Democracy in Malaysia

Talk by the DAP Organising Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, to the Pantai DAP Branch on Tuesday, 7th May 1968 at 8.30 p.m.

Democracy in Malaysia

In a multi-racial nation like Malaysia, democracy is the only system of government which can unite the various races into one people and forge for them a common purpose and destiny.

Any form of totalitarian or military government, which must necessarily mean the predominance of one racial group over the others, will generate racial tension and conflicts, leading to national disintegration.

However, the democratic spirit and the democratic way of life must be actively and consciously fostered and nurtured if it is not to wither away and die. This is the responsibility of both the government and the governed.

It is unfortunate that in Malaysia, the Alliance government has systematically eroded the basis of a democratic way of life.

We call on the Alliance government to immediately embark on a five-point DEMOCRATISATION PROCESS to broaden the areas of democratic freedom in Malaysia.
They are:

1. DEMOCRATISE the mass media of communications. A democracy can only succeed if the majority of people can exercise good judgements and wise decisions, which in turn are dependent on the availability of adequate information. If information is controlled by one political party, via the press, radio and television, and the people denied free access to all necessary information, then the people cannot make good judgements and wise decisions. In Malaysia, radio and television are particularly dedicated to the dissemination of one-sided and distorted information and news.

2. DEMOCRATISE the government’s control of political party activities. Regulations requiring parties to get prior police permit for public rallies and meetings not only give rise to red tape and bureaucratic delays, they also infringe on the basic rights of free speech and free assembly. There are many regulations which are calculated to hamper political work, like the necessity to register branches, etc.

3. DEMOCRATISE the conduct of elections, where the ruling party made use of government personnel, money and resources for its party campaigning, and where the ruling party spend $10 million for a general elections, while opposition parties could hardly raise a quarter of a million dollars. One solution will be to set up an all-party commission to draw up a code of ethics for general elections, concerning electioneering conduct and finance, binding on all competing parties.

4. DEMOCRATISE local government local government by immediately holding local council elections. The suspension of elections stifles grass roots democracy, the fountain of democratic education for all villagers and townspeople on the meaning and working of the democratic process.

5. DEMOCRATISE the university campus by allowing student political clubs, to allow the leaders of tomorrow an opportunity to develop into balanced and mature citizens of the Malaysian democracy.

In the final analysis, however, whether a democracy succeeds or fails will depend on whether there are enough democrats in the country.

In Malaysia, there are large numbers of people who are afraid of being involved in politics, either because they think that politics is dirty which clean and honest people don’t get connected, or because they are afraid of antagonizing the powers that be.

This is a most unhealthy sign, because its shows that Malaysia has today very few democrats.

One of the hallmarks of democracy is that governments could be changed without hatred or violence. However, Tun Tan Siew Sin and many Alliance Cabinet members have repeatedly declared that if the opposition comes to power, there will be chaos, racial bloodshed and destruction.

Nothing could be plainer that to Alliance leaders, they would not tolerate a change of government. They are not democrats who are prepared to hand over power to another group of people if the people so wishes.

The future of democracy will be, whether before our fragile democratic system is to put to the supreme test of being preserved or thrown overboard, we can throw up more democrats, and allow democracy to strike deeper roots in Malaysian soil.

If we can, democracy will be a successful experiment. If we cannot, democracy will be a casualty, and together with it, the multi-racial Malaysian experiment.