Call on political parties, consumer movements and public organisations to form a united front to campaign against another round of oil price increases

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, to the Selangor DAP State Convention held at 63-D Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 17th February 1974 at 10 a.m.

1. Call on political parties, consumer movements and public organisations to form a united front to campaign against another round of oil price increases

Just before Christmas last year, the Alliance government gave in to the pressure of the five international oil companies in Malaysia, Shell, Esso, Caltex, Mobil, and British-Petroluem, and allowed big increases in the prices of petrol, diesel, and fuel oil.

These five international oil companies, which among themselves, monopolise the Malaysian oil market, from importing of crude oil, to refining, marketing and distributing, are now jointly campaigning for another round of new oil price increases.

The present situation whereby oil price increases are conducted in secret between the oil companies and the Ministry of Primary Industries is highly unsatisfactory from the point of view of public interest. Firstly, such secret bilateral negotiations between the oil companies and the Ministry of Primary Industries exclude consumers and interested public organisations from stating their case against price increases. Secondly, in such secret negotiations between the Ministry of Primary Industries and the oil companies, the government officials are likely to come out second best for the simple reason that the government does not possess all the knowledge and expertise about the policy and economics of oil pricing.

As a result of the lack of government expertise in this highly technical subject of oil pricing at different stages of the petroleum industry, the government after has to meekly accept the figures and data presented by the oil companies to support their arguements for price increase.

The great secrecy surrounding discussions about oil price increases can only benefit the major oil internationals, to the detriment of the consumers.

Recently, however, as a result of the world energy crisis, countries and consumers throughout the world have awoken up to the fact that all these decades they have been exploited by oil companies to enable the largely-American-based oil international majors to make billions of dollars of profits.

Thus, in the United States of America, at least two dozen Congressional and state investigations of various facets of the oil industry are under way or being planned.

Similarly, in Malaysia, we cannot allow an industry as important as the oil industry, as it has a pervasive impact on the economy, individual consumers and workers, to conduct it business without strong public scrutiny and control.

I therefore call on the government to establish an Oil Industry Commission, to publicly go into the whole question of oil pricing at every level by the multi-national oil corporations operating in Malaysia. Let the international oil majors, Shell, Esso, Mobil, British Petroleum and Caltex, produce facts and figures to the Malaysian public to justify their present oil price levels, and their campaign for another round of oil price increases.

The government should not act as guardians of the interests of the international oil majors, but as guardians of public interest. This is because what is in the best interest of the oil companies is not necessarily in the best interest of the people of Malaysia.

In this regard, I also wish to propose that all political parties, consumer movements trade unions and public organisations form a united front to campaign against another round of oil price increases.

Often enough, when the government has given the approval for price increases, it has become a fait accompli making it impossible to reverse the government decision. However, if there is a campaign to put pressure on the Ministry of Primary Industries from approving another round of oil price increases, without proper accounting of it reasons to the public, the consumers’ interest will be better safeguarded.

The DAP is prepared to play an active role in any such national campaign against another round of oil price increases. I would like to know what other parties, the various consumer movements, trade unions and other interested public organisations and individuals think of this proposal.

2. Cut-down in government spending

Last week, the Sultan of Selangor ordered cancellations of his 48th birthday celebrations because of rising prices and the unstable world economic conditions. He also postponed the conferment of awards and titles to his next birthday. The example set by the Sultan of Selangor should be emulated by the Federal and State governments, so that a national campaign can be launched for austerity and stringency in public and private spending, especially in this time when inflation has become the country’s No.1 economic problem. It is indeed regrettable that on February 1, on the occasion of the declaration of Kuala Lumpur as a Federal Territory, no thought was given to austerity and economic stringency.

3. DAP in Selangor: Future

With the removal of Kuala Lumpur from the Selangor State and the abolition of nine State Assembly seats previously situated in Kuala Lumpur, the DAP faces new political problems in the next Selangor general elections.

We should adjust ourselves to these territorial changes, and show to the Alliance that no amount of undemocratic changes of boundaries and constituencies will prevent the DAP from bravely and consistently representing the people’s interests and rights in Selangor, the Federal Territory and in Malaysia as a whole.

The DAP has gone through great tests and challenges, especially in the past few years, and we have emerged a stronger, more cohesive and united movement.

We must now gear ourselves to fight the coming general elections, which will not be far away. The Central Executive Committee has already invited branches to send up their nominations for candidates for the next general elections.

The criteria to be a DAP candidates is that he must be prepared to put party and country above self, and is committed to a long-term struggle to establish a democratic socialist Malaysia, without thought of personal advancement or comfort.