DAP has been labelled a party under the reign of the "Lim dynasty" - a term used by political rivals to jab at the father-son duo of party veteran Lim Kit Siang and secretary-general Lim Guan Eng who were said to have controlled the 56-year-old party for decades.
Guan Eng is expected to step down at the party's central executive committee (CEC) polls on June 20 as he ends his final term as secretary-general and relinquishes the post he held for 17 years. However, concerns arose if he will become a de facto leader while his successor will end up as a lame duck.
Such criticism was particularly hurled by vocal former DAP member Hew Kuan Yau, who last year called for the party to pick a top leader who has real power as he feared that Guan Eng may continue to pull the strings from behind the scenes.
Hew raised such a view after current party chairperson Tan Kok Wai announced in December last year that he was not seeking re-election to the chairperson's post but would still contest to be on the CEC.
While Guan Eng's plans for the upcoming party polls are unknown, his father announced that he will contest to be on the CEC but would not aim for a "front-line leadership position".
In an interview with Malaysiakini and KiniTV last Thursday (April 29), DAP organising-secretary Anthony Loke Siew Fook denied allegations that the party is ruled by the Lims as the party had all along adopted a collective leadership principle and will continue to do so after the upcoming party polls.
"I have known Kuan Yau since 1999. I have known him long enough to understand his view and his thinking. But being someone who has been with the CEC for the past 17 years, definitely I will not agree with his statement.
"I can testify honestly the party is not dictated by one single individual, no matter how strong the person is. When Guan Eng assumed office as secretary-general, he did not make any decision alone," Loke said.
Regardless of whichever position Guan Eng may hold in the future, he cannot assume full control over the party, Loke added.
However, he said it is premature to speculate what role Guan Eng will play after the dust settles on the party polls.
"The key members of the CEC and parliamentarians will know that any key decisions are made after consultation. Over the years, he (Guan Eng) has taken a very consultative approach where everybody will be gathered to speak their minds," he said.
The consultation process is where strong arguments and views could be heard, Loke said, adding that those who proposed anything would need to convince everyone in the CEC before arriving at a decision.
"Of course, you can argue that Kit Siang has a big influence. Yes, this is because he has experience and wisdom. We will give a lot of consideration when he offers his views but it is not necessarily one person's view that will dictate the direction and decision of the party.
"If you want to talk about family dynasties, there are prominent families in every party, but I don't look at that as a liability," he said, adding that one cannot deny the contribution of the Lims.
"Nevertheless, the party will not be strong just based on one or two individuals. We are here today because of the sweat, cooperation, and contribution of all. We must acknowledge the contribution of everyone," he added.
Guan Eng's decisiveness
To a question, Loke admitted that Guan Eng could be adamant after making up his mind and the Bagan MP would want to execute his decision at any cost.
"There is no such thing as a perfect person. It's not a weakness but perhaps it is part of his character, where most of the time he is very consultative but sometimes he is very decisive. He would just do things at any cost and nobody can stop him.
"This can be an advantage and a disadvantage," he said.
When asked if such decisiveness was reflected in how Guan Eng dealt with the allocation for Tunku Abdul Rahman University College (TAR UC), Loke agreed.
Government allocation for TAR UC was slashed to RM1 million for 2020 by the Pakatan Harapan federal administration in a bid to pressure MCA to cede control of the institution.
TAR UC regularly received around RM5 million in federal funding during the prior BN administrations.
Guan Eng, who then helmed the Finance Ministry, said the Harapan government had to be fair and could not use federal funding for a party-controlled institution.
However, MCA president Wee Ka Siong said the finance minister at the time was victimising the Chinese community.
Still, Loke said Guan Eng has done a great job as the party's secretary-general.
"Firstly, DAP reached its peak during Guan Eng's era. This is undeniable. Under his leadership, the opposition won in a few states, including Penang and Selangor.
"Guan Eng was the reason why we could be successful in our strategy. The achievements we obtained in the 2013 and 2018 general elections were somehow related to his leadership style. We are lucky to have a decisive leader.
"For example, when he planned to contest in Penang (Bagan parliamentary seat) in 2008, he went for it without giving it much thought and no one even knew his voting address had been changed, but he was ready to contest," said Loke.
Similarly, Loke said Guan Eng was decisive in terms of placing party leaders, including Kit Siang, Liew Chin Tong, and Teo Nie Ching to contest in Johor.
Despite this, it was reported that a movement had emerged within DAP, pushing for the father-son team to be removed from the helm.
In December last year, DAP veteran Teng Chang Khim publicly urged Kit Siang and Guan Eng to make way for new leaders.
When asked about the anti-Lims movement, Loke said he saw no reason for the party members to oust Kit Siang and Guan Eng.
"I never heard of it. Maybe one or two individuals who spoke of it on Facebook got excited. But I don't think any anti-Lim action will succeed.
"Perhaps, there are some who are not happy but there is no major force to oust the Lims. The MPs, state assemblypersons, and local councillors I met... there is no sign showing they are plotting to oust the Lims," he said.
Loke said that if a leader is to be removed, there must be a very strong reason, whether that leader has done something wrong with the party, or has damaged it in some way.
As far as both Lims are concerned, they are builders of the party, he said.
"Kit Siang is the heart and soul (of DAP) and he did not make any serious mistake. Perhaps, some said he has been leading the party for too long but at least he has the spirit to do so.
"As for Guan Eng, some may not be happy with his style or approach but look at the results DAP achieved in the past three general elections... There is no reason to oust them," Loke added.
This interview was jointly conducted by Kow Gah Chie, Lee Way Loon, Ng Xiang Yi, Mandy Leong, and Robin Koh.