Can democracy work in Malaysia

Statement by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at a press conference in Ipoh on Tuesday, 13th Oct. 1970.

Since my release from detention on Oct. 1, I have visited all the West coast states (except Penang where I am going later today), and the question uppermost in the people’s mind is whether democracy can work in Malaysia.

The general elections of May 10, 1969, was the high-water mark of democracy in Malaysia. After the announcement of the results, there was a new mood in the country, a new hope that democracy may after all work and bring about change and progress.

But within three days, the country was plunged into her darkest days, and democracy virtually pronounced dead.

It has now been announced that Parliament will be reconvened next February, but it will not be a full restoration. The new Parliament will be a truncated Parliament.

People all over the country are asking: Can democracy work? Will democracy be allowed to work?

There are people who think that the reconvened Parliament will be a more rubber stamp to approve predetermined government policies and decisions, and will have no meaningful or positive role in play in the country.

This view is reinforced by the banning of certain issues from discussion and debate in Parliament, and the government’s intention to perpetuate some of the creatures of the Emergency rule, like the NOC and the NCC.

The basic principle of parliamentary democracy is the supremacy of Parliament, as the body elected and entrusted by the people to defend, protect and advance the people’s interests and welfare.

It is incompatible with the principle of the sovereignty of Parliament to have at the same time organs which exercise powers which the Parliament itself does not possess.

We in the DAP therefore call on the government to abolish all creatures of Emergency rule, like the NOC and the NCC, with the restoration of Parliament.

The parliament, if it is be effective, meaningful and credible, should be the highest forum where all issues of national importance can be discussed and debated.

To strip Parliament of its right to debate freely, fully and responsibly all issues which closely touch the hearts of Malaysians is to strengthen the forces and voices of the opponents of democracy.

There are people in this country who are advocating the road of force and violence as the only way to bring about change and progress. These advocates of violence say that the democratic process is meaningless and futile process. If democracy fails, then these advocates of violence will be the main contenders of power in the Malaysian scene.

We in the DAP reject force and violence as a method of political struggle, because in a multi-racial society like Malaysia, force and violence will quickly degenerate into a racial conflict and bloodbath, which can benefit none and can only harm all.

The proponents of violence and authoritanianism want democracy to fail. But all those Malaysians who want a peaceful, united, harmonious and multi-racial Malaysia must strive to make democracy work at all costs.

But to make democracy work effectively credibly and officiantly, it depends not only upon us in the DAP, but it also depends on the government and the people.

We on our part will give every support to the government which can be broaden and strengthen the forces of democracy.

There can be no better start to give people confidence in the democratic process than to:

1. Institute a full restoration of parliamentary democracy;

2. Abolish all creatures of Emergency rule like the NOC and the NCC with the restoration of parliamentary democracy.

Finally, we in the DAP do envisage that in certain issues, it may be advisable to have private sessions, in which case the Parliament can adjourn into closed proceedings. But under no circumstances will we in the DAP support any measure which restricts or abridges the right of Members of Parliament from raising and discussing issues in Parliament on subjects which closely affect the interests of the people of Malaysia.