Where the DAP differs with the Alliance and the Gerakan: that Malaysia should be a multi-lingual and multi-cultural nation practicing cultural democracy

Speech by DAP Organising Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP eleventh Merdeka Anniversary Celebrations held at the Sentral DAP Branch premises, 632-A Jalan Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, on Wednesday, August 28 at 7.30 p.m.

While celebrating the 11th Merdeka Anniversary of Malaysia, we must pause and take stock of what progress we have made in our eleven years of independent nationhood.

In my mind, the crucial question to ask is: are we getting a more Malaysian-minded or a more race-motivated nation?

The answer is provided by the huge hoardings advertising the national anthem and the national flag which were recently erected all over the main highways and trunk roads in West Malaysia.

Our national anthem and our national flag, symbols of national sovereignty, are advertised in the same way cigarettes, shoes, groundnuts, Dunlop tyres, motor cars, MSA flights are advertised.

Apart from degrading our national symbols and our national image, this is an open confession that we have failed to instill Malaysian consciousness and identity among the people after a decade of Merdeka.

If these hoardings must be put up, one would expect them to go up ten years ago, to be removed now – and not erected ten years after Independence.

Nation building, the creation of a Malaysian-minded generation, remains the primary task facing our nation. Unless we can Malaysian-ise the various races of our country, Malaysia will not be able to withstand the twin dangers of communalism and communism.

The failure of nation building is the result of the Alliance’s economic, political, cultural and language policies.

It stems directly from the Alliance’s rejection of Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural nation.

For multi-racialism to be meaningful, a basic pre-condition is the practice of multi-lingualism.

This has been openly rejected by the Alliance, who are pledged to the objective of “one nation, one language.” In fact, the Alliance are beginning to interpret in practice, “Malay as the sole official language” to mean “Malay as the sole language” in Malaysia.

At the Perak/Penang State border is a huge hoarding declaring: “Chakap-lah Bahasa Kebangsaan sahaja!” which means “Only use the National Language.”

This is also the reason why Television Malaysia is not providing language sub-titling in television programmes, to allow a multi-lingual community to enjoy the medium with equal opportunity.

Here is one fundamental point where the DAP differs with the Alliance and the Gerakan, for the Gerakan fully supports the language policy of the Alliance.

Another fundamental disagreement between the DAP with the Alliance and the Gerakan is over the question of a Malaysian culture.

The UMNO Executive Secretary, Inche Musa Hitam, has declared that Malaysians must accept Malay culture as their culture.

The Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Inche Senu bin Abdul Rahman, has declared that if “Malaysia is to have its own literature which can be identified as distinctively Malaysian in form and content, then the medium of expression cannot but be the National Language.”

In other words, Malaysians writing in Chinese, Tamil and English on the aspirations, hopes and struggles of the Malaysians and the Malaysian nation, will not be contributing to Malaysian literature. They will be regarded as foreign writings to be treated on the same level as foreign writers, even though they may be Malaysians.

The Gerakan is in full support and agreement with the Alliance on this question.

A Gerakan leader, Dr. Syed Naguib Alatas, in a University of Malaya forum on July 12 this year, declared that Malaysian literature should be written in Malay.

He added that Malaysian literature should also include Indonesian literature.

Dr. Syed Naguib Alatas explained: “This is because no literature, including Malaysian literature, can develop within a matter of only ten years.

“Malaysian literature as in the past include literature from Indonesia.”

Dr. Syed Naguib Alatas added: “Literature reflects the values, pride and honour of the nation.” He said no literature could develop independent of nationhood.

He did not explain why the “values, pride and honour of the nation” expressed in Tamil, Chinese and English cannot be Malaysian literature.

He also did not explain how Indonesian writings of today, for instance, can reflect the “values, pride and honour” of Malaysian nation, or is in any way connected with the Malaysian nationhood.

In another interview with the press, and reported on August 12, Dr. Syed Naguib declared that Malaysian culture must be based on Malay culture, and that genuine Malaysian literature can only be in Malay.

The DAP unconditionally rejects the Alliance and the Gerakan’s road to Malaysian culture. The Alliance and the Gerakan stand for the rejection of the principle and practice of cultural democracy in Malaysia.

We in the DAP are convinced that the Alliance and Gerakan cultural policies cannot integrate the various races into one nationality. Their policies are bound to fail, because they are in fact policies of assimilation.

We in the DAP are convinced that Malaysian culture must be allowed to develop and fruition freely from the free interplay and interaction of the various cultural streams that meet in Malaysia. Malaysian culture is not Malay culture, Indian culture or Chinese culture, and should not be based on Malay, Chinese or Indian culture. It must be the result of free integration of the cultural exchanges among the various racial groups.

Unless a multi-cultural and multi-lingual policy is adopted, Malaysia will remain as divided when we celebrate the second decade of Merdeka as she is divided today.

Audited on 2021-04-21.