Speech by DAP Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat during the debate on the 1975 Committee of Supply on Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on 9.12.1974
1. Agricultural Institutes status should be raise and graduates of the Institutes should be permitted to go for diploma course at Universiti Pertanian
In recent months, there had been student trouble in one Institute after another. There was the student unrest in MARA, at Universiti Kebangsaan, the Agricultural Institutes, and now, in all the campuses.
It will not convince the public to brand all these student troubles as communist-inspired, and in fact, a study of the grievances of the students would show that they are legitimate. The sparking point of these student troubles can in many cases be traced to the indifferent and could-not-be-bothered attitude shown by the authorities to the student grievance.
The case of the Agricultural Institutes is very to the point. The five agricultural institutes, namely Serdang, Air Hitam in Johore, Kuala Lipis, Pahang, Bumbung Lima, Pulau Pinang and Titi Gantong, Perak, had been closed for over a month since November 7 because the students, through their union, Kesatuan Pelajar-Pelajar Institutes Pertanian Semananjong Malaysia (KPIPSM) tried to rectify certain of their graduates to proceed to take diploma courses at the University Pertanian, a just pay scheme for the graduates commensurate with the training they had undergone, with the Ministry of Agriculture.
When the five institutes were closed following demonstrations by the students, the Minister of Agriculture promised the students that their announced through the press that the institutes would be opened, the Ministry has not officially contacted the students union, the KPIPSM, which cannot but aggravate student-government relationship. Why should the Minister or other government leaders be so indifferent to the aspirations of the students and their representative union?
It has been rumoured that the agriculture institutes would be opened on December 16, and I want to ask the Minister this is so, and why no official notification has as yet been sent out to the students or the KPIPSM.
The Ministry of Agriculture has announced that in future the institute would take in L.C.E. holders, a departure from the present practice of taking in SPM/MCE holders. I want to ask the Minister whether it is not true that the syllabus and curriculum of the agricultural institutes were repeatedly revised upwards, and the latest revision took place only recently. If the institutes are to revert to their original intention of taking in only LCE students, then the syllabus must be revised downwards, for clearly LCE holders would not be able to cope with the basic science courses and other subjects now being taught in the agricultural institutes. This is surely going backwards.
I therefore call on the Ministry of Agriculture to rescind its decision to take in only LCE holders for future courses, and accede to the reasonable demands of the students for raising the status of the agricultural institutes.
In this connection, I note that another agricultural institute is to be opened up in Besut, Trengganu. I am in support of the building of more agricultural institutes in different parts of the country, but we should utilize to the full our available facilities before expanding or building new ones. For instance, I understand that all the present five agricultural institutes are unutilised , that in Ayer Itam, for instance, where there is capacity for some 500 students, there are only 47 students studying there. This surely is a waste of public money. All the five agricultural institutes do not have sufficient teachers, inadequate science equipment. I hope that all these defects of the agricultural institutes could be rectified so that we can train and bring out competent agricultural technicians to meet the country’s needs.
Another reason why the government should not take in LCE holders in future is that this would create a grave anomaly, for some 1,000 students with basic MCE/SPM qualifications had passed out from the agricultural institutes, and if they are to be put on par with future graduates of the institutes with basic LCE qualifications, a grave bone of social discontent would be created, which can do the country and society no good.
In this connection, that the University Bogor and the University Sumatra Utara accepts the certificates of the Agricultural Institutes as their entrance university qualifications, and graduates from these universities are employed by the government at par with recognised university qualifications. This should reinforce the argument and the case of the students of the agricultural institutes to be permitted to take up diploma courses at the Universiti Pertanian.
2.DAP calls for establishment of a National Food Bank to rush essential foodstuffs to starving and needy
Over the weekend, the Prime Minister announced a Master Plan the Green Book- for massive production of food and daily necessities to minimize the peoples hardship caused by stagflation.
The success of this campaign will depend on the drive and imagination not only of the Ministry of National and Rural Development, but of all State Governments, and on their preparedness to set aside unutilized land for large-scale food cultivation. Up to this stage, there are still not measurable sings of such large-scale land allocation for food production, although we have been told that another 500,000 acres of land, about half of which will be in Peninsular Malaysia, will be opened up for food cultivation.
I ask the Minister of Agriculture whether this allocation of land a quarter of a million acre of land has gone beyond the paper stage, and how advanced has the implementation of this project been undertaken, and how such a quarter of million acres of land is spread out among the Peninsular States.
Meanwhile, which the expected worsening of commodity prices, accompanied by the merciless rise in price of food and essential commodities, extreme hardships and privation will increasingly become more widespread; and it is thing problem which led off the Baling hunger demonstrations leading to the student demonstrations and trouble in Kuala Lumpur and elsewhere.
I wish to stress here that it is important that the government institute a commission of inquiry into the various facets of privation and hunger among the most desperate groups of our people in the kampongs,
Who should be given immediate assistance, either in the form of supplementary income or off food and other essentials that they lack, so that they can lead a human existence.
In this connection, the DAP suggests that the government institute a notional food bank which branches in every State which can rush essential foodstuffs and commodities to the needy and the hungry.
The government should also convinced seriously the proposal to supplement the incomes of the very poor to help tide them through this stagflationary period. This scheme had been implemented in other countries, and there is no reason why it is impracticable in Malaysia at this period of extraordinary economic hardships being faced by the poor in the kampongs and rural areas, as well has workers retrenched from industries.
3. Appeal to Minister of agriculture to work out a special scheme to help the 600 Malacca Fishermen
For over a year, the 600 Malacca Fishermen have suffered grave privations and hardships because they dare not go to the high seas to fish, as they are constantly harassed by navy personnel of a neighbouring country, and fall frequent prey to marauding patrols.
Both the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Lembaga Kemajuan Ikan Malaysia have neglected the plight of the Malacca Fishermen.
For instance, among its objectives, the Majuikan are:
“(a)” Untuk meningikan taraf ekonomi dan keadaan social nelayan nelayan;
(b) untuk menambahkan pengeluaran ikan dan mengadakan peluang-peluang berkerja.”
In both these objectives, the Majikan and the Ministry of Agriculture has failed in respect of the plight of the 600 Malacca Fishermen and their dependants involving some 4,000 persons of all races.
The social-economic position of these fishermen are in desperate plight, and their opportunities for working have dwindled. I wish here to make a strong plea to the Minister to give his personal attention to this problem, and to work out a special scheme so that these 600 Malacca fishermen and their dependants can have a place under the Malaysian sun.
Such a special scheme to resolve the social-economic problem of the 600 Malacca Fishermen can comprise one or a combination of a few of the following proposals:
1. To ensure that the Malacca Fishermen can fish in safety and security without fear of being harassed, intimidate and victimized by privates or naval personnel of a neighbouring country through energetic and vigorous use of diplomatic channels and the ASEAN machinery to ensure that the fraternal spirit that informs and inspires the ASEAN is translated into concrete terms in international waters affecting the livelihood of Malaysian fishermen.
2. To seek the agreement of the Indonesian authorities to permit Malacca fishermen to fish in the richer Indonesian waters subject to the payment of a licence or permit for the right;
3. Helping the Malacca fishermen to find new fishing grounds for instance in the South China Sea, and providing assistance to them so that they can go to these new fishing grounds to find a new livelihood;
4. Helping these fishermen to find new alternative means of livelihood, including provision of material and other assistance to effect such change
I suggest that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development set up a special unit, whether inside or outside the Majuikan, which is specially charged with the responsibility of solving the social-economic hardships of the 600 Malacca fishermen, though one or the above proposals.