The moral of the Syed Nasir affair

Speech by DAP Organising Secretary, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, to the Sentral DAP Branch on Wednesday, September 18, 1968 at 8 p.m.

The moral of the Syed Nasir affair

On March 15, 1967, the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman told a post-Cabinet news conference that the Public Services Commission would be taking action against the Director of the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, Syed Nasir bin Ismail, for his stand on the National Language Bill in opposing the government.

Two days later, March 17, at a public rally in Muar, the Tunku criticised the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, and said: “The Dewan was set up with the primary aim of developing the national language. Instead, it has coined new words which cannot be understood by the people.

“Moreover, it is playing politics because it has been turned into a political arena by certain people.”

A day after, March 18, at the speech day of the Tunku Khursiah College in Seremban, the Minister of Education, Inche Khir bin Johari, said:

“Recently, the Dewan has been turned into a political arena and certain members of its staff have been carrying out anti-Government activities.

“As one who is responsible for the Dewan, I will be taking steps to purge the Dewan of those elements.”

These were all over a year ago. What has happened since then?

We read three days ago that Syed Nasir bin Ismail, the Director of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, a government servant against whom the Public Services Commission was to take action, had been re-elected to the UMNO Executive Council at the UMNO annual delegates Conference.

The questions that come to mind are:

1. Did the P.S.C. take any action against Syed Nasir?
2. Had the Dewan been purged of its “political” elements?

It is obvious that no action was taken against Syed Nasir, and that the Dewan remains a political arena of the UMNO.

The moral of the Syed Nasir affair is: So long as you are with the UMNO or the ruling party, it is all right to take part in politics, even if you are a Division One Government servant. But if you are opposition-minded, then so sorry, the P.S.C. will come into the picture.

Many teachers have applied for permission to take active part in the DAP. For six months now, many of them have not received a reply, although many teachers who applied to be in the ruling party have been given the green light.

This double-standards of the government, of having one rule for Alliance members and another rule for opposition members, is a disgrace for a party which claims to uphold democracy and fair play in the country. This is the result of people who do not tolerate dissent and opposition, who do not know the meaning of democratic opposition.

It is such people who will cause the death of democracy in Malaysia, because in coming years, when they find that the opposition are gaining popular support, and are likely to form the next government, they will panic and resort to all repressive and undemocratic measures to clamp down the opposition.

The Alliance government possesses the form of democracy, but not the spirit and substance of democratic practice.

Syed Nasir bin Ismail, Director of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, has returned to the UMNO Executive Council, with full powers and right to make speeches and issue statements.

But when one of the teachers applied to become a DAP Branch secretary, with powers to make speeches and issue statements, he was told that he could be a secretary, but could not issue statements or make speeches. In other words, a silent secretary.

Where is the democracy of the Alliance?

We urge the Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to look into this matter, in the interest of democracy in Malaysia.

Either government servants can or cannot take part in politics. If they can take part in politics, there should not be one rule, which give full liberty to those who are in the Alliance, and another rule, which muzzles and restricts the activities of those who are in the opposition.

And the public, I am sure, will want to know what exactly happened to the Syed Nasir affair. If the government cannot give a satisfactory explanation, then the public will have another example of the hypocrisy of Alliance leaders.

Audited on 2021-04-28.