Senu’s “tension high” statement may heighten tension when there isn’t any

The DAP Organising Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, today (24.7.68) issued the following statement:

The Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Inche Senu bin Abdul Rahman, has given a serious warning that tension had become high among a certain section of the population over the clemency appeal for the 11 men condemned to death for consorting with the Indonesian confrontationists.

We deplore in the strongest language possible such Ministerial statements, as they may have the effect of arousing tension in the country when there isn’t tension.

To call on the public to remain calm, when the public is calm, is to put doubt in public mind, create public unease and upset the public calm.

We must make a special plea, in the interest of national unity and multi-racial harmony, that government leaders should be responsible, and fully aware of the consequences, of their statements and actions. They must be sanely, rationally and acutely aware of the dangers of arousing tension in a multi-racial society with statements which encourage racial reactions.

The national signature campaign was conducted scrupulously on humanitarian grounds.

The petition to the Sultan, every statement made in connection with the campaign, went out of its way to emphasise that it was above politics, race, religion and class.

Inche Senu criticised political parties for taking up the clemency plea, and said it would be all right if political leaders had done so in their personal capacities.

The MCA Maju Ward, the Alliance organ, the UMNO organ, all had taken a stand, either for proceeding with the execution or urging its stay. Are they all also guilty of “heightening tension” in the words of Inche Senu?

The sad fact is that if the national signature campaign had not been launched and provided a focal and rallying point for the democratic expression of views by humane and compassionate Malaysians, the 11 youths might have already been executed.

We are fully aware that this issue might be turned into a communal issue – as any issue in a multi-racial country can turn into a racial one.

Hence our meticulous regard to explain that it is an issue which rises above race; that if the 11 condemned had been Malays or Indians, or a composition of all three races, the same humanitarian grounds will prompt the launching of a national signature campaign for their clemency, if similar circumstances prevail.

We are distressed that Inche Senu should be undoing all the work that is being done to keep the issue above race and party politics.

What can be the result if Ministers and leaders go round the country talking about “heightening tension”? There can only be one result. Tension will be heightened.

We urge Inche Senu to keep this case of the 11 youths strictly on the humanitarian level, a matter of the conscience, and not party affiliation, race, class or religion.

Humanitarians inside and outside the country have urged for clemency. We pray that the Sultan of Johore will accede to the humanitarian call.

In the Australian daily, “The Australian” dated 19th July, 1968, four noted scholars of South East Asia have also added their voices to the humanitarian appeal for clemency.

They are Dr. J. D. Legge, Chairman, Centre of South-East Asian Studies, Professor Herbert Feith, reader in politics, Dr. J. A. C. Mackie, research director, Centre of South-East Asian Studies; and Dr. M. E. Osborne, senior lecturer in history. All of them are from the Monash University, Victoria, Australia.

In their joint letter to “The Australian”, they said:

“The report that the Government of Malaysia intends to carry out the death sentence imposed on 11 young Malaysian Chinese charged with assisting the Indonesian during confrontation is deeply disturbing on several counts”.

“We would urge that representations be made by responsible Australian authorities for the exercise of clemency”.

“While the verdict of the courts is a matter on which we would not presume to comment, the Malaysian Government’s refusal to exercise the prerogative of mercy dismays us greatly”.

“Quite apart from the humanitarian arguments against the death penalty and the youth of the defendants at the time of their offences, such harsh punishment is particularly anachronistic because the Malaysian Government has itself been developing closer links with Indonesia and welcoming to its shores Officers of the Indonesian Army which, not long before, was engaged in military operations against the Federation and recruiting young men such as these to their cause.

“Almost certainly, the application of the death penalty would have adverse political repercussions within Malaysia’s multi-racial society”.

These four Australian scholars have shown that humanity and compassion transcends even nation. Can we Malaysians show the world that we posses humanity and compassion, or are we to go down in history as a nation of callous men and women?

To those in the Alliance, MCA, UMNO and MIC, who are humanitarian and compassionate, we urge them to make their voices felt.

We have only one message encouragement for them: They may find the lash of the party whip painful, but they are going to find the sting of the conscience even more unbearable.

Audited on 2021-03-29.