Rule of Reason or the Rule of Force?

Speech by DAP Secretary-General, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the opening ceremony of the First National Seminar for DAP Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assemblymen at Hotel Mirama, Kuala Lumpur, on Saturday, 24th Oct. 1970 at 9 a.m.

Rule of Reason or the Rule of Force?

The great issue that is being fought out in Malaysia today is whether the rule of reason or the rule of force is going to prevail in our country.

The advocates of reason are wedged in on the one hand by ultra extremists who advocate an authoritarian rule by force and violence, and on the other hand, by communists who want to bring about a communist revolution.

There is a growing authoritarian mood and trend in the country, caused by the deliberate and systematic undermining of the advocates of reason by those in power.

The recent controversy between two student groups in the University of Malaya is an example of this disturbing trend.

I am not passing judgement on the merits or demerits of the student controversy, but the manner the controversy was conducted, and the tension that was generated in the campus, cannot be ignored by thinking Malaysians.

The University of Malaya Student ‘Union described some action of the University of Malaya Malay Language Students’ Society as “vandalism, destruction and rioting” to which the Malay Language Students’ Society issued a 24 hours ultimatum to the UMSU to withdraw or face the consequences.

Many inflammatory and provocative speeches and actions followed, with mounting tension in the campus. At the ‘open dialogue’ between the two students’ unions, there were shout of ‘close the door, don’t let any of them get away’ when the UMSU refused to withdraw the statement.

As I have said, I do not wish to comment on the merits or demerits of the dispute between the UMSU and the Malay Language Students’ Society.

But it must be a matter of national concern that in our highest institution of leaning, which is supposed to be the citadel of reason, the rule of force is scarily replacing the rule of reason.

In the last 17 months, the advocates of force have gained strength and momentum at the expense of the advocates of reason. The seeds of authoritarianism sown by the excesses of May 13 are germinating even now in some sections of our student population. These warning signals must be disturbing patterns for the future, for they reflect the trend and development in the country.

The greatest casualty of the May 13 riots was the young and fragile plant of Malaysian parliamentary democracy. The proclamation of Emergency, the suspension of parliamentary democracy, the institution of the National Operations Council, and other creatures of Emergency rule, are further blows democracy.

After May 13, the people’s confidence in parliamentary democracy was greatly shaken. Unless democrats can unite and work together to restore the people’s confidence in the ability of the democratic process to realize their needs and two extremes of force accompanied by a racial polarization.

We in the DAP reaffirm our readiness to co-operate with the government to make the democratic process a meaningful and successful one.

To achieve a really meaningful democracy, it is essential that the government should accept in principle and practice the following ten-guidelines towards a more free, just equal and liberal Malaysia:

1. Institute an impartial commission of inquiry into the real causes of the May 13 racial riot, to re-establish confidence among the people that the government is genuine and sincere in wanting to know the real causes and to bring to book the real culprits of the May 13 racial riots.

2. Institute a full restoration of parliamentary democracy, without any curtailment of the privilege of free speech of M.Ps and State Assemblymen. M.P.s are elected and entrusted by the electorate to represent their interests. If they are prohibited from exercising represent their interests. If they are prohibited from exercising their right to have full, free and responsible discussion and debate on issues which closely affect the interest of the people and country, then they are unable to fully discharge their duties as true representatives of the people. The credibility effectiveness of parliamentary democracy will further suffer.

3. The formulation of a meaningful and effective Rukun Negara to form the basis of building a genuine united multi-racial Malaysian nation. Such a Rukunegara must be the outcome of public participation and debate, and not coming as the dictates of one or two parties. In its present form, the Rukunegara, as formulated by the Alliance government and the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia, are not an effective and positive contribution to the building of a united Malaysian nation because it has omitted basic principles as to what this country should be.

4. Abolition of the NOC, the NCC and all other creatures of Emergency rule, for It is incompatible with the principle of the sovereignty of Parliament to have organs which have powers which are not possed by Parliament.

5. The elimination of the economic imbalance between the haves and have-nots of all races, and between the urban and rural areas. Rural poverty can only be solved by economic and rational solutions, and not by racial solutions.

6. Democratization and multi-racial is action of the police and armed forces to give confidence to the country and to the multi-racial population of the country.

7. The proper use of the Internal Security Act to safeguard the country from those who are prepared to use force and violence to overthrow the popularly elected government of the country and foist on the people an authoritarian and totalitarian regime.
In this regard, it must be stated that the government has to date grossly abused the Internal Security Act, by arbitrarily and unjustifiably determining persons like the Partai Sosialist Malaysia State Assemblymen, Inche Dzulfikli, Inche S. Sivasubramaniam (now released), Hasmid Tuah, and myself. Unless the government can assure us and the people that the Internal Security act cannot and will not be abused, then the ISA should be repealed, as it will then become a more monstrous evil than the evil it was designed to suppress.

8. The immediate holding of local council elections to nurture and stimulate grass-roots democracy,

9. The government should be committed and dedicated to the building of a genuine multi-racial Malaysian nation, and every one of its action, programme and policy should be guided by this objective, and not based on any consideration of race.

10. The democratization of the mass media of communications, viz. the television, radio and press, so that the citizens of Malaysia are kept well-informed of the developments in the country to make intelligent decisions and choices essential in a democratic system.

The role of the DAP

It shall be the role of the DAP inside and outside the Parliament to rally and marshall the forces of democratic socialism and multi-raciallism to lay a firm basis for the building of a more just, equal and liberal Malaysian nation.

We shall never bow down to the forces of authoritarianism and totalitarianism. With the people’s help, we are hopeful that we can help ensure the construction of a viable democratic framework where a rational multi-racial nation can flourish – where the rule of reason triumph over the rule of force.