AT the DAP congress on Sunday (Sept 11) before an audience that included former adversaries, DAP secretary-general Anthony Loke Siew Fook reiterated the adoption of a political course his predecessor had suggested a few years back.
Lim Guan Eng, now elevated to the party’s chairman, had during the 15th DAP National Conference in Ipoh on Jan 17, 2010 proposed “Middle Malaysia”, a catchall term that essentially urged the party to hew – in ideology and policy – to the middle of the road.
Then, Lim had taken a leaf off US president Richard Nixon’s book. After a narrow victory in the presidential election of 1968, Nixon espoused a course he termed “Middle America”.
Nixon has sought to unite the country by hewing to a middle path at a time of deep divisions over the Vietnam war and the issue of civil rights for African-Americans.
In sum, Middle America was a rejection of “left” and “right”, the central organising polarity of American political life.
“Middle Malaysia belongs to every Malaysian. Unlike UMNO Malaysia, in Middle Malaysia the content of our character is more important than the colour of our skin,” espoused Guan Eng in his speech more than 13 years ago.
“Unlike BN’s Malaysia, in Middle Malaysia we look at each other as brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers and as sons and daughters of Malaysia. Unlike Crony Malaysia, Middle Malaysia respects and celebrates you with the firm belief that Malaysia’s wealth, opportunities and resources belongs to all Malaysians.”
Left, right, middle
In the Malaysian politics today, the “left” would encompass such positions as secularism, abolition of detention without trial, zero tolerance for corruption, separation of the advisory from the prosecutorial roles of the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and other similar left-off-centre stances.
The “right” as per what is being pursued by the Perikatan Nasional (PN) front would entail adherence to a national language (Malay), to Islam as the religion of the nation, and zero tolerance for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) rights.
The “left(’s)” stances stem from ideological convictions; the “right(’s) ” from tribal affiliations which is why its exponents are not particularly troubled when deciding today to chant a different tune from the one considered sacrosanct some time ago.
This is precisely the position of some UMNO leaders these days.
In an astute reading of this phenomenon, Loke has urged belief that “Middle Malaysia” is the potion that will propel the country out of the morass of racial and religious politics.
“Trust that centrist politics is a force that will defeat political extremism by the opposition,” Loke counselled the DAP faithful at its congress.
After victories by the unity government’s candidates at the weekend’s parliamentary and state by-elections in Johor, perhaps this is a hunch well worth backing. – Sept 11, 2023
Terence Netto is a journalist with 50 years in an occupation that demands resistance to fleeting impressions.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.