Barbed wires in the people’s hearts and minds

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, when officially opening the Penang Selatan Branch at 359, Perak Road, Jelutong, on Saturday, 6th Nov. 1971 at 4 p.m.

Barbed wires in the people’s hearts and minds

Barbed wires have gone up in Tanah Hitam New Village in Perak, and the country is swiftly returning to the old Emergency days.

Even more serious than the barbed wires the Alliance Government has now fenced off the Tanah Hitam new village, however, are the barbed wires which the Alliance government has put up in the hearts and minds of the people of Malaysia over the past decade through its undemocratic and oppressive policies.

These barbed wires in the people’s hearts and minds are the basic cause of national disunity and social unrest, and there can only be true national unity and social harmony if the Alliance government remove these ‘barbed wires’ in public minds, by pursuing genuine democratic, fair and just political, economic, cultural and social policies.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Tun (Dr.) Ismail bin Dato Abdul Rahman, recently said there are three groups of people on the side of the communists:

i. those who are threatened or forced to help the communists;

ii. those who side the communists because they are discontented with the democratic process or certain ills of government;

iii. the die-hard communists.

Tun Dr. Ismail rightly pointed out that the most important task is to try to win back the confidence of those in the first and second categories.

Unfortunately, the government’s policies and measures in the past decade have been calculated to drive more and more Malaysians to despair at the democratic process, and succumb to the appeal of the advocates of force and violence as the only way to achieve social, economic and political justice in Malaysia.

In fact, recently actions of the government have further given more ground for popular disenchantment with the democratic process.

The Alliance Government has announced its intention to abolish elected Municipal, town and local councils, to murder grass-roots democracy and deny the people further basic fundamental right to order their own affairs.

Only two parties are in favour of this measure the MCA and the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia.

The MCA is in favour of abolition of elected local councils because:

1. It wants to avoid an even worse defeat in the hands of the electorate than the one it suffered during the 1969 general elections.

2. The MCA realised that if the Opposition, in particular the DAP, wins the majority of the Municipal, town and local councils, they will be a base on which the DAP will build to greater strength and power.

3. The MCA leaders know that if MCA stooges are ever to get appointed onto Municipal, town and local councils, the only way is through the backdoor system of government appointment. In this way, the most disreputable, discredited MCA people can even become Municipal, town or local councilors.

The Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia in hand in glove with the Alliance government move to abolish elected local government because Dr. Lim Chong Eu knows that if there are general local government elections, the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia will be trounced in Penang itself.

Thus, for their own selfish party interest, the Alliance and the Gerakan Ra’ayat Malaysia have entered into a conspiracy and unholy alliance to murder elected local government.

The wheel has turned full circle for Dr. Lim Chong Eu, who is now as good as back in the Alliance Party.

The people, however, see this as another undemocratic and intolerant attitude of the Alliance Government, which is not prepared to allow meaningful democracy in Malaysia.

This will deepen the ‘barbed wires’ embedded in the hearts of the people, and drive even more Malaysians to turn more and more towards the advocates of force and violence.

Another example is the 20-year neglect of the 750,000 new villagers in Malaysia. For 20-years, three-quarter of a million Malaysians were left to their own devices to eke out a living, and the government was not in any way interested whether the new villages decline, drift or die economically.

I have written to the Prime Minister to suggest the establishment of a special government department or agency to take special charge to formulate and implement policies and programmes which will give the 750,000 new villagers a new hope for a better life.

But to date, the government has refused to act on my suggestion. As far as the DAP is concerned, we see the preparedness or otherwise of the Alliance government to set up a special department to plan the economic and social upliftment of the 400 new villages in the country as a test of the government sincerity in wanting to implement the Second Malaysia Plan objective to ‘eradicate poverty irrespective of race and to create a just and equitable society.’

I repeat have my call to Tun Razak to establish a special department for the social and economic revival of the 750,000 new villagers, and the prepration and release of the Government White Paper on the plight and future of the new villagers.

In conclusion, if the Alliance government want national unity and harmony in the country, it must remove the ‘barbed’ wires it has put up in the people’s hearts which alienate and antagonise them from the government and society. It must pursue genuine democratic measures, and give meaning to the democratic process.

I can start with two simple things:

1. Restore elected Municipal, town and local councils and hold immediate national local government elections,

2. Set up a special National New Villagers Development department to chart and plan the social and economic upliftment of the 750,000 new villagers in the country.