Bipartisan Politics

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Bandar Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP Public Rally at Jalan Peel, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, 4th May 1974 at 8 p.m.

Bipartisan Politics

On Tuesday, at the Prime Minister’s reception for him on his retirement as a Cabinet Minister, the former MCA President and Finance Minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin, suggested that a bipartisan approach be developed on issues like education, language and inflation.

He said:” In a multi-racial society like ours where such issues generate more than usual heat, because of their racial or emotional overtones, there is all the more reason to lift them from the arena of politics in order to arrive at a national consensus on them.”

The DAP agrees in principle with the need for a bipartisan approach to national issues, as we have always been of the view that on important issues affecting the people of the country, a national consensus should be sought which respect the wishes of all sections of the people rather than the imposition of the will of one group or section on the population as a whole.

We must however be very clear in our minds as to how such a bipartisan approach on national issues is to be arrived at, and what such bipartisan approach constitutes.

If by bipartisan approach, Tun Tan means that everyone should accept the Alliance attitude and outlook on all the national issues, this is not only a misuse of the word ‘bipartisan’, it is nothing more than the Alliance approach wrought large.

For instance, the so-called National Front is not an evolution of a bipartisan approach to the national issues concerting the people of Malaysia, in the sense that the ruling government is taking into serious account the aspirations of all sections and clauses of the people.

Thus, although the PPP and the Gerakan have joined the Alliance to form the National Front for their own political survival, the price the PPP and the Gerakan have to pay is to forget about the promises and political principles which they held out to the people in the 1969 general elections.

There is therefore no evolution of a bipartisan approach to national issues, but the entrenchment of the Alliance party outlook, by the emasculation and castration of the political principles of the PPP and the Gerakan. Such an interpretation of bipartisan approach would be no different from the so-called ‘bipartisan’ approach of a one-party state and dictatorship.

Bipartisan approach can only be evolved if the wishes and desires of all sections and classes of the people are fully respected and taken into account, and where all problems affecting Malaysians will be regarded as Malaysian problems rather than as sectional, communal or racial ones.

Thus, in a genuine bipartisan approach, aimed at developing Malaysian harmony and unity, it should not only be permissible and legitimate to talk about the need to accelerate opportunities for Malays to participate fully in commerce and industry, it should equally be permissible and legitimate to talk about the need to provide more from Form Six and university places for non-Malay students; the employment of Malaysian in government service of those possessing Indian, Nantah and Formosan university degrees so that they can help in national reconstruction; the proper place and future role of Chinese and Tamil education in a multi-racial society.

Again, in a genuine bipartisan approach, the ruling government must be prepared to make sincere efforts to solve the problem of poverty and backwardness of the Malaysian poor comprising all races, and stop aggravating the present inequalising process where the rich become richer and the poor poorer.

The people need to be convinced that by a bipartisan approach, Tun Tan is not meaning the entrenchment of the Alliance policy attitudes and the elimination of dissenting views.

When Parliament was re-convened in February 1971, the Constitution was amended to ban the discussion of sensitive issues “so that in the forthcoming elections, sensitive issues cannot be questioned by the Opposition.”

A National Unity Council was formed purportedly to provide a forum where sensitive issues would be discussed closer-doors, and presumably some bipartisan approach could be formed.

But the importance of the National Unity Council to the Alliance thinking could be gauged by the fact that for some 18 months, it has not met.

My attention was recently drown to a speech by the Mentri Besar of Selangor, Dato Harun bin Idris, when he opened the general meeting of the Petaling Jaya Barat UMNO branch early this week. He said that the DAP was still raising ‘sensitive issues’.

I am very surprised, for the Alliance Government amended the Constitution in 1971 to abolish the raising of ‘sensitive issues.’ Dato Harun’s speech can only mean that in his view, and probably in the view of others in the National Front, apart from the sensitive issues for which constitutional provisions were made three years ago to forbid discussion, there are now more subjects which they feel should also be banned from discussion.

To do this, of course, the Malaysian Constitution must be further amended to extend the list of ‘sensitive issues’ banned from the public discussion. This is probably Dato Harun’s understanding of a bipartisan approach.

In conclusion, while we agree in principle to a bipartisan approach to the national issues, such a bipartisan approach must be evolved by the meeting of minds and the accommodation of the legitimate aspirations of all sections and classes of Malaysians, and not by the elimination and suppression of political approach which are different from the Alliance attitude, Tun Tan should give deeper thought to his own suggestion.