End of Interchangeability between Malaysian and Singapore currencies

Speech by Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP Public Rally in Batu Pahat on Sunday, 17th June 1973 at 10 p.m.

1. Call on Government not to discriminate against Chinese and Tamil languages in favour of English.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the Ministry of Education have jointly started the ETV, or Education Television, for primary and secondary schools for quite some time.

However, it is highly regrettable that the Government has discriminates against Chinese and Tamil schools in preferences for English schools.

There is English-language Education Television series, whether it be modern mathematics, integrated science, civics, etc. but conspicuously omitted are ETV series in Chinese and Tamil language.

Right from the beginning, all four languages, Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil, had been used for radio school programmes catering to the needs of school children in all language media schools.

What is the reason for this departure from past policy and practice, of giving fair treatment to al language school programmes as far as television school programmes are concerned? And why is this discrimination against Chinese and Tamil language school programmes in preference and favour of English language programmes?

The Chinese and Tamil schools should be given fair and equal treatment, and I call on the Alliance, including its component MCA, to implement the traditional policy by also introducing ETV programmes in Chinese and Tamil language.

2. End of Interchangeability between Malaysian and Singapore currencies.

On 8th May, 1973, the Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, told Parliament that with effect from that date, the Malaysian Government had decided to end the interchangeability arrangement between Malaysian and Singapore currencies, but assured the House and country that the government would allow Singapore currency to be redeemed for the next three months.

However, two days later, the Government reversed its stand and announced that the people had one week to exchange their Singapore currency at par.

This caused consternation and inconvenience particularly among the consumers, housewives and low income people in the State of Johore. Such public reversal of government stand is only justifiable if the government had proposed to take steps which would lead to differences in the exchange value in the two currencies.

As it is, that one week was a week of unnecessary inconvenience and hardship, for even today, Singapore coins are used in large quantities in Johore for the simple reason that there are not enough Malaysian coins to take their place.

This is a sad reflection on the efficiency and competence of our Finance Minister, and shows the utter unreality in which Tun Tan Siew Sin lives and moves in.

3. Spiraling cost of living

All over the country, the people, consumers, housewives and the poor are groaning under the burden of run-away inflation with one price increase chasing another.

There is not a single commodity which has not increased in price, and such increases are not marginal, but hefty ones, some going up to as high as 100% increases.

The rich are the least affected with their affluence and wealth but to the poor, the increase of a few cents an item constitutes a large reduction in their income and purchasing power.

But Tun Tan Siew Sin, who is personally largely responsible for this grave spiraling cost of living, by his iniquitous Sales Tax, chuckles and claims that the housewives and consumers should ne grateful that the price increase are not more.

This is the trouble of having a Finance Minister who comes from a rich family, who does not know what poverty and deprivation means, nor can imagine what it involves for a housewives to make ends meet with static income but galloping inflation, where one dollar buys less and less things.

The Government must take concrete and positive action to end run-away price inflation. It is not enough forming a Consumers’ Advisory Committee. What the housewives and the poor want are action to firstly end the price hikes, and secondly, restore the old price levels.

It is indeed odd that under Tun Tan Siew Sin’s financial stewardship, the country is facing not only a whole range of price increases, but shortages of all sorts of materials.

It is time the government leaders take a grip of themselves and get down seriously to governing and managing the Malaysian economy with competence and skill.

In this connection, the first step Tun Tan should do is to cut down on all extravagant and unproductive expenditures, tighten the belts and abolish the oppressive Sales Tax. Thus, what is the economic justification for squandering some $50 million on the Senai International Airport but to satisfy the ego; and if this is not economic folly, I do not know what is.

Finally, the question boils down to whether Tun Siew Sin and his Cabinet colleagues have the will and sincerity to want to act to force prices down to reasonable levels in the interest of the poor.