Disenfranchisement of one million people – referendum needed

Speech by Opposition Leader and Secretary-General of DAP, Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP Public Rally at Kajang on Saturday, 16th June 1973 at 8 p.m.

DAP reiterates call for referendum by people of Kuala Lumpur on the abolition of 9 State Assembly seats and disenfranchisement of one million people

The Alliance Government, with the full support of the MCA, whether new or old faction, have decided to go ahead to declare Kuala Lumpur a Federal Territory, and disenfranchise one million people by abolishing nine State Assembly seats, namely Salak, Pantai, Bukit Nanas, Kampong Baru, Kepong, Penchala, Sentul, Ampang and Serdang.

Over a decade ago, the people of Kuala Lumpur possessed the basic democratic right to send their elected representative to Parliament to be their spokesman in national matters, to Selangor State Assembly to safeguard their rights in State matters, and to the Kuala Lumpur Municipality to run the local government affairs accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people.

The first casualty was their right to have elected Kuala Lumpur Municipality. Not because of any great principle, but because of the people’s disenchantment and repudiation of Alliance policies and personnel, the Alliance Government abolished elected Municipal Government.

Now, the Alliance has decided to step one million people of Kuala Lumpur of their right to send elected representatives o Selangor state Government by declaring Kuala Lumpur a Federal Territory.

Although the Alliance leaders explain that this is to give Kuala Lumpur the status of a Federal Capital, the real reason is to abolish the 9 Kuala Lumpur State peats, eight of which are in opposition hands, and thus to ensure that in the next general elections, there is no great likelihood of Selangor State Government falling into Opposition hands.

The history of democracy in Malaysia is not a progressive expansion of the people’s basic rights and freedoms, but their unending limitation and restriction. The proposed disenfranchisement of one million people of Kuala Lumpur is the latest in the series, which include among other things, the virtual abolition of Municipal, town and local council elections; the stripping of the parliamentary immunity of MPs and State Assemblymen to curb their freedom of speech and obligation to be the tribune of the people; the arbitrary police curbs on the freedom of assembly and speech; and wide- ranging control of the press, not only by top government leaders, but even by political parties like the UNMO and MCA.

The disenfranchisement of one million people is a momentous decision, and neither the Federal Government nor the state Government has the mandate of the people to take such arbitrary and undemocratic action without reference and consultation of the people concerned.

I here repeat my call to the Alliance Government which I made at the recent Parliament debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill that there must be a referendum of the people of Kuala Lumpur to ascertain their views and consent on their disenfranchisement and the abolition of nine State Assembly seats.

This issue of disenfranchisement of one million people of Kuala Lumpur also highlights one vital aspect of the recent and continuing power struggle between the old-guards and so-called new blood in the MCA. On basic issues which closely touch and concern the people, whether on education, economic opportunities, employment, political rights, there is basically no difference between the two warring factions. Thus, on this issue of disenfranchisement of one million people in Kuala Lumpur, both the old- guards and the so-called new bloods, whether formerly in the Cabinet or newly in the Cabinet, all support such a retrogressive and undemocratic action. It does not appear that the warring factions are fighting for the rights of the people at all, but for their own rights to high office and positions of authority.

Probably the so-called new blood MCA leaders are fully aware that they themselves stand no chance of winning in the Kuala Lumpur State Assembly seats, and are over-glad to see them abolished so that they would not be sent to these constituencies as sacrificial victims. All must be hoping for safe constituencies outside the towns.

This, of course, is putting self-interest above the interest of the large majority of the people, and not men who can effectively represent, let alone sustain, a genuine people’s movement.

The DAP will continue, undeterred to stand up and fight for the basic rights of the people even if it means, for instance, that the DAP must stand alone- as during the recent Constitution Amendment Bill in Parliament as the first step to disenfranchise one million people, the DAP was the only party to stand up and be counted when the crucial voting came, and defy the brute majority of the Alliance.

We must, as a party and as a people, continue to concentrate on issue and principles, and not personalities and self-gain.