DAP remains committed to be an inclusive party embracing the rights and interests of all races and religions in Malaysia, and not just for any one race or religion

The PAS President, Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang let off a time bomb in Harakah yesterday, and the reverberations are still going off all over the country, creating shock, anguish and dismay not only among DAP and PKR leaders and members, and the majority of Malaysians who have placed their trust and hope in Pakatan Rakyat, but also among PAS leaders and members as well.

For the past 45 years, the spectre of May 13 had been the favourite weapon of unscrupulous UMNO leaders to intimidate voters from freely and democratically exercising their constitutional right to vote, but I had never expected that a day would when it would also be invoked by an Opposition leader in a manner which UMNO leaders had never done before – as UMNO leaders have yet to threaten the spectre of May 13 if local elections are restored, but which they will now do readily with the precedent set by Hadi.

It is not only wrong to equate the restoration of the third vote, which the people in the country had enjoyed in the fifties and early sixties, Hadi also made a grievous mistake in giving a racial twist by suggesting that the restoration of local government elections is a grab for political power by the Chinese in the urban areas.

This is totally ignoring the process of Malay urbanisation in the past five decades, as out of 49 local government authorities in the urban areas (comprising three city halls of Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching Utara, nine city councils and 37 municipals councils), 39 have Malay majorities of over 50% of the population, three have Chinese majorities, with seven have a plurality of races with four with Chinese dominant and three with Malays dominant.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall has a plurality of races, with the Malay population (45.9%) outnumbering the Chinese population (43.2%), the rest being Indians 10.3% and Others 0.6%.

The other two plural local government authorities with a dominant Malay population are: Kluang: Malays (47.1%), Chinese (42.6%), Indians (9.9%), Others (0.5%) and Petaling Jaya: Malays (46.2%), Chinese (39.6%), Indians (13.3%), Others (0.9%).

The four plural local government authorities with a dominant Chinese population are:

Johor Bahru Tengah: Malays (38.8%), Chinese (47.2%), Indians (13.4%), Others (0.6%)

Ipoh: Malays (39.8%), Chinese (45.5%), Indians (14.5%) Others (0.2%).

Subang Jaya: Malays (42.3%), Chinese (44.7%), Indians(12.4%), Others ().6%).

Teluk Intan: Malays (38.8%), Chinese (39%), Indians (22%), Others (0.2%)

The three local government authorities with Chinese majorities are Sibu (Chinese 63.4%), Pulau Pinang (Chinese 56.4%) and Kuching Selatan (62.5%).

All the other 39 local government authorities, including the two City Halls of Kota Kinabalu (Malays 70.4%) and Kuching Utara (Malays 84.8%) and six out of nine City Councils of Johor Bahru (Malays 54.1%), Alor Setar (Malays 76.9%), Melaka (Malays 60.6%), Shah Alam (Malays 71.1%), Kualoa Terengganu (Malays 96.2%) and 31 out of 37 Municipal Councils including Batu Pahat (Malays 53.4%), Pasir Gudang (Malays 91.4%), Muar (Malays 54%), Sungai Petani (Malays 66.2%), Kulim (Malays 63.6%) Kota Bharu (Malays 93.1%), Seremban (Malays 50.9%), Kuantan (Malays 78.5%), Temerloh (Malays 75.7%), Taiping (Malays 53.4%), Kangar (Malays 88.4%), Klang (Malays 50.7%), Dungun (Malays 97.3%) and Kemaman (Malays 95.2%) have Malay majorities.

All the local government authorities in all the state capitals have Malay majorities.

A restoration of the third vote for elected local government will be a restoration of the democratic right of Malaysians, particularly Malays as well as the Chinese, Indians, Kadazans and Ibans to participate and determine their local government decision-making process.

These statistics are from the 2010 census data. Five years have passed, and with the higher rate of increase of the Malay population and the continued Malay urbanisation process, there would have been further changes in these population figures in the various local government authorities in favour of an increase in the Malay ratio as compared to non-Malay ratio.

Teluk Intan, which had 38.8% Malays, 39% Chinese, 22% Indians and 0.2% Others in 2010 would have by now become a local government authority with a plurality with Malays instead of the Chinese as the dominant racial group.

Why should this been turned into a racial issue?

It is difficult to understand what Hadi meant when he said that DAP’s insistence on holding local council elections could cause a deeper racial divide as well as tensions, especially in the Chinese majority areas – when according to the 2010 census, there are only three local authorities which were Chinese-majority, namely Sibu, Pulau Pinang and Kuching Selatan!

However, it is important for DAP at all levels of leadership to reaffirm that the DAP remains committed to be an inclusive party embracing the rights and interests of all races and religions in Malaysia, and not just for any one race or religion.

Since the formation of DAP 49 years ago, we have championed the rights and interests of all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region and we will continue in our cause for a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation.

The DAP is not a party for the Chinese or Indians but for all Malaysians – whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans.

Fifty years ago, local government elections were suspended on the ground of the threats of Indonesian Confrontation, leading to the denial of the rights of Malaysians to the third vote in the past five decades.

Even the Athi Nahappan Royal Commission of Inquiry set up to make recommendations on the future of local government recommended the restoration of local council elections.

The time has come for the restoration of the democratic rights of Malaysians to the third vote, which had been recognized in the fifties and early sixties, so that Malaysia can be in the mainstream of world democratic development instead of continuing to lag behind the world-wide democratization process.

The issue of the restoration of the third vote must be seen from the aspects of democracy, accountability and good governance and not through any tinted spectacles of race.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah