The Organising Secretary of the Democratic Action Party, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, last night spoke of the danger of a ‘second Nigeria’ in Malaysia if Malaysians could not discuss and solve the racial problem in the country in a sober, intelligent and rational manner.
Mr. Lim was speaking to the Penang DAP Branch in Bishop Street here on “Have We learnt from the Lessons of the Racial Disturbances in Penang and North Malaya last year?”, to which his reply was ‘No’.
Mr. Lim said that until January 1966, Nigeria in Africa and Malaysia in Asia were held up as shining examples of multi-ethnic democracies.
Mr. Lim went on: “Both countries had federal democracies. Both had multi-ethnic populations. Both seemed to have found the formula to weld the diverse peoples in the country into one nation and one people.
“But today, Nigeria lies in ruins. It has become the theatre of tribal massacres, carnage, genocide and gross inhumanity.
“How did Africa’s brightest hope for successful nationhood come to such a sorry pass? Might Malaysia go the way of Nigeria?”
Mr. Lim said that there were people who, despite the racial disturbances in Penang and North Malaya last year, pooh-poohed any talk of the danger of racial outbreak in Malaysia. These people pointed to the present calm and racial harmony to show that there could be no racial conflict.
Mr. Lim said: “But the lesson we should draw, both from the Penang disturbances and the Nigerian calamity, is the suddenness of racial disaster.
“Nobody, inside or outside Nigeria, had expected the massacres and carnage. When I was in Lagos, the Nigerian capital, in May 1965, no one imagined that the country would develop so tragically within a year.
“I was in Penang on November 20 last year, a day after the short-sighted devaluation of the old Malayan currency by the government.
“Although there was widespread public anger, nobody was prepared for the racial blow-up, which left in its wake, scores of dead, hundreds of injured and over 1,600 arrests.”
Mr. Lim said it was tragic that the government and the nation had not learnt from the Penang and North Malayan disturbances last year.
He said: “Although the immediate cause was the cheapening of the old currency, there are more deep-seated causes which resulted in the disturbances to spread at so rapid a rate, and to make it so difficult to contain.”
“Basically, the deep-seated causes of growing antagonism between the races arose out of the failure of the Alliance government to build a nation of Malaysians.
“A whole generation of Malaysians are growing up who feel that they have been treated as second-class citizens, because they are classified as ‘non-bumiputras.’
“Even in schools, school-children have learnt to resent this distinction.
“Is this the way to build a nation, by imbibing into the new generation of Malaysians a sense of grievance and injustice?
“No wonder that ten years after Merdeka, the Alliance had to pass a law to compel respect to the national anthem, and put up huge hoarding boards along the highways urging the people to respect the national anthem and the national flag.
“In the countryside, the Alliance rural development plans benefit predominantly the rural elite, while the rural ra’ayat are by-passed. Consequently, the ra’ayat are guided to vent their grievances against exploitation, poverty and backwardness on the non-Malay town-dwellers.
“There are other causes for the growing antagonism among the races, which have resulted in fewer and fewer people becoming Malaysian-minded with the passing of every year. These other causes include cultural, economic, social, political and educational factors.
“Unless Malaysians can handle and solve this race problem rationally, soberly and intelligently, then Malaysia will become a second Nigeria, ending in an orgy of bloodshed.
“This is why we are calling for a high-powered commission of inquiry to study the race problem in Malaysia, by looking at the total aspect of the problem – political, economic, cultural, social and educational – and to pinpoint causes of racial tension and propose solutions.
“The biggest enemy of Malaysia is communalism and not communism. If the communist forces make any headway, it will largely because of communal grievances of the people.
“The DAP is dedicated to the removal of all communal grievances, so that the basis could be laid for all races in the country to develop a Malaysian consciousness and identity, which rise above race, language, religion or class.”
Audited on 2021-03-11