Rukunegara forum

Statement by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka at a press conference at DAP Kuala Lumpur premises 63-D Jalan Sultan on Sunday, 15th Nov. 1970 at 11 a.m.

Rukunegara forum

On 22nd Oct. 1970, I wrote to 13 political parties in Malaysia inviting them to take part in an all-party forum on “How to make the Rukunegara a more meaningful and effective instrument in the nation building process.”

Out of the 13 invitations, 6 parties have written to oppose the holding of such a forum, 3 parties have agreed to participate, and four others have not even acknowledged receipt by my invitation.

The 6 political parties which have turned down the DAP invitation for an all-party forum are:

2. MCA
3. MIC
4. Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia
6. Party Marhaen

The three parties which have agreed to take part in the forum are:

1. People’s Progressive Party
2. Sarawak National Party
3. Partai Sosialis Ra’ayat. PSR’s acceptance of the invitation to take part in the forum, however, is subject to “all or most of the political parties agree to participate, according to PSR Secretary-General, Sdr. Sanusi Osman. This condition is not fulfilled, as most of the parties are not taking part.

The parties which have not even acknowledged receipt of my letter are:

1. Labour Party.
2. Sarawak United People’s Party.
3. Sarawak Alliance.
4. Sabah Alliance.

The united refusal of the UMNO, MCA and MIC is not uncompletely unexpected, although we had hoped that they might want to participate in a public process of making the Rukunegara a more meaningful and effective nation-building instrument. We had based our hope on the statement by the Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, in a radio broadcast in Sarawak on 20th August 1969 when he said that the national ideology would not be imposed on the nation but would be discussed by everybody before it was adopted.

Tun Razak has said: “The national ideology will, of course, not be imposed on the nation by legislative or bureaucratic fiat.

“We will not make the mistake of imposing anything which is not for the good of the people in general.

“There will be ample opportunity for discussion by everybody before we finally adopt the various tenets of the ideology.”

We believe that when the Prime Minister makes a public pronouncement, he does it in all seriousness, and we take his public pledge seriously. We welcome this statement of his, because it shows his keen awareness of the importance of involving the public in the formulation of the Rukunegara if the national ideology is to represent the aspirations of the vast majority of the people for a peaceful, harmonious and progressive Malaysia, and gain national acceptance.

The Rukunegara has been formulated and adopted. But the only body which has discussed it is the National Consultative Council. I do not think that when Tun Razak spoke of the “ample opportunity for discussion by everybody” before the final adoption of the Rukunegara, he was referring solely to the NCC, which cannot by any stretch of imagination claim to represent “everybody” or even the majority of the people of Malaysia.

Public forums and discussions, not on whether we should have a Rukunegara or not, but how to make the Rukunegara a really meaningful and effective nation-building instrument, is a must, for they will not only make a great contribution to the formulation of a meaningful national ideology, but will also bring the Rukunegara into the consciousness of all Malaysians. At present, 95 per cent of the people of Malaysia do not know what is the Rukunegara, not because they are disloyal, as the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia Penang Chief, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, suggests, but because they do not have a hand in formulating it, and the Rukunegara (which Gerakan claims to be the father) is to them one of the multitude of uncomprehending decree laws and pronouncements which are regularly issued from those in authority to the people in the street.

If all political parties, trade unions, societies, professional bodies, and Malaysians from all walks of life actively participate in the discussion, formulation and adoption of the Rukunegara, in all parts of the country, then the Rukunegara will truly be a national ideology. Otherwise, it is likely to end as the Alliance and the Gerakan’s joint national ideology.

It is therefore with disappointment that we received the reply from the Secretary-General of UMNO, Inche Senu bin Abdul Rahman, whose line was echoed by the MCA and the MIC. Inche Senu wrote that he is convinced that a public forum on how to make the rukunegara a more meaningful and effective instrument in the nation building process “will not serve any useful purpose other than that it will revive sensitive issues which are best discussed in more congenial atmosphere.” He added that he did not like to question the sincerity of the DAP or the motive behind the proposed forum, which is a different way of questioning the DAP’s sincerity and motive.

I am not clear what Inche Senu means when he said that the DAP’s proposed forum would only “revive sensitive issues which are best discussed in more congenial atmosphere.”

Surely the purpose of the national ideology is to seek the largest area of agreement and consensus among the people of Malaysia, and not to find the largest area of disagreement and friction.

In any event, the DAP has gone on record that if the Rukunegara is to be truly meaningful, it must include at least the following three principles:

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;
3. That if is the duty of every Malaysian to contribute to the abolition of the economic imbalance between the haves and the have-nots, and between the urban and rural areas.

Is Inche Senu suggesting that the adoption of these three principles wh will “revive sensitive issues”, and that for all practical purposes, the advocacy of these three principles should not be done in public? The DAP and the people in Malaysia are very interested to hear Inche Senu’s clarification on this, for it involves a fundamental principle of democracy in Malaysia.

What really surprises us is the refusal of the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia to take part in the proposed forum.

The Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia has laid claim to the parentage of the Rukunegara, and they are probably more qualified than the Alliance government to explain, why they think that the Rukunegara, in its present form, can contribute to the building of a united, multi-racial, just and equal Malaysian nation.

Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia owes the Malaysian people an explanation why they are not taking part in the forum, especially as they have now declared that the rukunegara, in its present form as co-authored by them and the Alliance government, is the acid-test of loyalty of the people of Malaysia. In Penang on Nov. 1, Dr. Lim Chong Eu announced that the rukunegara “serves to divide loyal citizens from those who are not loyal to this country.”

In simple language, this can only mean that those who support the rukunegara as written by the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia and the Alliance government are loyal to Malaysia, and those who do not support it are disloyal Malaysians. Probably those like me who question whether the present five principles comprising the rukunegara are meaningful enough to build a united Malaysian nation are also suspect as far as our loyalty to Malaysia is concerned. It will be quite intriguing to find out what is the position of people who know nothing about the rukunegara. Does it mean they have no loyalty?

I remember hearing such talks of loyalty a few years back, together with loyalty weeks, dinners and get-togethers organised by the MCA.

In view of this important public stand on the rukunegara by the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia, which touches on the loyalty of Malaysian citizens to this country, they are clearly duty-bound to explain their viewpoints and policies to the public in public discussions and forums. It will not do for the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia just to have public meetings where its leaders conduct monologues, without participation from the public, without giving the people a chance to give their views and suggestions. A democratic society means a two-way interchange of ideas between the people and political movements.

I therefore call on the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia to seriously reconsider its refusal to take part in a programme to bring public participation in the discussion, formulation and adoption of a rukunegara which is truly meaningful in terms of building a united multi-racial just and equal Malaysian nation.

I also call on the Alliance parties, and the PMIP and the other parties who have not agreed to take part in the forum to reconsider.