Democratisation of Malaysian Life

From the Yang diPertuan Agong’s Royal Address, we are confirmed in our belief that the Government has not come to grips with the basic political, economic, social, cultural and educational policies to drift towards national perdition.

There is no vision of a great Malaysia tomorrow. There is only petty pre-occupation with the tools of power today.

Slogan-shouting has taken command of the seats of government, displacing thinking and reason.

A good example is the Rukunegara. What is the Rukunegara? I am sure if we hold a simple test in the Dewan Rakyat now, and every Member of Parliament is asked to write out the five principles of the Rukunegara, the majority of the MPs will not be able to do so.

If Members of Parliament, especially those from the Alliance camp, do not know the content of the five principles of the Rukunegara, the impact, impression and meaning of the Rukunegara on the people is even more tenuous and non-existent.

The Rukunegara was designed to be the cement of national unity. It s to evoke among the people of all races, languages, cultures and religions, a common set of valuew on the fundamentals of nation-building which will make them think, feel and act as one people.

It has become a rather tired government catchphrase, rather worn-out at the sides, which has ceased to evoke any meaning or higher feelings.

The reason for this is obvious. There can only be a meaningful Rukunegara, binding the people of Malaysia together by one set of common values, when this Rukunegara is the product of the deliberation and formulation by all sections and groups of people, after a thorough nation-wide debate.

In our case, the Rukunegara was formulated and promulgated without public and national participation, and this is why it has failed to give meaning and content to the ordinary Malaysians, whether in kampongs, estates, new villages or towns.

Secondly, if the Rukunegara is to be a national life-philosophy, it must be seen to be accepted by the government, not only in principle, but also in their practice. The people must be able to see the Rukunegara give meaning to their daily life, and not see the Rukunegara used as a political catchphrase for party political ends.

The Royal Address makes reference to national unity. We wonder whether the government is really sincere in wanting to promote and attain national unity, for we do not see any consciousness or action aimed at reversing the growing racial polarisation in the country.

There is of course the much-heralded National Unity Council on which the Government reposed the great responsibility of achieving national unity. To my knowledge, the National Unity Council has met only twice, and on both occasions, they were nothing more than tea-parties and tete-a-tete affairs.

There is then the new Ministry of National Unity. This is a very bad joke for the people know that the Ministry of National Unity was created not because of any government realisation of the vital need for national unity, but to find a harmless niche to slowly ease out Tun V. Sambanthan, who is the least qualified to work on national unity as he could not even achieve unity in his own tiny MIC party.

In fact, I would like the Minister of National Unity to tell this House what exactly he had been doing these past five months on national unity, apart from carrying out a vendetta with his MIC vice-president, Tan Sri Manikavasagam.

National Unity will not be achieved by shouting it a thousand or a million times. It can only be achieved if the whole gamut of the government’s political, economic, social, cultural and educational policies are designed to unite, rather than to divide, the diverse people in the country.

It is my party’s submission that the only basis for the attainment of national unity is the democratisation of all aspects of Malaysia life. This comprehensive democratisation of Malaysian life includes the following:

1. Democratisation of the political process, where political parties can freely without police or government interference carry out their political activities;

2. Democratisation of Parliament and State Assemblies to allow Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen opportunity and immunity to voice the fears and hopes of the people;

3. Democratisation of the police powers by the abolition of the Internal Security Act and the undemocratic police powers of detention without trial;

4. Democratisation of local government by holding immediate Municipal, town and local council elections;

5. Democratisation of the information process, where the mass media like radio, television and the press are not instruments for the ruling party to spread propaganda and malign the opposition, but are free vehicles for the dissemination of views by all political parties and opinion groups;

6. Democratisation of the economic order in Malaysia where the peasant and worker can enjoy the full fruits of their labour, and cease to be exploited by the feudalists, compradores and capitalists;

7. Democratisation of cultural life in Malaysia so that all cultures and cultural forms can freely develop and grow in Malaysia;

8. Democratisation of education in Malaysia so that a student is free to receive the type of education of his or parent’s choice so long as it is Malaysian-oriented and Malaysian-centred.

DAP warns against a one-party state

Many changes have recently taken place in the Malaysian political scene. We can discern a tendency towards the establishment of a one-party state through the elimination of all opposition parties, either by absorption of suppression.

So far three opposition parties have been absorbed by the Alliance, leading to the formation of coalition governments in three states. Although these opposition parties still retain their separate identity, there is no doubt that they have lost their independence, and should they leave the Alliance embrace, would immediately collapse and die.

Alliance strategists are working on the mistaken premise if they think that by absorbing an opposition party, they also be able to secure the political support and following of the opposition party being absorbed.

What invariably happens in such a case is that the opposition party being absorbed loses all its public support and following, unless the deep seated economic, political, social and cultural grievances are resolved.

The ruling party should realise that the mere absorption or suppression of opposition parties will not solve the basic problems in the country, and the establishment of a one-party state with no room for legitimate opposition is the surest way to plunge this country into national disintegration.

The greatest disservice these opposition parties which allow themselves to be absorbed by the Alliance in return for a few official positions is to lend credence to Alliance belief that by parleying with Opposition leaders and converting them over, the people have been appeased and basic problems resolved.

There are a variety of reasons why Opposition leaders and members defect to the ruling party.

There are firstly the opportunists, who use opposition politics as a lever to catapult themselves into the attention of the ruling party, and offer themselves to be bought over at a handsome price. This art is almost perfected in the State of Sabah, where we often read of fly-by-night Opposition Parties being formed and very soon after, disbanded.

Others do not have firm political convictions, or the stamina for a long political struggle. Others are dazzled by the glitter of office and glory. Yet others may be cowed and intimidate by the strong-armed tactics of the government.

For without doubt, there is today in our land a pervading fear to express one’s view and discontents. Deception has become a national virtue, and people do not say what they feel.

But if these discontents are bottled up, and cannot find peaceful and constitutional expression, then they will go underground to await violent and unconstitutional outlet. The way will then be clear for the unconstitutional opposition, for those who have advocated that the armed political struggle is the only salvation, to take over the battle.

This will be a great tragedy, for violent political struggle in a multi-racial, multi0religious and multi-lingual Malaysia will see this country of ours razed as a wasteland.

(Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr Lim Kit Siang, in Dewan Rakyat on the Royal Address debate on May 11, 1972)