DAP calls for the establishment of a Ministry of Consumer Affairs to protect consumer interest against the ravages of inflation

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the Penang DAP State Convention held at Pulau Tikus Community Hall on Sunday, 3rd March 1974 at 10.30 a. m.

1. DAP calls for the establishment of a Ministry of Consumer Affairs to protect consumer interest against the ravages of inflation

For over two years, inflation has become our No.1 national problem. Not a day passes without some new price increase or other, pushing up the cost of living in Malaysia to higher and higher levels.

The price leaps in January and February have exceeded price jumps in 1973, with increases in sugar, flour, bread, biscuits, and a whole sundry of daily necessities. In the last few days, detergents, toothpaste, toilet paper have all shot up in prices.

It may be asked why we should be concerned about inflation, and why should there be a need to do anything about it.

The simple answer is that inflation makes inequalities worse, both of income and of wealth, and is especially harmful to the poorer sections of the community. Inflation is one of the major causes of the mounting industrial unrest in various parts of the country. Unless inflation is brought under check, the Second Malaysia Plan objective to eradicate poverty by raising income levels for all Malaysians irrespective of race, cannot succeed.

The Government has just launches a nation-wide anti-hoarding campaign. I hope that the Government will concentrate on the big-time hoarders and profiteers, because they are the real culprits in this matter.

On looking back on government record to curb inflation, and help protect the interest of the consumers, it cannot be said that government has a creditable record.

There must be a more systematic, sustained and single-minded effort on the part of the government to protect the interests of the poor consumers against the machinations, profiteering and exploitation of the irresponsible among the manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers.

At present, the Government has the Ministry of Trade and Industry in charge of consumer interests. This Ministry, however, is more biased towards the interests of the manufacturers and industrialists than the ordinary consumer.

I therefore call on the Government to establish a Ministry of Consumers Affairs specially charged with the task of protecting the interest of the consumers, and to ensure that the purchasing power of the poor are restored, by preventing consumers being exploited through unfair pricing, that that there is proper quality and accurate volume or quantity of every item they purchase.

2. DAP calls for a six-month price freeze of essential foodstuffs and government subsidies for essential foodstuffs to bring down food prices.

The most effective way the Government can help to restore the purchasing power and living standards of the poor is to bring down food prices, as food items constitute the bulk of the expenditure of the poor and low-income in the country.

Because of the critical importance of food prices to the standard of living of the poor, who constitute the majority of Malaysians, the DAP calls on the Government to impose a six-month price freeze on all foodstuffs. Manufactures, producers and importers who wish to raise the prices of foodstuffs should put up a public case to the government to justify their proposal.

Furthermore, the government should extend financial subsidy to essential foodstuffs like rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil to bring their prices to within the economic reach of the poor.

At present, the government provides a subsidy of 50 cents per gantang of China rice for domestic consumption. But this subsidy is very limited, as the subsidy only applies to China rice imported by LPN, and not applicable to rice imported by private importers.

The government should extent such subsidy to China rice imported by private importers. Furthermore, the government should provide subsidy of 10 cents a kati for flour and five cents per kati for sugar to bring their prices down to January levels to alleviate the suffering of the poor in both rural and urban areas.

3. Dr. Lim Cheong Eu making a desperate attempt to impress Tun Razak

Dr. Lim Chong Eu is making a desperate attempt to impress Tun Razak whom he has invited to declare open the Gerakan delegates’ conference at Dewan Sri Pinang on March 9, by trying to amass as mammoth a crowd as possible.

This is why Dr. Lim Chong Eu has sent out his agents to other states especially in Selangor and Perak to offer free trips to Penang, including free hotel and food, during the Gerakan Delegates’ Conference on March 9. Such tactics are not different from MCA ones to collect crowds for their meeting and rallies.

Such desperate Gerakan attempts to impress Tun Razak about the greater strength if Gerakan vis-à-vis MCA cannot, however, hide the fact that after five years of Dr. Lim Chong Eu rule, the people of Penang have become totally disenchanted with his opportunism and lack of political principles.

This has been admitted by a partner in the National Front,. MCA’s Senator Wong Seng Chow said in Penang two weeks ago that the people of Penang were now dissatisfied with the present government in Penang.

Dr. Lim Chong Eu only hope for political survival is to sufficiently impress Tun Razak about his party’s political strength, and persuade Tun Razak to let him replace Tun Tan Siew Sin in the Cabinet.

I am surprised at the naivette which who have joined the Gerakan display, for their believe promises given to them that they will be made Parliamentary and State candidates.

A cool study of election prospects will show that the chances of the Gerakan is not all that bright.

At the next general elections, some 35 seats in Peninsular Malaysia will have to be shared among the MCA, the Gerakan and the PPP, the rest going to UMNO and PAS.

Out of these 35 parliamentary seats, 20 are currently held by National Front parties – 15 by MCA MPs, 1 by Gerakan and 4 by PPP.

This leaves 15 free Parliamentary seats for division between MCA and Gerakan, for we can ignore the PPP which is held in sufferance in the national Front.

I do not believe that Dr. Lim Chong Eu thinks that under the most favourable of circumstances, the Gerakan would be given all these 15 Parliamentary free seats. In fact, if the Gerakan should be given the majority of these 15 seats, say 8, it should be a mortal insult to the MCA.

Assuming that the Gerakan is given the majority of these 15 free seats, say 8. There is no assurance that the Gerakan would be able to win in any one of them, because these are all Opposition strongholds.

In the event, the Gerakan may have to consider themselves lucky if they can get three MPs elected, while the MCA will have more MPs than the Gerakan, as a few of their present 15 seats are safe seats.

Those who join the Gerakan thinking that power, position and wealth is around the corner should therefore think again.

4. DAP in Penang: Our objectives

The DAP’s objective in Penang is to offer the people of Penang alternative to the discredited Alliance and National Front policies.

We welcome idealistic Malaysians to join our ranks, but we do not hold to them scintillating offers of state assembly seat, parliamentary seat, executive council position, but the satisfaction of serving the people’s highest interest and the honour of subordinating self-interest to the public welfare.

We in the DAP have no place for those who think they are born to the right to have instant fame, riches, titles, office. Such people should go to the Gerakan, MCA or the Alliance. We want only those who think solely of their contribution to alleviate the sufferings, remove the frustrations and fulfil the aspirations of the multi-racial people in the country.