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Yong Yen Nie
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Malaysia

Malay candidate is DAP's newest star

The Straits Times | Yong Yen Nie | Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Young Ms Dyana Sofya, 27, has become an overnight political sensation in Malaysia as Democratic Action Party's candidate for the Teluk Intan by-election.

MALAYSIA - A by-election in a small town in Perak has shaken up Malaysian politics as it features an attractive Malay girl who represents a Chinese-based party and espouses views deemed radical by most Malays.

The candidacy of Ms Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, 27, for the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) has hoisted her as an overnight political sensation. Even former premier Mahathir Mohamad has spoken about her, and she gets catcalls during her campaign rounds.

She comes from a family of Umno loyalists and graduated as a lawyer from Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) - an institution that takes in only Malay and bumiputera students.

Yet she is today the political secretary of DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and last week grabbed headlines after being named its candidate to contest the Teluk Intan state assembly election.

Facing off against her is Datuk Mah Siew Keong, the 53-year-old president of Gerakan, one of the 13 parties grouped under the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition that governs South-east Asia's third-biggest economy. BN is led by the country's biggest political party, United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

The DAP does not release its membership figures but the vast majority of its members are Chinese, as often seen in its big conventions. Its elected 20-member central committee includes two Malays and seven Indians.

In her campaign rounds in Teluk Intan, a small town surrounded by oil palm plantations and rice fields, Ms Dyana - who usually wears baju kurung, a loose Malay two-piece outfit - is charming townspeople with promises to fight for inclusive policies.

But things have hardly been smooth for her since she joined the DAP in 2011, she told The Sunday Times in an interview last Friday.

She said she has received countless messages sent to her mobile phone, anonymously denouncing her political party choice.

"They would say, "You are Malay, you cannot join DAP. But I would think, "Why not?" Even my mother has never said that to me."

To be sure, she is not the only Malay who has joined the DAP despite coming from a family of staunch Umno members.

In the last general election, Mr Zairil Khir Johari, 31 - a son of the late Umno leader and former Education Minister Khir Johari - won a seat in Parliament for the DAP in Penang.

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