The Role of DAP in Parliament and the State Assemblies

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a dinner given by Perak State DAP held at Ipoh on Thursday, 19 Nov. 1970 at 8.00 p.m.

The Role of DAP in Parliament and the State Assemblies

It has been announced that Parliament will be reconvened on February 22, the State Assemblies sometime in March next year, after a suspension of 21 months.

The DAP is the largest Parliamentary opposition party, and the opposition most nationally-based in terms of representation in the State Assemblies. We are the sole opposition in Johore and Negri Sembilan, the biggest opposition in Selangor and Malacca, and an important opposition party in Perak and Penang State Assemblies.

As the largest Parliamentary opposition party, the biggest opposition party in four States and an important opposition party in two other State Assemblies, our role in Parliament and the six State Assemblies of Johore, Malacca, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Perak and Penang is an important, if not a vital, one in deciding the direction Malaysia and the component states will take in the next few years.

Let me declare here that the role of the DAP in Parliament and the six States where we have elected representatives shall not be an opposition party for opposition’s sake, and we shall never suffer from the disease of ‘oppositionitis’.

It is not our intention to elevate ‘No’ into party philosophy guiding our Parliamentary or State Assembly actions. We shall support, praise, commend, oppose, criticize or condemn each Federal or state government action, measure or policy strictly on its individual merits.

DAP Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen in the six West Coast states shall be guided in every action by the four primary principles of:

1. To build a united and genuine multi-racial Malaysian nation;

2. To abolish the economic imbalance between the haves and the have-nots and between the urban and rural area by democratic socialist methods to ensure that social and economic justice is not a dream but a reality in Malaysia.

3. To uphold the cause of democracy in Malaysia, and to fight all forms of anti-democratic expressions, practices and actions;

4. To uphold the democratic principle that the purpose of government, whether at the national or state level, is to serve the maximum good of the greatest number, and to give every Malaysian, regardless of race, the opportunity to develop his potential to the fullest.

We shall oppose the ruling party, whether it be the Alliance Party in Parliament or some of the State Assemblies, or the Gerakan Ra’ayat and the PMIP in Penang and Kelantan, when their policies, practices and performances violate any one of the basic principles above.

Similarly, we shall support any measure, policy or action which furthers any one of the basic principles above, whether it emanates from the Alliance Party, Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia or the PMIP.

Our opposition or support to a particular measure will depend on the issue and principle involved in each case, and never based on considerations of parties or personalities.

We pledge to oppose, at whatever the cost, all acts and policies which work against the building of a united, genuine multi-racial, democratic, just and equal Malaysian nation.

When Parliament reconvenes next February, it shall not be the Parliament as before. Today, many issues are arbitrarily classified as ‘sensitive’ by the government and banned from public discussion and debate.

Attempts will be made to curtail or restrict the privilege of free speech of Members of Parliament to prevent them from raising issues and subjects which closely touch the hearts of the majority of Malaysians.

The DAP cannot support any government act which makes fundamental changes in the democratic rights of Malaysians without the approval of Parliament. This is one reason why the DAP opposes the Sedition Act, as it was made without Parliamentary sanction.

A second, and more important, reason for DAP opposition to the Sedition Act is because the people’s legitimate grievances and discontent cannot be removed or abolished by a legislative fiat. The government can ban and enforce the prohibition of on the public discussion of the people’s grievances and discontents, whether over radio, television or the press. But it cannot effectively enforce any banning of the people’s discussion of their legitimate grievances and discontents in coffee-shops, road-side stalls or in the homes, so long as these grievances are genuine and closely touch the hearts of ordinary Malaysians. Such a blanket ban can only aggravate and intensify the people’s grievances and discontents, and lay the seed for greater troubles ahead.

We should learn from the many bitter lessons of history that it is impossible, whether the display of brute violence and power of a tyranny or totalitarian regime, to legislate what the people should think and feel.

Furthermore, when the privilege of Mps of free speech in Parliament is curtailed or restricted, then their ability and effectiveness to represent and champion the interest and welfare of the people is openly in question. This can only gravely undermine the credibility of the democratic process to deliver the goods to meet the aspirations and needs of the masses.

The DAP categorically oppose any attempt to restrict or curtail the privilege of free speech of M.Ps. if there are issues which should be discussed without the glare of publicity, then the Dewan Ra’ayat can adjourn into closed private session. Under no circumstances, however, should MPs be muzzled.

There are other attempts to demean and belittle the role, function and importance of Parliament.

Another example is the announced intention to perpetuate the unrepresentative National Consultative Council, with powers which are superior to those of the popularly-elected Dewan Ra’ayat.

A yet further example is provided by the recent announcement by the Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, that he will not present the 1971 Budget to Parliament for debate and approval, but will instead present it to the NOC next month. This strikes at one of the keystones of Parliamentary democracy, as the budget debate is one of the two major parliamentary functions which give meaning to the principle that the government is the servant and not master of the people. There can be three reasons for Tun Tan’s undemocratic decision:

(1) Tun Tan proposes to introduce new, heavier and unjust taxes which he could not justify to the Dewan Ra’ayat;

(2) Tun Tan cannot justify the government’s proposed expenditures for 1971; and

(3) Tun Tan is unable to publicly justify the Alliance government’s spending of public money during the period under Emergency Rule.

Apart from indicating that the people must be prepared for a wide range of new and inequitable taxes, it provides a further example of the great readiness of the Alliance government to throw overboard the important democratic principles and practices to suit their own individual and party ends.

I call on the Prime Minsiter, Tun Abdul Razak, to take the following three steps which will greatly strengthen the forces of democracy and give multi-racial Malaysia a better chance of success:

1. Restrain attempts to curtail or restrain the privilege of free speech of M.Ps in Parliament;

2. Abolish the National Consultative Council with the restoration of parliamentary democracy, as it is incompatible with the principle of the supremacy of parliament to have another organ with superior powers; and

3. Direct the Finance Minister to present the 1971 Budget to Parliament for debate and approval.

On behalf of the DAP, I pledge that in Parliament, the DAP shall support and work in co-operation with the Prime Minster, Tun Abdul Razak, and the Alliance government to bring about a united, genuine multi-racial Malaysia, a democratic socialist society, and a country where the problems and needs of ordinary men and women are attended to.

On this connection, I wish to welcome Tun Razak’s speech at the opening of the national Koran reading competition in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday when he stated that Malaysia, “built by us on the basis of goodwill and understanding, which does not belong Malays, Chinese or Indians, but to all Malaysians who have made this country their home regardless of their racial origin.

The DAP will work with all opposition parties in Parliament, for the advancement of the four objectives outlined above. I look forward particularly to the closest co-operation between the DAP and PPP, a relationship which had been greatly strengthened by our common struggle to establish economic, political, social and cultural justice in Malaysia.

This shall also be our role in the State Assemblies, although our State Assemblymen will of necessity to be more concerned with state issues than with national problems.

Outside Parliament, the DAP is also prepared to work in close co-operation with all political parties and groups to advance the common aim of establishing a united Malaysian people, a just and equal society, and a durable democratic framework in the country.