THERE has been a deafening silence among the top DAP leaders over the party’s performance in the Sarawak election.
Seremban MP Anthony Loke said there has simply been no time for a post-mortem because the deluge started on the very day the Sarawak polls came to a close.
The DAP national organising secretary said the entire purpose of the party rank-and-file has been directed to flood relief work.
Indeed, the Chennah assemblyman had his hands full distributing aid, coordinating the cleaning-up and even lugging mattresses to homes where elderly people were sleeping on the floor.
But the party will have to face reality when the waters subside.
The party is at its lowest point, a long way from that glorious moment in 2018.
The Sarawak and Melaka elections have been a critical indication of how political sentiments are shifting from east to west.
The Melaka polls was widely seen as a rejection of DAP among the Malay voters. The divide between Malay and Chinese voters was all too clear.
The outcome in Sarawak was more painful for DAP because the rejection came from the Chinese voters. DAP candidates lost their deposits in 11 out of 26 seats while the winning majority plunged in the two seats they managed to cling to.
An oft-heard complaint was that DAP had taken Chinese support for granted.
Pakatan drew up a separate manifesto for Sarawak in the last general election that was too extravagant to fulfil.
It resulted in a trust deficit and during the recent campaign, there were leaflets portraying DAP state chief Chong Chieng Jen with a nose longer than that of Pinnochio.
It has been humbling for this once-mighty party but as some pointed out, it is better to be forewarned rather than march into the next general election (GE15) thinking the voters still love you no matter what.
“Members are waiting for the central leadership to reset the direction. We owe our supporters an explanation, there are deep concerns the party is on a slippery slope,” said Jeff Ooi - a former DAP parliamentarian and Sin Chew Daily columnist.
If it is any consolation, the Melaka voting pattern showed that MCA and Gerakan were still no match for DAP which remained the Chinese preference.
More than 90% of the Chinese who voted in Melaka went for DAP and MCA could only win in the mixed seats with the help of Malay votes.
However, the Chinese have become more critical of DAP and this is evident on social media and even in the kopitiam and calls for renewal in the DAP leadership have grown louder.
“The party is going through legacy issues,” said a Penang lawyer.
Party icon Lim Kit Siang’s image has long been problematic among the Malays while his secretary-general son Lim Guan Eng’s corruption trial has cast a dark cloud over the party, making it awkward for the leaders to go on the anti-corruption platform like they used to.
The controversial Dr Hew Kuan Yau, better known as Superman, took to Facebook to tell Kit Siang to talk less and retire so that the new generation can lead the party.
“I never expected such a tragic situation,” Hew said of DAP’s losses in Sarawak.
Their supporters out there want to see the second echelon such as Loke and Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh assume bigger leadership roles.
On the other hand, the more traditional Chinese base prefer Perak warlord and Teluk Intan MP Nga Kor Ming whose hardline messaging resonates with them.
Nga’s advantage is that he was not part of the Pakatan cabinet and does not need to defend those unremarkable 22 months in power.
There are also voices calling for the party to go it alone in GE15.
The Sarawak Youth wing has even suggested breaking away from the mother party to form a new Sarawak-based entity.
“Morale, especially in Sarawak, is shattered. There are many questions and doubts. They are looking for a change of direction and strategy,” said Ooi.
The DAP chapter of Sabah also took the radical step in rejecting the Memorandum of Understanding of cooperation with the state government
There will be soul-searching in the coming months but the Lims are unlikely to loosen their grip.
There is too much at stake for the powerful family. Kit Siang would want the party to stand by Guan Eng through his court ordeal. Then, there is his daughter Senator Lim Hui Ying who is being groomed for bigger things. Kit Siang needs to be around for all this.
DAP has actually changed so much in the last 15 years. It managed to draw in young professionals who made the party more attractive to the urban middle class.
They are smart, hard-working and clean and they can change the image of the party.
Unfortunately, the average outsider still associates the party with the father-and-son duo.
A DAP politician in Sarawak likened the unfulfilled election promises of 2018 to a “dead knot” - known as “pak si khat” in Hokkien - that could not be undone and caused DAP to lose badly.
However, the party has managed to untie itself from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad whose standing among the Chinese is at rock bottom.
The Chinese have this joke about giving DAP air tickets to fly high. But the leaders booked a flight with Mahathir to Holland, which sounds a bit vulgar in Chinese but is actually a Chinese slang word about going nowhere given that Holland is a country below sea level.
DAP and Pakatan will be unable to sell themselves as a government-in-waiting or make more lavish promises in GE15. Who is going to believe them?
They have to come up with a new narrative for GE15.
They also need to undo the “dead knot”.