cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of Barisan Nasional, and the values of integrity and incorruptibility must be exemplified by the leaders.
Pointing out the issue of inflation, rising costs and money lost due to misappropriation, Lim Guan Eng declared that this would be what the party would concentrate on during the run up to the general election. This is in order to realise the Malaysian dream in which we cannot be "a police state but a policy state". The DAP is committed to a minimum wage which would be adjusted as according to the rate of inflation, and promises to abolish the toll on the North South Highway.
The battle lines was drawn out in Sabah and Sarawak, where PR would have to gain 19 seats in order to win over Putrajaya. With party unity, this goal is certainly attainable. Concluding by saying "Let us dare to dream the Malaysian Dream", each delegate present was filled with the renewed hope that after 46 years of struggle, the impossible would become a reality.
Despite the clear references to the BN government, the Party Secretary-General was tactful and gracious, avoiding any direct attacks or slander of any BN component party. This is in stark contrast to the UMNO General Assembly which had effectively turned into an anti-DAP mud slinging rally. It is remarkable that by concentrating on tackling core issues and avoiding negativity, the leaders of the party had maintained their stance and integrity.
With the acquittal of Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the celebrations rage on. With the celebrations it is a renewed hope, and a renewed optimism.
Although it is clear that many, including Anwar himself, was expecting him to be heading back to Kamunting, the jubilation of the supporters would create waves of positive momentum for the opposition parties now that this farce of a trial is done and over with. The show of solidarity was indeed there, with PAS and DAP leaders standing alongside the opposition leader.
However, now the real work starts for Pakatan Rakyat. Indeed, putting Anwar in jail would have been political suicide for Prime Minister Najib and his government. If they had made him a martyr, it would have polarised support for the Opposition by arousing public sentiment. At least by acquitting him, the government can now claim that the judiciary is independent and that the reforms placed by the Prime Minister are actually bearing fruit.
Now the playing field has again been levelled. However, PR has to stick to their guns, get their noses to the grindstone and work hard in order to sway a fickle population. Issues such as massive corruption, graft, incompetence, media suppression and racially divisive policies have to be the fodder for PR.
A warning to BN would be in the words of Shakespeare: "A swallow does not a summer make". Just because Anwar was acquitted does not mean that all is well in the nation. Nevertheless, PR has their work cut out for them by convincing the public that they are the required and promised change the nation needs.
As PR no longer has a martyr to glorify, this would now turn into sword to sword combat. As for the DAP, we are ready.
Published exclusively for Free Malaysia Today (http://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/2012/01/12/pumped-up-dap-ready-for-combat/)