Speech by DAP Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday, 3rd December 1974 on the 1975 Committee of Supply Debate on the Prime Minister’s Department
Parliamentary Services Consultative Committee (PSCC) should review salaries, conditions and allowances of parliamentary staff
When the House adjourned yesterday, I was talking about the need for immediate government action to revise upwards the allowances of the parliamentary staff because of two main reason: firstly, the disparity between the allowances paid to government employers outside the Parliamentary service, and secondly, because of the increased work-load of the parliamentary staff following the increase of the number of Members of Parliament from 144 to 154.
Imagine my surprise when I read in the Straits Terms parliamentary report this morning the paragraph which said: “Mr.Lim Kit Siang called on the Government to review the salaries and allowances for MPs. He felt that MPs should be paid more because of the increased workload.” I hope the Straits Times would make a proper correction of this misreport tomorrow. The DAP is opposed to the proposed increase of allowances for MPs, especially at this juncture of general hardship, but I shall not anticipate a debate on this I was saying yesterday, in a treasury circular dated 1.6.1974 the new rates of honorarium for government employers involved in national conferences are $16, $12, $9 and $6 for the respective four Divisions of employers, as compared to the lowly $6, $5, $4 and $3 for parliamentary staff of equivalent ranks during Parliamentary meetings.
I cannot understand why for these past years, the Treasury has refused to recognize Parliamentary meetings as a ‘National Conference’ which is defined as a meeting involving over 50 persons from the various government department who had work for more than three hours after office time.
When Parliament meets, there are not only 154 Members of Parliament involved, but also scores, often not less than 50, government officers who are involved in the galleries behind the Ministerial seats to advise Ministers, and I cannot understand why a meeting involving over 200 persons do not quality to become a ‘National Conference’ for purposes of paying the parliamentary staff commensurate honorarium.
I ask the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department to take urgent action to rectify this anomaly, and I hope that with his characteristic dynamism and vigour, the parliamentary staff can at last look forward to a just deal. I further hope that this matter, which had been outstanding for so many years, can be resolved before the Bill to increase parliamentary allowances is presented to this House, in keeping with the motto of the present government of being ‘action-oriented’.
2. P.S.O. De-closing of the Parliamentary Service
The Parliamentary service is a closed service, with very limited promotion opportunities, which has caused frustration among the parliamentary staff. There are no compensatory incentives to make up this loss of promotional prospects.
I call on the government to find a satisfactory solution to this problem, either by providing additional incentives to the parliamentary staff in the from of a separate salary scale superior to the scale for government employers, or steps should be taken to de-close the Parliamentary service to permit serving parliamentary employers in the clerical and other sections to seek promotions in other government departments. Some special procedures or rules can be made to apply to a few top parliamentary officers. But I do not see any special merit in closing service.
B.8 – National Unity Secretariat
Although national unity remains the overriding problem of the country, it would appear that the governments has continuously downgraded the importance of work on national unity.
The government has set up the National Unity Board, in succession to the National Unity Advisory Council. When Parliament was asked to amend the Constitution to remove the traditional parliamentary immunity of Members of Parliament banning MPs from raising sensitive issues in this Chamber, we were told that the government has no intention of sweeping unpleasant things under the carpet. Although sensitive issues would not be allowed to be raised in Parliaments, as it would attract unsee publicity, they would still be permitted to be raised in another forum, namely the National Unity Advisory Council. A Ministry of National Unity was also set up.
From what I know, the National Unity Advisory Council was ineffective, hardly met at rare intervals and during the last tow years never met at all, and was grossly inadequate to the task of promoting national unity because of the serious lack of government will in this direction.
The abolition of the Ministry of National Unity National Unity Advisory Council and their replacement by the National Unity Board marks a further downgrading of this vitally important task.
If the National Unity Board is to make any contribution at all to national unity effects, their meetings and discussions must be not be ‘ivory tower’ exercises to completely divorced from the hopes and fears of the ordinary Malaysians from all walks of life and from all communal groups.
The problem of national unity has become more and more grave with the passage of years. There is polarisation among the races, polarisation among the classes between the haves and the have-nots, and even estrangement between regions and states.
Baling Hunger Demonstrations:
For instance, in the last one week, there had been mammoth hunger demonstrations involving tens of thousands of people in Baling and neighbouring surrounding areas hunger strikes of the people of Baling in the interior was the subject of considerable student concern at the University of Malaya yesterday, and there was a demonstration by the university students in the Federal Territory this morning sympathy of the hunger and suffering of the people in remote rural areas.
In this connection, I call on the Prime Minister to take immediate Cabinet action to draw up a special programme to alleviate the acute suffering of the people in the distant reaches of the rubber prices and the unrelenting increase in food prices and those of essential commodities.
The National Unity Board should review its procedures of operation in seclusion, secrecy and silence. For instance, although various studies were commissioned by the National Unity Ministry and various papers presented to the National Unity Advisory Council and its various sub-committees had these efforts been useful, or were they merely a colossal waste of minute-writing and paper-preparing.
For any such studies to be relevant, they should be accessible to a larger circle of Malaysians, and not confined to a esoteric few in the government, who probably do not pay them serious attention anywhere.
I suggest that all studies, papers and work of the Ministry of National Unity and the National Unity Advisory Unity Council and its committers, if any, and the work of the National Unity Board, should be accessible to all Members of Parliament and to interested Malaysians, even though they may not be used where they trench of sensitive issues. It is only through a wider diffusion of understanding of the problems of a multiracial society that the basis for national unity can be properly laid. All this assuming, of course, that the national unity board will be engaged in useful work concerning national unity problems.
Land Office, Federal Territory
First priority of government in Kuala Lumpur should be the building of cheap housing to provide a home for everyone
I now refer to Pejabat Tanah, Wilayah Persekutuan, which has as one of his objectives, “Menguatkuasakan undang-undang berkaitan dengan laggaran syarat dan setinggah seperti yang terdapat dalam Kanun Tanah Negara.”
Yesterday I was happy to hear the M.P. for Setapak pleading for a more serious effort to the part of the authorities to solve the housing problem in the Federal Territory, for it is owe that that Barisan Nasional, at least its MP in the Federal Territory, is beginning to become aware of the socio-economic problems and suffering of the poor in the urban areas.
In fact, in many places, urban poverty is as acute, if not more, than rural poverty, especially as the poor in the urban areas do not have a plot of land to fall back upon, and in the urban areas, there is a greater degree of breakdown of the family extended-family system, where the unfortunate can depend on relatives to help out. A poor in urban areas can be completely deprived and dispossessed without aid or assistance.
Undoubtedly, the housing problem in Kuala Lumpur is one of the main problems, and the I call on the authorities concerned to give this problem of building cheap housing in sufficient quantities to break the housing problem in the Federal Territory the No.1 priority in the Agenda of Business, against which all other project must be subordinated.
Kuala Lumpur has become the Federal Territory. Let Kuala Lumpur also become a model town, where there is model urban environment for all its inhabitants, in terms of decent housing, a home for every one, quality of environment, and productive livelihood.
According to the Treasury, in 1973, the National Bureau of Investigations investigated 1,476 cases, arrested 193 persons, 61 of whom were public servants. Disciplinary action were instituted against 18 government officials.
These figures do not inspire confidence in the public that the N.B.I. is capable presently to keep corruption in Malaysia in check.
Corruption at all levels of public life have become more apparent, and the N.B.I. must be more allocations than the present $2.2 million to take on sufficient manpower to conduct its investigations. Thus, although the NBI received 3,416 tips or information in 1973, it could investigate only 1,476 cases. In the first five months of this year, the NBI received 1,500 tips or information, but could only undertake 359 investigations.
The NBI is too short-handed and must be expanded in all states. It must be able to deal speedily and efficiently all public complaints of corruption, and cases like the investigation into allegations of corruption involving the Mentri Besar of Selangor taking over one year, without any indication whether the NBI has gone half-way or hardly scratched the surface of the case, cannot give the people a very high opinion about the NBI.
It is also obvious that the NBI does not possess sufficient powers to enable to act sufficiently to check corruption. Legislation should be tightened up, so that corruption can be brought under check, instead of festering into a national cancer as it is today.
Finally, of cause, the NBI’s effectiveness will not depend on the number of staff or the legal powers, but on the political will of the government. It is here what where the government must still pass the test.
B.7 – Education Service Commission
Call for new deal for school clerks
The 2,000 school clerks in the country are a very unhappy lot. Their work-load have increased considerably, and they are required to be multi-purpose officers. They not only clerk in school, but must also be in charging of banking, correspondence, accounts, become cashiers and telephone operators, type question papers, and even be in charge or extra-mural activities like Parent-Teacher Association mail, school societies, etc.
The school clerks have also to be in charge of school fees, which is the full time work of a cashier. In many cases, the clerks have to take their work home to do, after working late hours, without overtime pay.
I call on the Education Service Commission to look into the legitimate complaints of the school clerks. At present, a school with less than 400 pupils has a part-time clerk, while a school with less than 1,000 pupils has one clerk. In view of the increased workload, schools with less than 500 pupils should employ one full-time clerk, while schools having more than 500 pupils should employ two clerks. The school clerks also do not know that service circulars pertaining to govt. Clerks also apply to them, hope I do not know whether it is because of the over-burdening of the school clerks, or whether it is the fault of state education departments, that in many states, like Kedah and Johore, there has been chronic late payment of salaries of teachers causing grave inconvenience and hardships. I hope these points would be locked into.
Teachers with unrecognized university degrees but possessing University of Malaya Diploma of Education should be placed on D3 category
I want to take this opportunity to raise the question of teachers with unrecognized university degrees, in the eyes of the government, but who have been recognized by the University of Malaya and taken Diploma of Education courses and passed them. Such teachers are put on C2, same as those with MCE qualifications. This is grossly unfair, and I call on the authorities concerned to put these teachers on D3 as they have received professional training in the University of Malaya, irrespective of whether they had their first university degrees from Nantah, Formosan University, Ngee Ann Collages, or any other Indian university of Middle Eastern university.
B.8 Petroleum Division
Call on government to step in to compel in to the five international oil companies to recognize the
Petroleum Dealers Association of Malaysia
We read in today’s press of the plan by the Petroleum Dealers Association of Malaysia to boycott nation-wide sale of petrol and diesel to back their claim for recognition by the five oil companies.
The five international oil companies, which among themselves, monpolise oil market in Malaysia must be educated to respect Malaysian interests and rights.
So far, the international oil companies have been able to hold Malaysian consumers and dealers to ransom because of their monopoly in importing, refining and marketing. The government must step in to rectify this imbalance of economic power, by compelling the oil companies, which are subsidiaries of international corporations, to be more responsible corporate creatures taking Malaysian needs fully into consideration.
The government must not or seen to be a captive victim of the five international oil companies operations in Malaysia.
In this connection, I am disappointed that no policy statement has been made in the winding up of the budget debate second reading on oil pricing in Malaysia, for this reticence on the part of the government can only fan the expectation of further oil price increases in the very short force able future.
I will like here to give the government a forewarning that any further upward revision of oil prices will only trigger off a further chain reaction of new price movements, and when especially in food, because of increases transport costs, and when that happens, there will be even more Baling hunger strikes throughout the country.
I urge that before there is any new price changes in oil products, there must be the fullest public discussion of the case for it, so that the public and the consumers can be given an opportunity to rebut the oil companies case for upward revision of prices.
With the formation of the Petronas, I call on the government to work bout a oil strategy which aims finally in nationalising all oil companies within a time-span of say five or ten years. We must out the international oil companies, and deal directly with the oil producing countries so that Malaysians themselves, and not American or European capital interests, import, refine and sell oil. Meanwhile, Petronas should embark on a scheme to depend more on our own oil production and cut down oil imports, so that we can be self-sufficient as much as possible in oil products.
I have still to read of policy decisions on the part of the government or the Petronas to set up refineries and I hope that this will not be delayed and longer.
B.10 – Judiciary
The shortage of magistrates have created many problem. For instance, juvenile delinquents, under 16, whose parents refuse to stand bail for them are, in the case of KL, remanded in Sg. Besi Home, Asrama Sg. Besi for months without justice being mated out to them. As the Asrama is now overcrowded, these juvenile offenders are remanded in the Sungai Besi Police Station look-up and this has been going on for the last few months. The mixing of the juvenile offenders with adult offenders in the same cell cannot but have a bad influence on young minds, and I hope at this matter will be rectified.
Conditions of service of magistrates must be made more attractive to recruit and to retain serving officers. Thus, magistrates complain that their mileage claims undergo inordinate delays before approval, sometimes taking as long as two years. This, surely is not action-oriented administration. Some magistrates have been threatened with court action by petrol pumps for not settling their bills.
The freeze on loans by the government has affected magistrates, especially circuit magistrates. Loans should be given to magistrates who are required to travel in the course of their duties.
Magistrates posted to various districts outside the Federal Territory do not get quarters, as state government disclaim responsibility on the ground that the magistrates are Federal Territory. As there are only 53 magistrates and Sessions Court Presidents, surely the Federal Government can easily take care of those their quarter problems.
B4 Eledtions Commission
Much has been said about the mass disenfranchisement of voters and the non-registration of eligible voters in the 1974 general elections. I will urge the Elections Commission not to turn a deaf ear to these complaints, which go to the very root of the meaning of democratic process.
The Prime Minister, had said that the missing voters is not a very serious problem as only some 4,000 persons objected or complained to the Elections Commission when the Elections Commission invited representations, which one to only about 0.01 percent of the electorate.
We will be deceiving ourselves if we pretend that only 4,000 persons lost their voters. This in fact, would not represent more than 2 percent of the total missing voters.
The Prime Minister has appointed two Ministers to discuss with the Elections Commission ways of devising a effective way of registering voters. If the authorities concerned are sincere in wanting do devise a system where by every citizen is entitled to vote, when I do not think this will be beyond human ingenuity and inventive capability.
For instance, one practical system will be to base voters registration on the identity card system, where by every holder of the i.c. is needed to be a voter in the area or constituency of the address given in the I.d. Any change in the address of the i.c. will be accompanied by a change in the constituency, and the Elections Commission can get all those particulars directly from the Registration Department.
Finally the Elections Commission should supply every political party a set of the electoral rolls free of charge, and not charge prohibitive rates as in the past, so that political parties can help the citizen to check their registration.