When silence is not always an option

Failure to address these issues would lend credence to the party’s critics, denting its reputation among the public

pic by TMR FILE

IF THERE is a political party that seems to find itself in a very awkward position in the past few weeks, the obvious answer would be the Democratic Action Party or DAP.

From remarks related to the arrest of individuals linked to the militant group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to a comic book publication that promotes the Communist Party of China on Belt and Road Initiative, the party seems to find the spotlight.

The Opposition had a field day, drumming up sentiments that DAP would always remain a Chinese-centric, anti-Malay/Muslim party despite its ongoing efforts to portray otherwise.

Others accused DAP of practicing double standard — the party did not cause any ruckus when authorities arrested individuals l inked to Islamic extremist groups. Police figures revealed that between 2001 and 2012, the pol ice arrested 284 Jemaah Islamiyah militant members and 512 Islamic State members since 2013.

These are terrorists groups. But those who were arrested could have also been sympathisers.

People who made small donations or had pictures of members of the brotherhood.

Are we saying Muslims lives are less meaningful or that they should not get equal treatment under the law?

If DAP believes in the rule of law, it should allow the police to complete the probe. Issuing public rebuke against the authorities will be seen perceived as political interference.

It goes against the party and government’s principle to observe the law and the separation of power in the government and institution — something which DAP has been fighting for all these years.

The criticisms against DAP continued to intensify when a comic book entitled “Inisiatif Jalur Dan Jalan ó Meraih Manfaat Bersama”, authored by Hew Kuan Yau, became viral on social media.

The controversial content, among others, suggested that those who support the minority ethnic group Uighurs against the Chinese government are radicals. Some argued that the comic has create a false narrative on the Malay-Muslim community.

The Prime Minister’s Office clarified that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had no knowledge of the comic book’s content nor did he give any consent for his picture to be used for any purpose.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik instructed an immediate stop to the distribution of the comic in public schools last week.

The Home Ministry subsequently said stern action would be taken against those behind the distribution as the content had exceeded boundaries and created public concern.

But Hew is no stranger to controversies.

A quick Google search will give you almost the whole picture. Known as “Superman” due to his affinity of wearing t-shirts with the superhero’s crest, he quit DAP in 2016 to “focus on the bigger picture”.

Despite not being active in politics since then, Hew became the CEO of Malaysia-China Business Council early this year. His appointment was announced by DAP chairman Tan Kok Wai in February.

Recently, 43 grassroots members from DAP have publicly censured Maszlee, claiming that he displayed similar traits to Umno leadership in handling the matter.

However, top DAP leaders appeared to be muted in their responses.

Although the party had distanced itself from the comic and even Hew himself, people started to question DAP’s central leadership’s stance over the issue.

As of yesterday, only a Johor representative, Mahdzir Ibrahim, had urged the party’s national leader to have a clear policy to distinguish members’ opinions and sentiments from the party.

“One drop of indigo could tarnish the image of the whole organisation,” Mahdzir reportedly said, much to the ire of some of his party members.

Mahdzir’s sentiment, however, is reflective of many people on the street.

For DAP’s top leaders to remain in “elegant silence” would only provide the ammunition for others to undo all the good and wonderful things that the party had done or fought for over the past few years.

Failure to address these issues would lend credence to the party’s critics, denting its reputation among the public. Unfortunately, in the greater scheme of things, DAP is not the only party that will suffer.

Azreen Hani is the online news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.