Need for a strong consumer movement, which is not a department of the Ministry of Trade and Industry

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at a Public Rally at the Esplanade, Penang on Saturday, 3rd February 1974 at 9 p.m.

1. Need for a strong consumer movement, which is not a department of the Ministry of Trade and Industry

If profiteering, hoarding and speculation, some of the main causes of inflation, are to be brought under check, a strong and effective consumer movement is necessary.

For such an effective consumer movement to develop in Malaysia, it must have firstly, ample funds to finance its programme of activities; and secondly, complete independence from control or influence from any pressure group or government. It should not become a department of the government, for then it would be impotent and ineffective.

I am surprised that since the formation of the FOMCA, the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations, the Malaysian consumer movement seemed to have entered a period of quiescene.

The last few months have seen a shocking increase in the prices f all commodities, whether petrol, sugar, flour, foodstuffs, cooking oil, – but the FOMCA seemed to be unresponsive to these terrific leaps in the cost of living.

The Consumers Association of Penang, however, is playing a very gallant and conspicuous role in championing consumer interests against unreasonable price increases to satisfy the greed of companies who are only interested in profit maximisation regardless of national welfare.

I suggest that the government must keep clear of the consumer movement, and refrain from exercise any influence or pressure. To enable the consumer movement to have a sound financial basis to play an effective role, the government should allocate to all consumers’ associations sufficient funds – but with no strings attached.

The government has formed a National Advisory Council for Consumers’ Protection. This Council should conduct its proceedings in public, and not in private as at present, and before any industry or manufacturer or importer raise prices, such proposed increase must be submitted to the Council for its consideration and recommendation.

In this connection, it is public knowledge that the major oil companies who monpolised the Malaysian oil market are demanding government approval for another round for increase in the price of petrol, fuel oil and diesel.

The Government should stop conducting secret negotiations and deals with the oil companies, but make the oil companies to come out public and to put to the public their case for another price increase.
(Cont. of speech by Lim Kit Siang at Penang Public Rally on 3.2.1974)

2. Five preliminary questions for Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik

The Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, under the leadership of Dr. Lim Chong Eu, seeks to be all things to all men – and in this guise, hope to get the people’ s support in the next elections.

If the Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia of Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik hope to get the people’ s support, then they must bravely and squarely face the issues of the country, and not be evasive and vague on the fundamental problems and burning issues in the land.

I will tonight ask Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik five preliminary questions to ascertain their stand on some of the national issues in the country.

1. What is Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik’ s stand on the call by the Chinese community for the eternal preservation, sustenance and development of Chinese primary schools? Why did Dr. Lim Chong Eu support the 1961 Education (Amendment) Act which empowers the Minister of Education, with the stroke of the pen, to convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools?

2. Does the Gerakan support the abolition of the Boards of Managements of Chinese schools, permitting the Minister of Education to transfer principals and teachers of Chinese schools to wherever they like, and even principals who do not know Chinese to Chinese schools. Why did Dr. Lim Keng Yaik support in the Parliament the 1972 Education (Amendment) Bill which abolished the Boards of Management.

3. What is the Gerakan’s official stand on the annual M.C.E failures which run into tens of thousands merely because of failure in Bahasa Malaysia? Does the Gerakan support the DAP stand that those MCE candidates would have got MCE certificates but for failure in Bahasa Malaysia should be given conditional certificates? Why did Dr. Lim Chong Eu oppose such issue of conditional certificates?

4. What is the Gerakan’s stand on the recognition of Nantah and Formosan degrees and qualifications? Why can’t the Penang State Government set the example for the whole of Malaysia by employing Nantah and Formosa graduates on par with other university graduates so that the over 10,000 qualified Malaysian manpower can contribute fully to Malaysian development and progress.

5. What is the Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia’s stand on Malaysia culture. Does Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik agree with the UMNO that Malaysian culture must be based on Malay culture? Why did Dr. Lim Chong Eu, at the Gerakan-DAP cultural debate in 1968, adopt the stand that Malaysian literature can only be written in the Malay language, and that other Malaysian writings by Malaysians, if in Chinese, Tamil and English cannot be accept as Malaysian literature.

There are many other important questions of national concern which the Gerakan of Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik have to make clear their stand. Let us see whether they have the political courage to answer my five preliminary questions first.