All-party debate on Rukunegara

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and M.P. for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a reception given by Malacca DAP at Malacca Town Hall on Sunday, 18th Oct. 1970 at 11 a.m.

All-party debate on Rukunegara

In Penang last Wednesday, I suggested a public discussion and debate, including over radio and television, on Rukunegara.

For this suggestion, I was attacked and threatened by some quarters who regard such a proposal anti-national and criminal. It may be that to these people, the Sedition Act should cover the Rukunegara and all other issues where differences of views may arise between the government and the governed.

I read in the Utusan Malaysia yesterday that the Gerak Ra’ayat Malaysia, through its Penang chief, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, has taken the stand that the National Consultative Council has already debated the Rukunegara.

We in the DAP do not think that this is the right approach by people who profess belief in the democratic way of life.

We are not living in the 16th century feudal society, where the ruling class decided how and what the people should think. I have no doubt that a Rukunegara in a feudal society will be decided by the ruling class, without any opportunity by the people to give their views and contributions.

But we are living in the 20th century Malaysia, where we want to encourage free thinking and the abolition of psychological feudalism and slavish mentality.

A Rukunegara must be the result of the discussion and debate of every citizen of Malaysia, and not merely by two or three political parties.

The Alliance and the Gerak Ra’ayat Malaysia combined may have a lot of ideas, but it does not mean that what they decide is always to the best interest of the people and country. If democracy is to be meaningful, and not a guided democracy, then there must be room for the people to give their ideas on national issues.

The DAP is not suggesting that we should debate whether we should have a Rukunegara or not. Nobody disagrees with the concept of a Rukunegara. In fact, as far back as November 1966, I wrote in the DAP journal, the Rocket, of the need for a set of common fundamental objectives of nation building shared and accepted by all Malaysians. This is the same as the concept of a Rukunegara.

Again, we in the DAP do not oppose the five principles which are in the Rukunegara prepared by the Alliance government and the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia, namely belief in God, loyalty to king and country, upholding the constitution, the rule of law and good behaviour and morality.

In its present form, however, the Rukunegara has omitted reference to principles which are vital if we are going to build a united Malaysian nation out of the diverse races. We therefore feel that there should be a public discussion and debate as to how to make the Rukunegara a more effective and meaningful instrument to build a united nation.

Surely such a suggestion is not subversive? If in Malaysia today, it is not possible to make such a suggestion without being attacked as anti-national, then I think we must all seriously ask ourselves whether it is worthwhile of trying to make the democratic system work in Malaysia.

Let me repeat: I am proposing a public discussion on the Rukunegara, not to find out whether we should have a Rukunegara, but to find out how we can make Rukunegara a more effective and meaningful instrument in the nation building process.

And among the principles which I think should be incorporated into the Rukunegara are:

1. That Malaysia should be a genuine multi-racial nation;
2. That all Malaysians should dedicate themselves to work the parliamentary democratic process and renounce force and violence as a means of political struggle; and
3. That it is the duty of every Malaysian to contribute to the abolition of the economic imbalance between the haves and have-nots, and between the urban and rural areas.

There are forces which want Malaysia to become a closed society to prepare the way for authoritarian rule. We in DAP shall always fight for an open society, where there is room for responsible expression of ideas to promote a democratic way of life.

Our proposal for a public debate as to how to make the Rukunegara a more effective and meaningful instrument in nation building is prompted by our love for Malaysia, for we want Malaysia to succeed.

I propose to get in touch with all political parties when I go to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow, and propose an all-party debate on the Rukunegara. The DAP is prepared to sponsor it.