Statement by DAP Member f Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr.Lim Kit Siang, at a press conference in Malacca on Saturday, 24th July 1971.
Reply to Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen
The Assistant Minister of Defence, Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen bin Tengku Ismail, said in Parliament two days ago that the DAP had questioned the Five-Power Defence Agreement without giving any constructive views.
Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen has only himself to blame for this, for if he has been more patient, he would have heard my proposals about the proper defence strategy and structure for Malaysia. Unfortunately, he and his government front-bench colleagues would not allow me to do so.
What really shocked me is his statement that the Five-Power Defence Agreement “is an abstract matter which cannot be measured by any measuring scale.”
What is more, he compared the Defence Agreement to talking out a life insurance policy.
This comparison betrays more than anything else the shallowness of defence thinking and understanding of Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen himself and the government.
We know that in a life insurance policy, the insurance company can be taken to court and be compelled to fulfil its obligations if its should attempt to default.
What is there, in the case of a Defence Agreement, to compel a partner of the Agreement which should default in its obligations arising from the Agreement when the contingency arises?
It would appear that Tengku Ahmad Rithaudeen regards defence problems as something akin to life insurance problems. If this is so, then defence is one of the simplest subjects in government, and any insurance agent will be qualified to be the nation’s Defence Minister.
All that needs to be done is for the insurance-minded Defence Minister to condlude Defence Agreement with every nation in the world, including America, Soviet Russia, People’s Republic of China, and Malaysia would be removed of any defence problems and worries.
Why didn’t the government do this? Simply because defence problem is not like taking out a insurance policy.
There is no point in concluding a Defence Agreement unless such an agreement can strengthen the defence capability of the country.
This is why we had asked the government to explain the true defence value of the Five-Power Defence Agreement.
When I asked this question earlier during the current session of Parliament, all that the Prime Minister could say was:”The value will only be noticed where there is an aggression. I think it is best to ask the communists or whoever wants to invade us. Then only I think we will know the value of this defence agreement.”
This is a most unsatisfactory answer. This shows that the government itself is unaware of the value, if ant, of the Five-Power Defence Agreement.
We must know, and be able to give details, of the value of any Defence Agreement that we enter into, and not wait until, to use the Prime Minister’s words, ”there is an aggression.” By the time, even if we do find out, it may be too late. We should never place the future and destiny of our nation on such slender and flimsy calculations.
From the Prime Minister’s reply, it is clear that he is thinking of a communist aggression. Can the Prime Minister enlighten the country what communist aggression he is thinking of? Aggression from North Vietnam, People’s Republic of China or the Soviet Russia?
We are now seeking to establish friendly relations with the People’s Republic of China. Yet, we are predicating our defence structure and strategy on the ground that there is going to be a communist aggression from a foreign country.
Even the United States of America, the architect of the ‘Containment of China’ policy, has given up one of its basic foreign policy premises: that Communist China is an aggressive and explansionist country which is waiting for an opportune moment to send her armies to invade and commit aggression against nations on the Far East and South East Asia.
In its 22-year-old history, the People’s Republic of China has not stationed any troop in foreign territory, nor has she sent her armies into another territory, with the exception of special cases like the Korean War.
Now, even the one arch-anti-communist and forvid exponent of ‘Chinese containment’ policy, President Nixon, is going to Peking next May to confer with Premier Chou En Lai and other Chinese leaders.
The type of warfare Malaysia is going to face is not external aggression but guerrilla warfare launched by the Malayan Communist Party, presenting itself as a nationist force championing the oppressed peoples of Malaysia. The Malayan Communist Party will rally to its side all
Malaysians who are driven to it by political despair with the democratic process.
I do not believe that when the MCP mounts a full-scale insurgency warfare, incorporating into it elements of a national leberation struggle, that the British, Australians and New Zealanders will want to bee too deeply involved. The bitter lesson of the United States of America will be too real and frightening for the British government and public.
In Vietnam, the greatest economic and military power in the Western World lost to a poor, puny Asian people. Despite all their colossal national wealth, super military firepower and hardware, Vietnam not only became a graveyard for the flower of American youth, it also became the graveyard for the ideals and dreams of the new American generation- causing a grave national crisis of conscience and a social revolt in America which we have not as yet seen the end.
When even the mightest economic and military power in the West had to concede defeat to a poor, ouny but pugnacious communist foe, paying great national price in terms of lives, property and national unity, it is unlikely that the British would try to do in Malaysia what the Americans had failed abysmally in Vietnam.
The British would neither have the will nor the capacity to involve itself in the second MCP armed insurrection, during the first MCP armed insurrection, the British played the leading role because it was then the colonial master in this country. In the second armed insurrection, it would not involve itself on the reason that it is an internal affair.
Similarly, I do not think the Australians and the New Zealanders will have greater will and capacity than the British to be involved in a guerrilla warfare in Malaysia.
Thus, when it comes to the crunch, the British, Australians and New Zealanders will dissociate themselves from any common defence effort. One must therefore question the relevance and utility of such a Five-Power Defence Agreement.
True, the Five-Power Defence Agreement has its psychological value. But unless it has actual muscles, the government should rethink the country’s defence needs, problems and role and scrap the Five-Power Defence Agreement, if it is toothless and can only antagonise China without any reciprocal benefit.
The problem of defence is not merely a military problem, but also largely a political problem. Unless we can see the problems of defence in the right political perspective, no amount of military hardware or military personnel is likely to prove a great defence force or capability.
A country can have the most expensive and elaborate military hardware, but without national unity, they will come to nought.
The primary task, even from the defence point of view, is to promote the national unity of the people in this country by pursuing economic, political, social and cultural policies which will bring the Malaysians of different races together instead of cividing them.
The Second Malaysia Plan speaks of the danger of the identification of race with economic function. Let me point out the greater danger of the identification of race with the armed forces in a multi-racial society.
I therefore call on the government to announce that it accepts the thesis that it is undesirable and dangerous in a multi-racial society, that there should be identification of race with the armed services. The readiness or otherwise of the government to subscribe to this principle will be a good test of the sincerity of the government to build a genuine multi-racial Malaysian society.
The defence of a country must finally depend on the will, determination and patriotism of the people. For a small country like Malaysia, the best defence policy is to have a people’s militia, and train every Malaysian citizen, regardless of race, into a soldier, seaman or airman.
I therefore propose a compulsory national service for every Malaysian for at least two years so that the youths of this country will not only be trained in the defence of the country, built will go through a common crucible of experience from which a Malaysian national identity and consciousness can be promoted.