DAP condemns the gross abuse of State power by the Sarawak Chief Minister, Rahman Ya’acob

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at a Press Conference at DAP KL Office, 63-D Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur, on Tuesday, 17 th Sept. 1974 at 12 noon.

DAP condemns the gross abuse of State power by the Sarawak Chief Minister, Rahman Ya’acob

Yesterday morning, I left Kuala Lumpur Subang Airport by MAS for a second visit to Kuching to renew old friendships with the SNAP leaders, MPs and SAs, exchange notes about the recent general elections and to discuss problems of common interest.

I arrived at the Kuching airport at 11.40 a.m. (Sarawak time) and was welcomed by SNAP leaders, Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen.

A few minutes after disembarkation and handing over my passport to the airport immigration official, I was informed that the instruction from ‘higher-up’ was not to allow me to land in Kuching, and that I was to leave Kuching by the same plane which was preparing to leave for Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

I contacted the Director of Immigration, and was told that immigration was a State matter with full powers in the hands of the State Government, and that he had specific instructions to ban me from landing in Kuching. All attempts to contact the Sarawak Chief Minister, Rahman Yacob, or any other responsible State government official failed, for the whole Sarawak State Government was in Kota Kinabalu for the Sabah Malaysia Day celebrations.

In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that there was no State Government in Sarawak yesterday, as there was not a single officer who was really in charge in the absence of the Sarawak Chief Minister, Rahman Yacob, in Kota Kinabalu.

It is indeed true that in Sarawak, when the Chief Minister is away, Sarawak State government decisions take a holiday.

The new SNAP Member of Parliament and State Assemblyman, Sdr. Lee Moggie, who resigned one of the top Iban civil service jobs in Sarawak as deputy general manager of the Borneo Development Corporation and defeated Thomas Kana, tried for the next few hours to get someone with authority in the Sarawak State Government, both in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, but was not successful.

At about 3.30 p.m., I was told by the Sarawak Director of Immigration that he had been informed by the Special Branch, conveying a message from the Sarawak Chief Minister in Kota Kinabalu, that I was not to be permitted to land in Sarawak.

I left Kuching for Kuala Lumpur by the evening MAS flight at 5.20 p.m.

Rahman Yacob owes the people of Sarawak and Malaysia a full and satisfactory explanation why a Malaysian Member Parliament banned from visiting his own country.

The Sarawak Chief Minister, Rahman Ya’acob, owes the people of Sarawak and the people of Malaysia a full and satisfactory explanation why a Malaysian Member Parliament, elected by the due processes of law and elections, is not allowed to visit his own country.

As I wrote in my disembarkation card, I was visiting Kuching as Member of Parliament, in my official capacity.

Rahman Yacob’s decision makes a full mockery of democracy, of the idea of a Malaysian nation which is bigger than the individual states, and of the whole concept of national unity.

What has happened to the Second Malaysia Plan objective to effect closer integration of the peoples and states of Malaysia?

The Second Malaysia Plan begins with the declaration that “national unity is the over-riding objective of the country” and that the “direction towards national unity is fundamental to the New Economic Policy and the Second Malaysia Plan.”

We are told in the Second Malaysia Plan, in the Rukunegara, and by all the Ministerial speeches and statements, that there must be a closer integration of the people of all races, groups and from all the different states in Malaysia, particularly between the people of West Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.

I want to know how the objective of fostering a closer integration of the peoples and states of Malaysia can be achieved if elected Members of Parliament from West Malaysia are barred from entering Sarawak, for no reason of cause whatsoever, whereas tourists and foreigners can enter Sarawak without a visa for two weeks without questions asked. In fact, political refugees from Brunei, who had fought against the formation of Malaysia, had been received with open arms in Sarawak , but not elected Malaysian Members of Parliament.

Where is the ‘democratic way of life’ which is one of the objectives of the Rukunegara?

Has Rahman Yacob and the National Front leaders forgotten that one of the objectives of the Rukunegara is to ‘maintain a democratic way of life’? How can there be a ‘democratic way of life’, when there is no freedom of movement for Malaysian MPs within his own country, let alone freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom of the press and freedom of political activity?

It is indeed ridiculous and scandalous state of affairs that a Member of Parliament cannot visit his own country. When autonomy was given to Sarawak and Sabah on immigration matters during the Malaysia talks, the rationale behind this was to allay the fears of Sabahans and Sarawakians that they might be swamped by the unemployed youths from Malaya and Singapore, putting their own youths at a gross disadvantage. Now, this immigration power to check the flooding of Sarawak and Sabah with West Malaysian labour is being abused to seal off the East Malaysian states from free contact with West Malaysia.

I call on Tun Razak to cause an immediate review of this particular misuse and abuse of immigration powers by the Sarawak and Sabah state governments if we want, as a people, to genuinely work towards the Second Malaysia Plan objective of achieving ‘national unity’ and if we want to fulfil the Rukunegara objective of ‘maintaining a democratic way of life.’

Lim Kit Siang feels sad by what happened in Sarawak
I feel sad at what has happened in Sarawak yesterday, for I see the black clouds of intolerance, dictatorial trends and attitudes, spreading to more and more areas in Malaysia.

It would appear that Rahman Yakub is trying to convert Sarawak into a second Sabah, and he himself become a second Tun Mustapha, cutting off his state form all political contacts from other parts of Malaysia, and rule in tyranny and with intimidation, turning his state into a government of men rather than a government of laws.

I can think of no reason, when I was told by the airport immigration officer, that I was not permitted to land, why I have been picked up for such special treatment, getting the dubious distinction of being an MP who is a persona non grata in two Malaysian states.

I could understand the political reasons if I had made my visit in the midst of the Sarawak general elections, although the decision to ban an a MP from his own country cannot be defensible under any circumstances. I can still remember that I once met Dato Ong Kee Hui in Parliament, asked him jokingly whether I would be banned from entering Sarawak should I go over, and he invited me to go over any time, adding that Sarawak is not Sabah.

However, after discussions with the SNAP leaders, MPs and State Assemblymen at the Kuching airport while waiting for news from the Sarawak Chief Minister, I realise some of the political reasons why the Sarawak Chief Minister did not want me to go to Kuching and meet the people of Sarawak.

Among the SNAP leaders I met at the airport were Dato James Wong, SNAP Vice President; Edmund Langgu, SNAP Secretary-General; Leo Moggie Anak Irok, MP and SA; Luhat Wan, MP; Edwin Tangkun, MP; Jonathan Nawin, MP; Daniel Tajem, who defeated Datuk Tawi Sli, former State Chief Minister in the Lingga-Sebuyau state seat; Lo Foot Kee, the giant killer who defeated Stephen Yong in the Kuching Timor state seat; Joseph Samuel S.A.; Micheal Ben, S.A.;Micheal Bong; and the new SNAP MP for Bintulu, Ting Lian Kiew.

Firstly, the Sarawak general elections was a very dirty general elections, where election laws and regulations were broken with impunity, intimidation and vote-buying carried out on an intensive scale, and untrammeled abuse of public property and government powers.

In fact, it was so bad that the Chairman of the Elections Commission Tan Sri Ahmad Perang was prompted to make the following statement: on his departure from Sarawak after the elections, on 14 th Sept., a most unusual statement to come from Tan Sri Ahmad Perang, and all the more commendable:

“The election campaign in Sarawak was all but clean. Campaigning which should have stopped after 23 rd August, went on right through the polling period in public speeches including religious gatherings, the press and the radio. (It is clear who Tan Sri Ahmad Perang is referring to as the Opposition SNAP does not control the radio).

“The Election Offences Act lays down what can or cannot be done and Police will no doubt act on all reports received by them. The Election Commission is not the authority to enforce the Election Offences Act and anyone who has evidence of Election Offences should lodge a report with the Police and the process of law will, it is expected, take its course.

“In one particular area, Marudi Town, where I have been, posters in Chinese were put up a day before polling day, all over the town and some, I was told, were communal in nature.”(Tan Sri was referring to the SUPP).

“When polling was in progress the next day, several cars and lorries flying flags with a candidate’s symbol were plying all over the town. Surprisingly no Police were around to stop or arrest those who flouted the election laws. As this happened under my very nose, I called on the District Officer to call in his Liaison Committee. Regretfully the District Officer was attending a visiting Minister instead of his more important duty that day as the Returning Officer. However, the Assistant District Officer managed to call the agents but the O.C.D. inspite of several contacts failed to turn up. There was not a single policeman in the town except three at the polling station. I had to do the explaining myself to the Agents of the Offences committed. In view of all this unethical practice, the Election Commission may have to reconsider whether the present system of staggered counting should be adopted at future Elections.”

We know that where alleged offences have been committed by the Opposition, the police are very energetic and zealous in charging and arresting Opposition members; but where allegations or reports are made about Barisan infractions, somehow or other, the police could not be found or they are simply not interested in taking any action.

We can imagine the state of the election practices in other parts of Sarawak where the Chairman did not go to. The staggered counting has robbed the SNAP of the opportunity of capturing the State Government of Sarawak. The whole Sabah Airline helicopter fleet were mobilised to aid the Barisan Nasional to campaign and to bring their voters to vote. The daily schedule of voting and counting was unaccountably stopped for two nights on the last Wednesday and Thursday, to allow the Barisan time to launch last-minute vote-buying and voter-intimidation campaigns. Chinese voters were warned by SUPP candidates that if they do not support the Barisan Nasional, their relatives and friends in detention camps will never be released.

Rahman Yakub want to keep all these dirty, unethical and unfair electoral practices from becoming public knowledge in other parts of Malaysia outside in Sarawak, and he probably hopes that by banning me from entering Sarawak, is one way of doing it.

Secondly, Rahman Yakub has realized that the bases of his political support is very weak, and is in danger of complete erosion leading to his and the Barisan Nasional’s loss of political power in thee near future. He wants to isolate and quarantine the SNAP from contacts from political movements in other states, hoping in this manner to undermine and weaken the SNAP’s political base, support and will.

Thirdly, I understand that Stephen Yong is arranging for one of his SUPP State Assemblyman to resign and cause a by-election for him to re-contest in the hope of winning and getting back as Deputy Chief Minister in Sarawak. He probably feels that my presence in Kuching at this time will be detrimental to his and his party’s political chances in any such by-election.

Trend towards dictatorial actions and attitudes cause for concern

After the 1974 general elections, despite an overwhelming majority in Parliament and secure government majorities in all states, although denied of two-thirds majority by SNAP in Sarawak, the Barisan Nasional seems to have veered towards dictatorial trends and attitudes, as illustrated by the Kuching affair.

It illustrates the point that government with a bloated or overwhelming majority is unconducive to healthy and just government, and a danger to the proper growth of democracy. Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie’s argument that there is no need for Opposition in Malaysia because the nine component parties in the National Front have their own built-in checks and balances to prevent dictatorial trends and attitudes have been exposed as empty words by the misuse of immigration powers by the Sarawak Chief Minister, and by the complete denial of political freedom and rights in the State of Sabah.

The most urgent task in Malaysia today is to save democracy from those who want to abolish opposition and foist in Malaysia a one-party state and government.

The DAP will continue to work closely with SNAP to battle against all attempts to erode further the democratic rights of Malaysians, I hope that Tun Razak will use his good offices to check the dictatorial trends and attitudes in the country, because if an Constitutional Opposition cannot operate, then the government will have to face an Unconstitutional Opposition.

The SNAP will raise and challenge the misuse of immigration powers by Rahman Yakub in the Sarawak Council Negri, and the SNAP and DAP will together raise and challenge this issue in the first meeting of the new Parliament.