Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, at the forum organised by the University of Malaya Students’ Union in Dewan Tunku Chancellor, University of Malaya, on Monday, December 5, 1977 at 7.45 p.m.
Masaalah politik negara – satu cabaran perpaduan
Undoubtedly, the biggest political challenge in our nation is to create a united Malaysian nation, for if this fails, then whatever else we might have achieved in other fields would all come to nought.
There are three aspects of national unity which I wish to discuss tonight.
Firstly, as a Federal state, as distinct from a unitary state, there is in particular the problem of fostering national unity among the people in West Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.
There had been attempts in the past, and there are still attempts, to convert Sabah and Sarawak as “states within a state”, to close and seal off Sabah amd Sarawak from pan-Malaysian influences. It is no secret that the question of ‘secession’ on Sabah or Sarawak had at one time or another been seriously discussed, by influential circles in the states, and that this matter has not been completely banished from Sabah or Sarawak political thinking or calculations.
After the 1974 general elections, I was twice disallowed entry into Sarawak by the Rahman Ya’acob State Government. It is unthinkable that a Malaysian Member of Parliament cannot visit his own country. It shows the peculiar notions of national unity of the Sarawak Chief Minister, but even more important, it shows the extent the Chief Minister of Sarawak is prepared to go to abuse and misuse the State powers of autonomy in immigration to seal off Sarawak from pan-Malaysian influences and ideas. State autonomy in immigration was granted to Sarawak and Sabah on their entry into the Malaysian Federation to protect Sarawak nd Sabah from being flooded with West Malaysian labour leading to the unemployment of Sarawakians and Sabahans in their own states. However, this immigration power has been abused to restrict freedom of movement of Malaysians, and even to deny a West Malaysian Member of Parliament from visiting his own country in Sarawak. Can we say that a State Chief Minister who is responsible for such actions is loyal to the Malaysian idea?
The second facet of national unity is class divisions. Even in homogeneous societies where the country is divided into two nations, the rich and the poor, the net result is national disunity and revolutions. Despite the several five-year Malaysia Plans and the New Economic Policy, Malaysia is still being run by the feudalist-capitalist classes for their own interests, at the expense of the poor of all races.
In fact, the class outlook permeate the overall political outlook of the ruling party politicians, and determine their attitudes and policies on questions of human rights, corruption and democracy.
In America, we read about multi-millionaires entering the political arena with their wealth to buy political power. But in Malaysia, we see men joining the ruling parties, the UMNO, MCA or MIC to become millionaires – even where they spend the best part of their adult life in the public service as Parliamentary Secretary, then Deputy Minister and then full Minister.
No wonder the Barisan Nasional Ministers and MPs oppose so vehemently repeated attempts by the DAP to introduce in Parliament legislation to toughen up anti-sorruption laws, like for instance in October 1975, a DAP motion to introduce legislation requiring every Minister, Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Secretary, Member of Parliament, Chief Ministers of Menteri Besars, State Executive Couucillors, State Assemblymen to annually declare publicly his wealth and that of his next of kin, and the confiscation of property or income which could not be accounted for by legal means. Again, this October, another motion by the DAP to place the NBI under Parliament so that it would not be subject to Ministerial interference or control in proceeding against the corrupt In high public places was defeated.
As I said in Parliament, where a ‘big fish’ has been brought to court on charges of corruption, we will find invariably that he had posed a challenge to the political leadership inside the ruling party. In other words, the anti-corruption laws and agencies have been used to strike down political rivals inside the ruling parties. They have also been used to protect loyal political leaders, like Datuk Abdullah Ahamd, when his ownership of numerous places was banned. It must be very rare where a certified government document has been banned as a subversive document.
Again, when in October, I moved another motion in Parliament asking the Malaysian Government to ratify the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights, 1966, which was adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, two UMNO Members of Parliament warned that if the motion is passed, Malay rights would be endangered, one accusing the DAP of wanting memperalatkan orang Melayau (making use if the Malays) while the other even went to the extent of warning that if the motion is passed, and the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights 1966 patified, there would be another May 13!
What is the reason for this irrational reaction? The International Covenant of Political and Civil Right 1966 has nothing to do with Malay rights or non-Malay rights, but spells out the human rights of free speech, belief, assembly, association and freedom from arbitrary arrest without trial, which is the right of every human being, regardless of his race,
The UMBO MPs reacted so ferociously, not because the DAP was memperalatkan orang Melayu, but because the bumiputras had been memperalatkan by the UMNO-putras, those WMNO leaders who became rich through the politics of bumiputerism, which is likely to be exposed and undermined, if basic human rights are restored to the peasants, the workers, the students, and the ordinary rakyat.
The ratification of the Internatioanl Covenant of Political and Civil Rights will be against the class interests of the political leaders in the Barisan Nasional parties. They want to stifle even more areas of intellectual freedom and dissent, and not to do the opposite as heralded by the ratification of the International Covenant. Having stifled peasants, workers and students, they are in fact currently in the process of stifling the university lecturers in the form of disciplinary regulations for the academic staff – so that they can be reduced into intellectual eunuchs. I am glad to see that the university academic staffs are not talking this violation lying down, but are making a stand against it.
All this brings into question as to how deep is the commitment of the political leaders in the ruling parties to democracy.
As a perceptive politician wrote in 1971, the struggle of UMNO was the preservation of feudalism, and the acceptance of the democratic system was “more a matter of form than a substance.” This politician wrote that revolts against feudalism “may not necessarily result in the replacement of feudalism with a form of Government that is the antithesis of feudalism. It may result in the perpetuation of feudalism with new personalities in power. It may also end up with another type of authoritirian government.”
Reffering to how feudalism trampled on democracy during the UMNO rule until 1971, the writer said:
“The slightest hint of criticism or opposition resulted in difficulties for the individual concerned. As Malaysians are generally accustomed to a sort line small pressures are sufficient to keep people in line. Thus feudalism was allowed to bend and distort democracy without very obvious signs of public discontent.”
This article was entitled “Problems of Democratic Nation Building in Malaysia”, and appeared in the Journal, Solidarity, in October 1971. The writer is Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed.
What happened in Kelantan is the latest proof that democracy does not rate very high up in the priority of things to the ruling clique, before it conflicted with their group interests.
In 1966, Emergency was proclaimed and Article 150 incoked to amend the Sarawak State Constitution to ensure that democratic practice is followed, and that the then Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningken had to summon a State Assembly (Council Negeri) meeting to ascertain whether he has majority support, and to resign if he lost a motion of no confidence on him. Eleven years later, Emergency was proclaimed and Article 150 of the Constitution invoked, to provide, in effect, that the Kelantan Mentri Besar who had lost a vote on no confidence can continue as Mentri Besar under a Mageran Type of government!
The authorities looked with a kindly eye to the Kelantan demonstrations before imposition of curfews, but reacted heavy0handedly in the Baling demonstrations by peasants and students in the end of 1974.
The political and economic suppression of the poor in Malaysia is a great source of disunity in the country. What makes it even more dangerous is that to justify this system of government, racial arguments are used that such measures are necessary to protect the Malays from the non-Malays.
This brings me to the third aspect of Malaysian unity. Malaysia is made up of diverse peoples, constituted from diverse races, languages, cultures and religions.
The urgent task of nation building is to instil in every Malaysian, regardless of his race, a transcending Malaysian identity and consciousness.
A new generation of Malaysians have grown up since Merdeka in 1957. There is an innate loyalty and love for Malaysia, whether he be a Malay, Chinese, Indian, which no one can question!
This is amply illustrated by the recent South East Asia Games, where Malaysians of all races and ages, in front of their television sets, cheered and rooted for the Malaysian participant in every game, whether football, athletics, basketball, hockey, to win, regardless of whether the participant is a Malay, Chinese or Indian; and all share in the rejoicing of victories and the sorrow of defeats.
Have we succeeded in building on this innate loyalty and love for Malaysia by Malaysians, especially of young Malaysians? I am afraid not. The mass emigration of professional, especially doctors and dentists, in recent years, is a censure against the nation building policies of the Barisan Nasional government. It constitutes not only a vote of no confidence about the future, but expression of their anxiety and fear of the type of Malaysian society which is being built, which is in the breatso of great numbers of Malaysians as well.
Malaysia is unique is that it is comprised of diverse races, languages, religions and cultures, and the preservation of this unique diversity holds the key to durable national unity.
One race alone, one religion alone, one language alone, or one culture alone, cannot unite Malaysians. Malaysians accept Malay as the National and Official Language, but the other languages as guaranteed by the Constitution should be allowed free use except for official purposes. Malaysians accept Islam as the Official Religion, but other religions should be accorded respect and recognition as part of Malaysian life.
This is why, for instance, when the first Order of the Day that was issued by the new Chief of Armed Forces, General Sany, that the duty of the armed forces is to protect democracy and the Official Religion, Islam, non-Muslim Malaysians wonder what is the position of other religions.
The Government is not providing a lead to Malaysianise the outlook of all Malaysians, while the Government had banned the use of religious symbols by political parties, directed mainly as PAS, it had allowed racialism in politics to be openly appealed to.
Thus, UMNO claims that it is a party for the Malays, and Malays who don’t support it are vritually treated as traitors of the race. The MCA makes the same claim on Chinese, the MIC on Indians. Is this the road to Malaysian nation building? To make the Malays, Indians and Chinese to think of themselves first as Malaysians and second of their race? The politics of UMNO, MCA and MIC is that every Malaysian should think of themselves of their race first, and as Malaysians second!
The bulk of the problems of national unity stem from this politics of race of the Barisan Nasional parties. Unless the ruling party as the government is going to set the example of Malaysianising Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, rather than reinforcing each race in its racial compartments, I see no possibility of a successful Malaysian nation building.
All the Malaysian consciousness and love which are manifested by all races in the SEA Games and similar events would be dissipated and negated by the realities of Malaysian life brought about by the politics of race of the ruling parties.