Speech by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP Secretary General,Lim Kit Siang, at a Special Meeting of the Dewan Rakyat on 27.1.1976 on the motion of confidence on Dato Hussein Onn as Prime Minister.
A New Order in Malaysia to build a united, progressive and progressive and prosperous nation
I wish first of all to reiterate my congratulation to Dato Hussein Onn on his appointment as the third Prime Minister of Malaysia.
I must say however that this motion before the House, asking the House to express a vote of confidence in Dato Hussein Onn, as Prime Minister, is rather an unusual one.
Clause 43 of the Constitution provides that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall appoint as Prime Minister a member of the Dewan Rakyat who in his judgement is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House; and who shall continue as Prime Minister until he ceases to command the confidence of the majority in the Dewan Rakyat.
Dato Hussein Onn was appointed Prime Minister following the death of Tun Razak, and as the head of the Barisan Nasional which controls a two-thirds majority in the House, the question of his not having confidence of the Dewan Rakyat does not arise.
The second unusual aspect of this motion is that normally, a motion of confidence on a head of government in a parliamentary system would be based on his record of Prime Ministerial performance, which does not apply here, for Dato Hussein Onn has just assumed the office of Prime Minister.
We are however living in unusual times, and this probably explains this unusual motion.
I will therefore like to speak first on the unusual times that we are in which calls forth this unusual motion, and the need for the Opposition, in particular, to take a stand on this unusual motion.
Dato Hussein Onn assumes the office of Prime Minister of Malaysia at the most important hour in the 19-year history of our nation.
Never before has our nation been beset with so many complex problems and challenges coming from so many directions.
The key to national survival and stability, national unity, has eluded Malaysia since our Independence in 1957, a sad fact which was admitted by Dato Hussein Onn himself in his 1976 Budget Speech last November, when he said: “We still have not yet achieved national unity; we are still divided along racial lines in our outlook, attitude and action.
This national crisis of identity has now been made more acute by the fast-changing events both inside and outside the country.
Externally, the end of the Vietnam war leading to the communist victories in South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, have radically altered the political face of South East Asia. Internally, the stepping up of communist guerrilla activities in the towns and the jungles underscore the serious challenge to the present order of things.
In fact, some international political observers are talking in terms of two or three years before the fall of Thailand, and five to ten years before the fall of Malaysia.
One result of this in Malaysia is an attempt to revive the American domino theory in very influential political quarters and the related attempt to denigrate the establishment of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China.
The raising of the spectre of the domino theory is highly dangerous and perverse, for it would divert attention from the real problems in the country and distort an appreation of the genuine ills of the nation.
This applies not only to Malaysia, but to every other South East Asian country, for if Thailand or any other South East Asian country goes communist, it is not because of the operation of the domino theory in the sense of the Chinese, Vietnamese or Cambodian communists sending soldiers southwards, but because of the failure of yet another South East Asian country to provide good, just, clean and efficient government dispending economicand social justice and achieving national unity.
It is precisely because of this reason that Malaysia must dissociate with any proposal to introduce military and security character to ASEAN, and make it assume a latter-day SEATO role a vis-à-vis the new communist states in Indo-China.
Malaysia cannot survive external stress and internal strains unless she can successfully grapple with the four basic ills of the country, namely, national disunity, poverty, corruption and social injustices.
So far, successive government policies have failed to grapple with central problem of Malaysia in achieving national unity.
Thus the response of the government to the increase in communist guerrilla activities in the towns and jungle is to pass more repressive laws and to expand the army and police forces, ignoring the fact that political violence can only be successfully countered by removing its political basis and appeal.
There are three phases which are discernible in popular reaction to any political violence, or in the case in Malaysia, to the guerrilla warfare and activities of the Malayan communists.
The first phase is where the people are actively opposed to political violence, for they feel that it is not irrelevant to their political aspirations and demands, which can find satisfaction and fulfilment in existing political institutional arrangements, but positively detrimental to their own interests.
The second phase is where the people, or a sizable section of it, while not actively in support of political violence, are not in active opposition as well. This stage is reached where there is prolonged disillusionment and despair with the ability and credibility of existing democratic processes to effect changes. In this phase, these people find in political violence by others a vicarious outlet for the expression of their discontents and grievances. When this stage is reached, the people’s support for the government and the duly constituted processes of law and order have been neutralised and sapped away, and the stage is then set for the third phase, of passing the point of no return.
This third phase is where a sizable portion of the people actively support political violence, providing the water for the fishes of political violence to swim and find safety. In this situation, law and order has broken down and a society is well in advance of disintegration.
Malaysia is well past the first stage. The people of Malaysia do not actively support political violence, but more and more have been neutralised by the long-standing indifference to the inequalities and injustices in Malaysian life to cease to be actively opposed to it either!
Nothing is to be gained by ascribing this development to agitation or conspiracy. For man is in general too little of a public creature, and the force at the disposal of any government is, as a rule, too powerful, for either agitation or conspiracy to makes its way unless there existed an atmosphere of frustrated impulses which made for their reception. The demand for the realisation of rights only secures a hearing when the absence of these rights is felt as injustices; it may be suppressed; but any demand that is genuinely related to the basic impulses of men must, sooner or later, be given response, peacefully if it can, violently if it must.
I know many will not like what I have said, and some may be preparing to denounce me or even question my loyalty. However, I will be unfaithful to my oath as Member of Parliament to discharge my duties to the best of my ability and to bear true faith and allegiance to Malaysia, if I keep back my views at such a crucial time through fear of giving offence.
Let me note in passing that the government has more to learn from the criticisms of its opponents than from the eulogy of its supporters.
A determined assault to end the long-standing indifference to inequalities and injustices in Malaysia must be urgently made, if the situation is not to deteriorate to the point of no return, where the people are driven to support political violence as the only means of expression.
I mentioned just now that in his last speeches, the late Tun Razak appeared to have begun to perceive the need for a deeper reappraisal of the nation-building policies, and the factors which had continued to keep Malaysian apart and separate, both on class and especially on racial lines.
Malaysia is at crossroads of her national history. One road leads on to escalating political violence, and probably a second Vietnam situation where for more than a generation, the country will know of no peace or quiet.
There is another road, which points to a united, progressive, purposive and prosperous Malaysia.
Have Malaysians the foresight, the vision and the courage to pause at the cross-roads, re-appraise our policies, and set on new courses which would establish a New Order which would end the long-standing indifference to inequalities and justices suffered by Malaysians of all races.
1976 is not only the first year in the last quarter of the 20th Century. It may well decide whether we embark on the road to national salvation, which will see Malaysia a generation from today a united, progressive and purposive modern nation in the 21st Century, or whether we hobble into the next century on crutches, crippled and broken.
If evidence is needed that on the eve of entering the second decade of our nationhood, things are seriously amiss, we need ponder some of the following:
• Growing discontent among the Malay poor masses that the fruits of development are enjoyed by the owners of privilege, properly and instruments of production, at their expenses. In Malacca, for instance, the Malay poor and landless cannot get one inch of land, but six well- connected Malays could get 4,000 acres of land virtually free to make them into future millionaires.
• Growing frustration among non-Malays who are more and more convinced that they do not have a future in Malaysia. Large numbers of non-Malay professionals, especially doctors, have or are preparing to immigrate overseas, in numbers which exceed the days of May 13, 1969.
I have no sympathies for men, especially professional men, who are not prepared to stand up and be counted, but who choose the easy way out. Most of them, however, explain that they are emigrating for the sake of their children can have in Malaysia.
This anxiety had been intensified by recent policies limiting higher educational opportunities, and regulation aimed at controlling free higher educational pursuits abroad. Statements by those in authority that young Malaysians should in future be content with non-university education, although they possess the requisite academic qualifications and abilities, had further undermined long-term confidence in the country.
For those who could emigrate are only confined to the professional, better off classes. For the large majority of others who remain behind, the bitterness against an uncertain future of increasing injustices and inequalities will be productive of greater bitterness.
• Decline in Moral Authority of Government because of rampant corruption in high political places, whether at the Federal or State government levels, and increasing deception and dishonesty in public life.
Just like the late Tun Razak, no one doubt the absolute personal integrity of Dato Hussien Onn. Unless, however rampant corruption at other high political places in Malaysia public life is stamped out, the decline in the moral authority of the government will not be arrested.
There is also too much deception in public life. The people are deceived by Government Ministers, the Government Ministers themselves are deceived by their subordinates, and even State Rulers are deceived themselves when they go on official visits about development in the States.
• Curtailment of democratic rights and fundamental liberties as enshirined in the Constitution, to the extent, that the question is now validly raised: What are Malaysians being asked to defend? Is it to defend a democracy which means the dictatership of the majority, or the belief in the divine right of fifty-one percent of the voters to alter in any way at any moment all lows and customs? Or does it mean the continuation in power of a privileged class?
• Failure in achieving unity despite 19 years of Independence and close to two decades of our own national education policy. Integration among the various races in Malaysia is not only not working, but integration of the people of various states, especially between Malaysians in East and West Malaysia, are being positively hampered.
These issues represent the central problems fronting Malaysia today, and which will determine the future of Malaysia.
This is time, then, for us to take stock of our position, and choose the road that will take us to the highlands of a united Malaysian nation progressive and purposive and avoid the road that will lead to strife and dissension.
As I said earlier, we are placed in very unusual times, which probably calls forth this unusual motion, where the Opposition has to take an unusual stand without a Prime Ministerial record to go by.
I hope that under Dato Onn’s leadership, there will be a re-appraisal of the nation-building policies to:
1. Re-define the class relations in Malaysia, so that the government ceases to protect and promote vested interests pr privilege and the possessing class, but to abolish them, and end exploitation and proverty.
2. To regain the confidence of all races that they and their children have an assured future in this country;
3. To restore, the moral I authority of government by stemping out corruption and eliminating dishonesty in public life; and
4. To reinstate public confidence and trust in the efficacy and meaning of democratic process and rights.
This will call for no less than a re-ordering of the political and economic system and values in this country. Either we rise to the challenge, or we shall all perish.
We hope that these hope will be fulfilled under the leadership of Dato Hussein Onn. We agree that Dato Hussein Onn posses the qualification and qualities to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia. Because of this, we do not oppose this motion before the House. However, as we do not agree with the policies of the ruling party headed by Dato Hussein Onn, we will abstain in this motion. Dato Hussein Onn however can be assured of our full support in policies and defrorts to resolve the basic problems confronting Malaysia which I outlined just now.