Genuinely help uplift the lot of the 900,000 new villagers

Speech by Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP Public Rally at Bukit Rambai, Malacca on Sunday, 17th June 1973 at 8 p.m.

Advice to Mr. Lee San Choon not to use his Ministerial office for personal political capital but genuinely to help uplift the lot of the 900,000 new villagers

As a result of the public agitation mounted by the DAP in 1971, spearheaded by the DAP National New Villages Sub-Committee, the Government succumbed to public pressure and appointed a new Minister specially charged with the upliftment of the economic lot of the 900,000 new villagers in the country.

When Dr. Lim Keng Yaik became the Minister of Special Functions on Jan. 1, 1972, there was expectation that at last, after 20 years of government neglect and deprivation of development funds, the 450 new villagers would be brought into the mainstream of national development and growth.

The former Minister made highly publicized tours throughout the country, and in fact, during his visit to the Machap Umbu New Village in Malacca, he was hailed as a ‘Magistrate Pao Reborn’.

On looking back, all those euphoria, high hopes and expectations were sadly misplaced. I do not want to be embroiled in the power struggle going on in the MCA, but in all sincerity, I cannot state that the 900,000 new villagers had in anyway benefited from the establishment of a special Ministry.

Now that a new man has taken over the portfolio, I would advise the new Minister not to make use of his position as Minister of New Villages to gain political capital and publicity, but to genuinely do things for the economic, social and cultural reformation in the 450 new villages.

The new villages do not want a Minister who is merely a Cabinet postman. They want a Minister who has the power and the funds to change the face of the 450 new villages and transform them from decaying settlements into thriving, flourishing economic centers. If a Minister has no such power or access of funds, then he should not tarry in the Ministerial post, for it would mean a gross deception of the people.

I do not want to take sides in the feud between Lee San Choon and Lim Keng Yaik, nor do the 900,000 new villagers want to be involved. What they and I are interested is that land is given to all landless in the new villages, jobs created for them and houses built for them.

It has been reported in the press that Mr. Lee San Choon will be making a tour of all new villages in the country, beginning with Penang, Kedah and Perlis.

I think the new villagers and the people in the country have enough of visits from a Minister of New Villages, especially during the tenure of the former incumbent.

What the people want are plans and action. If Mr. Lee San Choon will only be able to draw up a plan after his visit to all the new villagers, then such a plan will never be drawn up, for it will take years for him to complete the tour of 450 new villages.

Mr. Lee may gain a lot of political publicity, but this is no consolation for the new villagers.

The Ministry of New Villages, in its 18 months of existence, should have amassed enough data for a comprehensive master plan to be drawn up for the revolution of the new villages. There is simply no reason or excuse why such a master plan cannot be drawn up within 100 days of Lee’s tenure of office.

It would be very odd indeed if for the 450 new villages, the government must take years and years to draw up a blueprint, but for the formulation and implementation of the New Economic Policy covering the entire national economy, a relatively shorter time is needed.

I therefore advise Mr. Lee to cancel all his new village tours, and to start cracking in his office to formulae and implement a blueprint for new village upliftment.

He should also assure the 900,000 new villagers that he would not be a mere Cabinet postman, but would have the power and funds to transform and modernize new village economy and life.

The first thing Mr. Lee San Choon must do is to get the Cabinet and the Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, to take a serious view of the grave problem of new village backwardness , and not to use it as a political football.

We present funds $3.6 million for 450 new villages allocated to the Ministry of New Villages is downright ridiculous. All that this $3.6 million can do is probably to build two public lavatories for each new village, as it works out to some $8,000 per new village.

The Minister for National and Rural Development, Inche Ghaffar Bab, has at his disposal $25 million a month and Mr. Lee San Choon has only a meager $300,000.

For his own dignity and in justice to the 900,000 new villagers who have been neglected for over 20 years, he should get from Tun Tan Siew Sin at least $5 million a month.

Secondly, Mr. Lee San Choon should adopt as the cardinal pillars of his policy the following salient points of the DAP’s Charter for New Village Revolution. If he can do more, then I hail him as a capable Minister.

1. Government declaration that every new villager would be conferred 99- year titles for the land they occupy, at cheap premiums, payable by installment basis.

2. At least 30% of all such 99- year titles should be issued to new villagers by end of 1973, 60% by end of 1974 and 100% by end of 1975, the last year for the Second Five Year Plan.

3. Secure government allocation for landless new villagers 110,000 acres of FELDA schemes, so that out of the 23,700 families who are targeted to be settled on FELDA schemes under the Second Five Year Plan, 10,000 families are comprise of new village families.

4. The conversion of 40 new villages into modern townships by end of the Second Malaysia Plan in 1975, through the dispersal of industries to the new villages to create at least 50,000 jobs for new village unemployed and underemployed.

5. Of the remaining new villages without water and electricity, 50 per cent of them should be supplied with piped water and electricity by end of 1975.

I earnestly hope that the 900,000 new villagers will not be let down by the performance of a Minister for New Villages this time.