Is an Opposition Needed in Malaysia?

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in a talk to Chung Ling Old Boys’ Association (Selangor, Negri Sembilan and Pahang Division) at Petaling Jaya on Friday, 1st November 1974 at 8 p.m.

Is an Opposition Needed in Malaysia?

Recently, the Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, said that at this stage of our political development, there was no need for an opposition, and that the nice political parties confederated in the Barisan Nasional have its own built-in checks and balances to avoid dictatorial trends and attitudes.

This is the biggest fallacy of the year, for what we have in Malaysia today is the growing trend towards authoritarian rule and intolerance for opposition, criticism and dissent.

We just need look at Sabah, which has become an international scandal. Political rights of Malaysians in Sabah simply do not exist where they diverge from the line laid down by one man, whose rather than the country’s laws, govern the land.

Malaysians in Sabah who attempted to exercise their fundamental rights of freedom of religion, speech and political assembly, as enshrined in the Malaysians Constitution, are harassed, persecuted, hounded and detained.

Where are the ‘built-in checks and balances’ inside the Barisan Nasional to avoid these dictatorial developments in Sabah?

Far from having ‘built-in checks and balances’ to avoid dictatorial trends and attitudes, the dictatorial trends is spreading to other parts of Malaysia, as Ministers have not yet shed their habits of NOC period when their actions were answerable to no one.

In Sarawak, the political trend is becoming more and more unhealthy. Two days ago, the SNAP leaders, Dato James Wong, and one SNAP former Member of Parliament, Awang Bongsu Abdullah, were arrested under the PPSO for allegedly activities detrimental to the country’s and security.

The national and international opinion is that the arrests were solely politically motivated, and they constitute a gross abuse and misuse of governmental power.

This was the latest in a series of dictatorial trends and attitudes in Sarawak. During the general elections campaign, the Sarawak Chief Minister, banned a daily newspaper, the Chinese Vanguard, not because it posed a security threat or incited the overthrow of the government. The crime of the Chinese Vanguard was that it daily carried a column contrasting the past speeches and policies of the SUPP leaders, Stephen Yong, with his present ones, and which was held to be one of the cause for Stephen Yong’s defeat in the State elections.
After the general elections, I was prohibited from entry into Sarawak. The Chief Minister invoked State immigration powers which gave immigration powers to the state authorities, but which were originally conceived to prevent Sarawak from being swamped by hordes of unemployed West Malaysian labour to the detriment of Sarawakian youths.

The Second Malaysia Plan talks about the overriding objective to achieve national unity and integration, which it defined as integration of the various races and the peoples from the various states, especially the people from East and West Malaysia. How can such integration and national unity of the peoples of Malaysia, both from East and West Malaysia, be achieved when duly elected Members of Parliament from West Malaysia are disallowed entry into Sarawak and Sabah, for no good reasons apart from political motivations of the ruling parties?

Is Malaysia a government of laws, or a government of men?

These developments in Sabah and Sarawak, which proved that there are no ‘built-in checks and balances’ in the National Front to check dictatorial trends and attitudes, are matched by similar disturbing developments in West Malaysia in the past few years.

A good example is the police brutality and atrocities committed on the political detainees in Batu Gajah detainees. Not a single Barisan Nasional leaders or MP showed concern at such arbitrary exercise and abuse of power, which have crippled the life of a number of detainees, and led to one of them being sent to a mental institution.

The trend towards dictatorial trend and attitudes in West Malaysia can be further seen by the ban of a series of public rallies organized by the DAP throughout the country in October and this month to thank the people for their support during the August general elections, and to keep them abrest with the latest national developments.

Without an opposition in Malaysia to criticize, expose and point out the sins of commission of the government, at the same time educating the people their basic rights, Malaysia will swiftly degenerate into political dictatorship where freedom of speech, beliefs and assembly are completely foreign things.

We cannot depend on the component parties inside the Barisan Nasional to speak up against the abuses and excesses of power, for they are prevented so by their very structure. The Barisan Nasional is not the beginning of the politics of consensus, but is merely the politics of master and subject between the UMNO on the one hand and the others on the other.

If politics are eliminated or legislated away, not only will the light of democracy go out in Malaysia, but the light of a life of dignity, decency and justice will have gone out.