Calls to replace Santiago renew debate on ethnic, dynastic politics in DAP

A silent campaign within DAP to stop three-term Klang MP Charles Santiago from contesting the seat again at the next general election has renewed a long-held view on the dominance of the so-called “Lim dynasty”, a reference to Lim Kit Siang and Lim Guan Eng, the father-and-son team who for decades have symbolised the top leadership in the party.

MalaysiaNow, who spoke to senior DAP sources, has also been able to confirm a recent news report speculating that Selangor DAP branches were keen to replace Santiago with Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah.

Santiago has never directly addressed the claims, merely saying that he has no plans to vacate the parliamentary seat which he has held since 2008, when Barisan Nasional was ejected from Selangor by a three-party coalition comprising PKR, DAP and PAS.

One party source said the call to field Ean Yong had created unease within a section of Selangor DAP leaders who were “not in the good books of Lim”.

Klang MP Charles Santiago.
Klang MP Charles Santiago.

It cited a flurry of messages, mostly anonymous, from party members who questioned Ean Yong’s track record as an assemblyman.

“It is unacceptable to have one that held high office for more than 10 years but without any proven track record compete here,” read one message written in Mandarin. 

When contacted, Ean Yong said he had no comment on speculation about his candidacy.

Some also felt that Santiago was targeted due to his race, based on a familiar claim that DAP had sidelined its ethnic Indian leaders despite its claim to multiracialism.

Santiago himself was quick to dismiss such allegations.

“DAP is a social democratic party that promotes justice, fairness and equality. And I strongly believe that there is no place for racism in the party,” he told MalaysiaNow.

Those familiar with DAP’s domestic issues said it was known that Santiago had not been in the “good books” of party stalwart Guan Eng, while Ean Yong, on the other hand, was the “blue-eyed boy”.

They said it was rare for an MP to be transferred to contest at the state level, especially if he or she could not add any value by sitting in the state assembly.

“In some cases, it is understandable when an ethnic Malay candidate from DAP is preferred to contest for a state seat rather than Parliament, as it is thought that in the event of a lack of MB candidates, a Malay DAP rep could be offered,” said a Perak DAP source.

A former senior DAP politician said he was not surprised by the calls for Santiago’s replacement, adding that nepotism and cronyism in the party was an “open secret”.

“Teng Chang Khim is a classic example,” he said, referring to the veteran DAP member who is currently the assemblyman for Bandar Baru Klang.

“For the past 20 years at least, he has been active, and interacts with the people very well. But what happened? He was sidelined. He started in the state, but he couldn’t move.

“If you are a crony, you will move very fast,” he added.

On the other hand, he said, some DAP leaders had seen a meteoric rise in the party despite having joined the party only in 2008.

“One of them failed to make the cut in DAP’s central executive committee election this year, but he continues to be appointed to senior posts that could influence party decisions.”

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