Socialist International Council Conference in Helsinki

Speech by Secretary-General of Democratic Action Party, Lim Kit Siang, at the Socialist International Council Conference in Helsinki on May 25, 1971

First of all, I wish to take this opportunity to personally, as well as on behalf of my party, to thank the Socialist International, the International General Secretary, Comrade Janistchek, and the sister parties of the international for their close concern and deep interest over my detention by the Malaysian feudal-compradore Alliance government immediately after the 1969 general elections on May 10, which saw my party, the Democratic Action Party, standing for the cause of democratic socialism, emerged as the strongest opposition party in the Malaysian Parliament and with the most number of elected State Assemblymen in the country.

It was a source of great comfort and encouragement to me during the 17 months I was under arbitrary detention without the benefit of an open trial, to know that outside the four walls of the detention camp, I had not only the support and solidarity of millions of Malaysians, but also of the Socialist International and its affiliated parties.

My detention was a punitive reprisal by the feudal-compradore ruling party against the DAP for the greatest electoral success scored by any opposition political party in Malaysian history. So too were the tragic and criminal May 13 racial riots of 1969, which was engineered by extremist elements in the ruling group who were disaffected by the people’s burn in the direction towards a democratic socialist future.

Although Malaysia has now returned to parliamentary rule after 22 months of rule by military decree, the future of parliamentary democracy in Malaysia is very much in question.

Firstly, there is no full restoration of pre-1969 parliamentary democracy. As a pre-condition for the reconvening of Parliament, the ruling party, by a combination of inducements and intimidations, amended the nation’s Constitution to entrench into it inequality of civic and economic rights between the different races, and to make any mere questioning of these entrenched inequality of economic and civic rights an offence under an enlarged Sedition Act. Members of Parliament were also stripped of their privilege of free speech in Parliament, so that they can be prosecuted for what they say in Parliament.

My Party’s Deputy Secretary-General, Comrade Fan Yew Teng, who is also editor of my party’s official organ, has just been convicted of sedition under the new laws, and he now stands not only to lose his membership of Parliament, but to forfeit the right to vote or stand for any elective office for the next five years, unless he can succeed in his appeals to higher courts of law.

These developments have greatly shaken the hopes of Malaysians for a democratic socialist based on peaceful and constitutional processes of struggle.

Secondly, the 1969 racial riots of May 13 is an example of the length the ruling classes was prepared to go to thwart the will of the electorate as they do not accept the fundamental democratic tent that the people have the right to choose the government they want, and to vote out of power the ruling party in favour of an opposition party.

East Pakistan is another good example, where the military junta blatatly flouted the people’s clear mandate to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The relevance and credibility of a democratic socialist movement which has to operate in such a situation is therefore a burning question.

In Malaysia, more and more youths have turned their ears to the advocates of armed and violent means of struggle as the only way to bring about radical social and economic changes in society.

The recent events in Bangla Desh, for instance, can only strengthen the hands of those who had advocated armed violence and revolution from the beginning.

This is a problem which confronts many democratic socialist movements in this Third World- whether they can remain true to their commitment to peaceful and constitutional processes of struggle to effect basic social and economic changes to liberate the hundreds of millions from their economic, social and cultural miseries, or their role is that of a midwife to heighten political and economic consciousness of the downtrodden for exploitation and takeover by the advocates of armed violence and revolution.

The problem and that of the mounting impatience of the downtrodden hundreds of millions with the pace of economic and social changes, are the central issues of democratic socialists in the Seventies.

These are problem which de democratic socialist in the Third World themselves can only resolve.

But the Socialist International can help by establishing contacts and exchanging views with its affiliate and like-minded movements in the Third
World, for not only is the constituency of socialists an international one, what happen in the rest of the world, which constitute the majority of mankind, cannot but have a profound influence on the developed world.

I do not think there will be great disagreement when I suggest that the Socialist International should internationalise itself. As a present, it is more Socialist European than a Socialist International.

We are glad that since the last Council Conference, a Pacific-Oceania Bureau has been set up d we hope that it will be ale to make positive contribution in this direction.

The Socialist International should pay more attention to developments in South Eat Asia, which has increasingly become a centre for super-power rivalry.

A new element has been introduced by the ‘ping-pong’ diplomacy of the Chinese People’s Republic, which presages a more outgoing foreign policy.

It is indeed preposterous that for two decades, the majority of the nations of the world should be a party to the falsehood that Taiwan is the legal government of China, and to the exclusion of the Chinese People’s Republic from not only her rightful place in the United Nations, but from the Security Council as well.

Nobody can disagree that there can be no effective solution to the world problems of war and peace without China’s participation, which represents a quarter of mankind.

It is my party’s hope that in the forthcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly, this international wrong to the People’s Republic of China would be rectified, and China offered her rightful place as a member of the United Nations and her seat as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.