By Shannon Teoh
KUALA LUMPUR, May 15 — The DAP is asking Tunku Aziz Tunku Ibrahim to reconsider his decision to resign from the party following his public spat with Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders over the April 28 Bersih rally, which the senator said should not have proceeded at Dataran Merdeka.
The vice-chairman, the most senior Malay leader in the party, expressed his intention to quit the party over national television last night, scrambling party leaders into action as it came just as the party was making some headway into the dominant demographic in the country.
“Despite Tunku’s open dissent, the DAP leadership does not want him to leave the party but remain as vice-chair. I hope we can resolve whatever differences,” secretary-general Lim Guan Eng (picture) said in a statement this afternoon.
The Penang chief minister, saying he was “sad” about the founding president of Transparency International Malaysia wanting to leave, added he would contact Tunku Aziz to discuss the matter with him and “hope he can change his mind about leaving the party.”
While he admitted there was unhappiness in the party that the senator openly went against the party line, Lim said there was no intention of punishing “Tunku for voicing his dissent openly nor at any stage ask him to leave or resign.”
Lim pointed out that every DAP member has the right to differ, saying “I don’t agree that any disciplinary action should be taken against Tunku for differing on Bersih’s right to do the sit-in protest in Dataran Merdeka”.
Tunku Aziz had earlier withdrawn his candidacy as a senator for the party after being told his open criticism of the opposition-backed electoral reform movement had caused discontent among DAP members.
He said last night on ntv7’s “Chat Time With...” programme that “based on what they have said and given the very deep chasm, very wide differences now which are irreconcilable, there is no alterative but for [him] to seek to withdraw with some dignity left.”
“I will therefore resign my membership from the DAP and I will be advising the party within the next few minutes. I think the time has come for me to take a hard, very serious look at my own position within the party culture, the party system,” he said on national television.
Tunku Aziz added that he had been “warned by [his] friends and colleagues that [he] should be prepared to be sacked. But so far there has been no indication from the top leadership that this would be my fate.”
A distant relative of the Kedah royalty, he said that he has always supported Bersih but only disagreed with proceeding with an illegal gathering after Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the police had refused to allow the movement to use the historic square for their rally.
“But you know they also claim that I had not consulted the leadership. Why should I consult the leadership when I was not breaking the pledge to support Bersih?
“The difference is that I would not support Bersih if it got itself into illegal activities,” he said.
Tunku Aziz, who was immediately made a vice-chairman of the DAP when he joined in 2008, also said “the government is on the right track” as it is now listening to the people.
“We have made our protest known to them, but don’t forget, you know, they are a legitimate government, elected by us.
“All right, we have made our point… we have had three Bersih protests. Do you think we need anymore? A non-listening government will not be doing all of these things,” he said.
The DAP has tried to reach out to the Malays, who make up 60 per cent of the 12-million strong electorate, by recruiting leaders such as Tunku Aziz.
But he has conceded his failure to win over the community to the Chinese-dominated party that has been accused by Umno of being anti-Malay and anti-Islam.
The April 28 rally, which saw tens of thousands gather at six different locations before heading to Dataran Merdeka, was peaceful until about 2.30pm when Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan asked the crowd to disperse.
But her call was not heard by most of the crowd who persisted around Dataran Merdeka, which the courts had already barred to the public over the weekend.
Just before 3pm, some protestors breached a barricade surrounding the landmark, leading police to disperse the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.
Police then continued to pursue the rally-goers down several streets amid chaotic scenes which saw violence from both sides over the next four hours.