Speech by Ketua Pembangkang, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the Seventh Penang DAP Anniversary Dinner held at Fortune Restaurant on Saturday, 22nd Sept. 1973 at 9 p.m.
To counter soaring prices, DAP calls on government to (a) make immediate payment of a COLA of 40% of salary to all low-paid government employees; and (ii) issue a Cabinet guideline to all private employers to make a similar 40% COLA payment to their employees
For over a year, there has been continuous and rapid rise in prices accompanied by continuous fall in the purchasing power of the Malaysian dollar, bringing acute sufferings and hardships to the majority of Malaysians who have low or fixed incomes.
The consumers and the poor have been made to bear the full brunt of the inflation, with the rich getting away scot-free. All the price increases, whether stemming from imported or domestic inflation, price-fixing by cartels and monopoly enterprises, artificial manipulation of the market, or from the government’s highly inflationary fiscal policies such as the Sales Tax, are simply passed on to the final consumers.
Under the present free enterprise system, it is easy for capitalists to insist and maintain their huge profit margins before the inflation. In facts, there are even capitalists who take this opportunity of inflation and confusion to inflate their huge profit margins. Thus, last month, the Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, admitted that one of the major causes of inflation was that some importers make profits of 100 per cent or more.
But the Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, takes no action against these unconscionable price fixing and market manipulation, at the expense of the poor and the consumers.
This is of course characteristic of Tun Tan Siew Sin, who has a very soft heart for the rich and well-to-do, as can be seen by his taxes which always hit the poor harder than the rich.
Thus in an runaway inflation, the poor are the hardest and worst affected, while the rich can accumulate more riches by speculation, price fixing and market manipulation.
The inflation in the country has been allowed to grow unchecked, and the Malaysian poor have been victimized, for too long. The time has come for the Cabinet to take urgent action to work out a strategy to combat price inflation, and restore to the low-paid workers their purchasing power.
As a first step, I call on the government to immediately pay a high cost of living allowance (COLA) of 40% salary to all low-paid government employees with retrospective effect. The government should not forget the low-paid workers in the private sector who are suffering privations and destitution as a result of the prices inflation. I therefore further call on the Cabinet to issue a guideline to all private employers to make a similar 40% COLA payment to their employees, to restore to the labouring class their purchasing power.
The government should stop being soft-hearted with the profiteers, price fixers, cartels and monopolists who capitalize on the inflationary situation to further exploit the already very oppressed poor and the low income.
DAP wants the LPN and Government to tell the people the full facts about the rise situation in the country
Two days ago, a Malaysian newspaper, in reviewing the food prices of the previous week, has this to say:
“Nothing concrete seems to have been achieved in scaling down rice prices. In almost all the major towns, price of rice has scared.”
“Siam Rice No. One in Malacca has jumped from 65 cents the previous week to 72 cents this week, an increase of seven cents. The highest increase is in Seremban where the price of Siam Rice No. One has gone up to 73 cents, registering a rice of eight cents.”
“In Johore Bahru, Kuantan and Kuala Lumpur, Kedah Rice is not available in the shops. A shopkeeper in Kuala Lumpur said that most shops are not dealing in Kedah Rice as the shops cannot obtain sufficient supplies.”
Despite LPN assurances and statements, Malaysians still face a serious crisis of rice shortage and high prices.
For a country which produces 90% of our own rice requirements to be chronically plunged in a crisis of rice shortage and high prices is not only inexplicable but ridiculous.
Large numbers of Malaysians cannot help feeling that the LPN, under the chairmanship of Tan Sri Syed Nasir, is out of its depths in its rice responsibility and does not have the full understanding of the rice problem in the country.
This is why a few months after Malaysia was plunged into a rice crisis, we are again in the midst of a second rice crisis.
Up to now, the LPN and the government has not given the people a clear picture as to how rice shortage or high prices came about, considering the fact that the harvests from the multi-million dollar Muda Irrigation schemes are beginning to come in.
How can a country which needs only 10% rice import be so acutely short of rice?
From figures given by LPN officials, 10% of Peninsular Malaysia’s rice requirements mean 120000 tons a year.
A few months back, the country was told that the Government has negotiated a consignment of 100000 tons of rice from China. Furthermore, we were told that when the Prime Minister, Tun Razak, met the Thai Premier, at the opening of the Sungei Golok Bridge, the Thai Premier agreed to the relaxation of the Thai ban on rice exports and allow 25000 tons to be imported by Malaysia.
Taking into account Sabah and Sarawak’s rice import requirements, estimated to be some 100000 tons, this means that Malaysia is only short by about 4 per cent of her annual rice consumption needs.
This shortage should be easily made up by buying from the world markets, form China, America, and other rice-producing countries. If Singapore, which imports 100% of her rice consumption needs, can find the world markets, there is no reason why Malaysia cannot meet 4 per cent of her requirements from the world markets. Furthermore, we find that although the price of rice in Singapore is higher than Malaysia, for the last few months, the Singapore rice price has gradually fallen, while in Malaysia the reverse has happened with the price of rice rising sharply.
What is the cause of this? What happened to China’s 100000 tons of rice and Thailand’s 25000 tons of rice?
Has the Muda Irrigation Scheme, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars expended from public funds, been a failure leading to actual shortfall in the harvest this year? What is the quantity produced by the Kedah padi fields? Is Malaysia producing 90 per cent of her rice needs, or very much less, say 50 or 60% only?
This and many other questions cry out for answer. The LPN must give the people the facts of the rice situation and crisis in Malaysia.
Although the LPN and the government officials are now blaming belatedly rice smugglers for creating the rice shortage and crisis, the people find it hard to believe that the rice smugglers are the real culprits. Were the rice smugglers also responsible for the first rice crisis a few months back?
The LPN should not use the smuggling of rice, which undoubtedly exists, as a ‘red herring’ to hide the failure of the LPN to ensure that there is ample supply of rice for Malaysians at cheap reasonable prices.
Recently, LPN Chairman, Tan Sri Syed Nasir, asked for the use of Internal Security Act powers of detention without trial against rice smugglers, hoarders and profiteers. The DAP is strongly opposed to the use of ISA, as it violates the principle of the Rule of Law as enshrined in the Rukunegara.
Any rice smuggler, hoarder or profiteer arrested by the LPN should be brought to court, his offence proved, and sentence handed down by an open court. If the present sentences for these offences are not heavy enough, the LPN can come to Parliament to ask for increased sentences.
Malaysians are facing a crisis of dear food and rice. There are so many puzzles, questions and doubts about the second rice crisis, about the LPN’s handling of the affair, which must be publicly discussed and resolved.
DAP calls for emergency session of Parliament
The entire LPN and government policy, strategy and handling of rice situation and crisis must be reviewed and subject to public scrutiny, and it is for this reason that the DAP calls on the Acting Prime Minister to convene a emergency session of Parliament to discuss this, the most serious problem in the country. It is time the country gets an answer to the question: Why should Malaysia, producing 90 per cent of her requirements, be chronically in the grips of a rice crisis when there is no reason for it.