Speech by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat in the debate on the royal Address on Wednesday, 31 March, 1976.
Opposition calls for establishment of a Royal commission of Inquiry into the whole question of national unity in Malaysia on the occasion of her 20th year of Indepandence.
I had listened to the Royal address attentively, hoping to catch a new perception on the part of the government of the basic problems confronting Malaysia and indications of new policy directions. The result has not been too encouraging.
The Third Malaysia Plan would be launched in July this year. The Government said that the objectives of this Plan are to “achieve unity and to develop resilience among the people in facing challenges, particulary challenges to national security.
The aim of national unity has been the stated aim of the Barisan Nasional and previously, the Alliance, Government ever since Independence in 1957, and is also the declared objective of each and every one of the previous Five-Year Plans.
Malaysia will complete her second decade of nationhood next year, and we should pause to find out whether we had become a more united nation since Merdeka or a more disunited and divided nation.
The task of nation building for a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious people is going to be a long process, taking probably a few generations. But while national unity cannot be achieved within a generation, 20 years is a sufficiently long time for us to take stock and measure of the success or failure of the government’s nation building policy.
A whole new generation of Malaysians have grown up since Merdeka. The entire school and university-going population are the complete products of the policies of the government. Their attitudes and consciousness are important determinants of the success or failure of the government’s nation building policy.
One would have expected that after 20 years of nation building under two Prime Ministers and new the beginning of a Third one, we should be able to assert with some degree of confidence that the youths of today are more Malaysian conscious and minded than the youths twenty years ago.
But can we trust say so. The reverse is in fact the case. Twenty years ago, I was still in school. My classmates and I were interested in developments in the country and things that happen around us, but the concept and consciousness of race seldom arise.
Today, the consciousness of race, of being a ‘bumiputra’ and a ‘non-numiputra’, of being a Malay and non-Malay, is driven home on a child fight from the primary school stage, from his experience whether in school or home. I know of a primary school where some teachers made a big issue on the alleged racial imbalance of school prefects, sharply imprinting on the minds of the school children the distinctions and differences because of race, rather than their commonness as a Malaysian.
This concept and consciousness is further heightened when they enter secondary schools, sit for L.C.E., streamed into science or arts courses, chosen for different classes.
Early this year, one Form Four student was taken away from the best class and separated from his old classmates, and when he protested to the school supervisor that this was unfair as he had to give way to others whose a aggregate were much poorer to his, he as slapped. The physical pain is small matter, but the concept of race is slapped deep into his and his friends’ psyche.
This reminder of the differences and distinction of race is repeated in a more and more acute form stage by stage, in the MCE examination and the subsequent granting of school places for HSC students, the HSC examination and the intake into the universities.
The education, employment and economic policies of the government have caused widespread fears among non-Malays about their and their children’s future.
This is the cause of the unprecedented scale of emigration overseas of professional men, especially doctors, dentists, engineers. Only yesterday, I was told another doctor in Kuala Lumpur who gave up his successful private practice of twenty years and uprooted his whole family to Australia.
While I do not sympathise with Malaysians who do not have the guts to stay and fight for their rights, only the small and petty-minded will take the attitude that this is good riddance.
For the reasons which make professionals emigrate in such large numbers, something few and far between in the first 10 years of Independence, is because of the non-Malay fears about their and their children’s future in Malaysia, on the basis of present Barisan Nasional government record in the fields of education, employment and economics.
The Barisan Nasional policies have driven out the professionals who have tires to identify and belong and contribute, but found that they could not do so.
The failure of the government in working towards national unity can also be seen from the fact that it is not merely middle-aged doctors who are emigrating. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that young doctors, many just passed out from the University of Malaya, are seriously considering and planning to emigrate – for the sake of children and yet unborn.
This is why hundreds of doctors have travelled to Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom in the past year or so to register themselves, to book a ticket for the future, so to speak, when they can in a few years time emigrate over.
One reason for this is the probability that Commonwealth countries like U.K., Australia and Canada, which had hitherto recognised the medical degrees of the Malaysian University, are likely to withdraw this recognition because of the lowering of medical standards, the more compelling reason is fear about the lack of a future for non-Malays in Malaysia.
These young doctors are the complete products of the education policy and system of the government. The fruits of this national government policy is not national unity, surely, but disunity!
I know that there will be ultras in the country who will this as an argument to bolster their case that the non-Malays are disloyal, and should be given even less opportunities in the fields of education, employment and economy.
This is no less than a formula for national disintegration, for the fears and worries which motive the professionals to emigrate or to plan emigration are also the fears and worries which gnaw away at the overwhelming majority of non-Malays.
In this context, Dr. Mahathir’s appointment as Deputy Prime Minister has aggravated the situation, both on the basis of his past record and pronouncements, and on his policy in Education Ministry especially with regard to higher education in the country.
His Majesty in his Royal Address said: “The security of the national constitutes a major problem today. The security of the nation means the security of the people themselves. Therefore the people must realise that the war against communist terrorist is a people’s war.”
What the government must understand is that where the people feel insecure, as the overwhelming majority of non-Malays in Malaysia feel insecure, the people are not the natural allies of the government, and the security battle is not a people’s war.
This is because all that they are being asked to choose is between two insecurities which, in the nature of things is difficult to make the people enthusiastic about.
We can continue to ignore these brutal realities about the grave forces and factors of national disunity stemming directly from the government’s nation building policies and continue to sweep them under the carpet, or slander and character-assassinte these among us who tried to get others see the situation in the true perspective. But we can do so only at our peril, for them, we are literally sitting on a time bomb without doing anything to defuse it.
It is for this reason that on the occasion of our entering into our 20th year of nationhood, the country should take stock of itself and examine how much progress we have made or ground lost in this period to a move towards national unity.
I seriously suggest that a Royal Commission of Inquiry be established to inquire into the whole question of national unity in Malaysia at its 20th year of nationhood, the problems and prospects, so that we can more intelligently chart out national policies which can create greater common interest among Malaysians than distinctions and differences to find out whether we are producing young citizens who are more Malaysian minded, or more race-conscious, the whys and the hows of meeting the challenges ahead.
Call for liberal higher educational policy in Malaysia to allow Malaysian youths opportunities to higher studies in their own homeland
The government should at the same time initiate liberal policy changes in the fields of education, especially in higher education, to enable Malaysian youths to seek higher studies in their own homeland. At present, most of them had either to pursue higher studies abroad, or if they could not find the finance to idle in the country.
Syarikat Sri Lingga Sdn. Bhd: Symbol of betrayal of the Malay poor to parasitic class of Malay rich
I feel that it is especially tragic that the Malay poor, who have often been involved to justify a variety of government schemes, have often been the victims of such programmes.
Abolition of Malay poverty has often been used as a justification to pursue economic policies which are aimed at the creation and enrichment of a small class of Malay rich. In fact, the Deputy Prime Minister is a strong defender of this economic policy – that the Malay poor will fell happy and forget about their poverty and suffering when they see a few more Malay millionaires created.
A classic case is the Syarikat Sri Lingga Sdn. Bhd affair in Malacca, where in the name of creating the fist Malay estate, to help the Malay poor, 3,300 acres of scare land was given out to six-man company specially formed by well-paced UMNO leaders at the ridiculously low premium of $10 an acre, while the 60,000 landless Malays remain landless. The story of Sri Lingga is really the story of the New Economic Policy, for it is a symbol of the betrayal of the Malay poor by the Malay rich and highly-placed.
This is probably why despite the expose of the gross and abuse of power in the Sri Lingga affair, no action has been taken by the State Government of the Federal Government to rectify it. And this is also why the Malacca State Government is so happy with the appointment of Dr. Mahathir Deputy Prime Minister.
Poverty is not a problem of race, but of class
One of the greatest disservice the Barisan National has done in Malaysia is to make poverty a racial problem, when it transcends race and is a problem of class.
In the process, national unity is retarded, by creating bitterness among the Malay and non-Malay poor, while social tensions are not relieved, because it is the Malay rich and not the Malay poor who really benefit.
To the non-Malay poor, they see the government as a Malay government. They see UDA, MARA, Bank Bumiputra, Pernas and all the multiplicity of agencies set up by the government to help the Malay poor, while not a finger is lifted to help them. To the Malay poor, they see these agencies as instruments for the benefits to be monopolised by the better-off and well-placed Malays.
The proposal by the MCA to set up multi-million dollar corporations in each state reinforces the perception of the non-Malay poor that the government is a Malay government while confirming that the MCA is a party for the rich.
This is unhealthy for Malaysia, and the government must stop looking at poverty through racial glasses, but present itself as a guardian of the poor of all races.
All government agencies should be closely supervised to help uplift the poor, and not to make the middle class Malay a upper class Malay, or a half-a millionaire, and should not be identified as the agency of any one particular race only.
Third Malaysia Plan: Why secrecy in formulation stage?
There is an excellent opportunity for the racial considerations in the fight against poverty in the Third Malaysia Plan, although I doubt this opportunity would be seized.
I have always been baffled why in Malaysia, the formulation of the Five-Year Plan should be shrouded in such secrecy as if it is the working of magic to be revealed only in Parliament when it is tabled for formal adoption.
We all know that by that time, the Plan has already been beautifully bound, and nothing said in this House would change a word or comma in the Plan. Equally important as the formal adoption by the Parliament is the wideranging public participation in the formulation of the Plan, through the submission of ideas to debate and criticism before it becomes a fait accompli.
Without public participation in the formulation stage of the Plan, we have the form but nit the spirit of democracy.
I therefore call on the Prime Minister to disclose the present ideas and main features of the Plan for public information, discussion and debate so that the public will be given an opportunity to influence the final shaping of the Plan, before its presentation for adoption to Parliament in July.
Corruption : NBT should be made an independent body answerable only to Parliament
One conspicuous omission in the Royal Address is on the need for a more vigorous fight against corruption and all forms of abuses of public power for personal ends.
At the beginning of this year, the National Bureau of Investigations was transferred from the Prime Minister’s Department to the Attorney General’s Department.
This is clearly a retrograde step, marking a downgrading in the status of the NBI. The NBI must be a fully independent body which need fear or favour none, and has full powers t investigate and proceed against any public officer guilty of corrupt practice.
At present, it is an open secret that the NBT cannot proceed against high-level political figures without getting the political approval of the government, formerly, the Prime Minster, and now the Attorney General.
This is subordinating the higher national need for a clean and incorrupt public service and political leadership to the short-term consideratis and interests of the ruling party, and is clearly inimical to public interest.
The NBI has still to prove that it has the power to proceed against public officials like Ministers, Metri-Menteri Besar and State Executive Councillors. I have no doubt that the NBI has sufficient material to proceed against several political sharks in various parts of the country, and the question the public are asking is, why is the NBI not acting?
There is rampant corruption in certain government departments and some State Governments. I have no doubt that if the NBI is diligent and given ample powers, it would be changing so many highly-placed political leaders both at the Federal and State level that the present magisterial and judicial strength would be grossly inadequate to cope with the volume of cases.
The biggest blot in the pages of the NBI is that despite the openness and particularisation of charges of corruption in the State of Sabah, the NBI has taken no action.
I here fully agree with Syed Jaffar Albar that the NBI must act without choosing feathers.
Why no investigations into Northrop bribing of Malaysian civil servants t secure contract to sell F5E jest fighters.
The indifference of the Malaysian government to disclosures of documentary evidence produced before the United States Senate Sub-Committee by multi-national corporations showing that the United States Aerospace group, Northrop, paid bribes in Malaysia to ensure that it won the contract to sell F5E jetfighters to the Royal Malaysian air Force is another blot in the NBI’s record.
The Malaysian people are very cynical about the political leadership, because whether at the State or Federal level, they find them more engrossed about piling a personal fortune than tending to the sufferings of the rakyat.
In fact, many issues had been freeze of sub-division of over 100 acres of land in and around the Malacca town into housing lots.
The reason given by the Malacca Chief Minister, Ghanli Ali, was that the housing developers were not building houses to houses the poor. This was of course a highly commendable concern for the poor, expect it us shedding crocodile tears. Firstly, the State Government itself had not built houses below $10,000 in town which it claimed that it wanted be private developers to do.
Secondly, low-cost houses built by the government at public expense are not allocated to the poor and really low-income, but to the well to do and well-connected.
I refer to the case of the allocation of government low-cost housing project in Pulau Sebang in the Alor Gajah district in Malacca, where those who draw four-figure incomes are allocated.
Whenever we raised such complains, we are told to take them up with the Miniatries directly. I did so in this case in a letter dated 19th Nov. 1975. I did not receive any reply from the Ministry of Housing until at the end of February, when Members of Parliament were informed of the present meeting of Parliament.
This is the reply whoch I receive from Setiausaha Parlimen kepada Kementerian Perumahan Kamoung Baru Encik Mohd. Ali Sharif, dated 26th Feb, 1976, which reads:
“ Saya adalah diarah merujuk kepada surat tuan bertarikh 19hb November 1975 mengenai perkara di atas dan memaklumkasn bahawa say telah mengadakan satu perbincangan dengan Y.B. Ketuan Menteri Melaka pada 17hb Disember, 1975 di Pejabat Y.B. Ketua Menteri.
“ Saya ingin memaklumkan bahawa hasil daripada perbincangan itu didapati bahawa:
“(a) Adalah tidak benar iaitu rumah jenis murah di Pulau Sebang dan di Alor Gajah telah diuntukkan kepada keluarga-keluarga yang pendapatan mereka dalam lingkongan $1,000 sebulan. Nama yang disebutkan sabagai contoh iaitu Encik Ramil bin Abdul Rabim tidak menerima pendapatan sebanyak $1,150 sebulan, tetapi $775 sebulan( kedua pendapatan suami dan isteri disatukan). Mereka mempunyai 4 orang anak.
“(b) Adalah tidak tepat dan tidak benar bahawa peruntukkan rumah harga murah ialah hanya untuk keluarga yang mempunyai pendapatan keluarga melebihi daripada $300 sebulan. Sebenarnya, peruntukkan telah dibuat diasaskan pendapatan keluarga tidak melebihi $800( sejajar dengan garis-garis panduan yang ditentukan oleh Kementerian ini) dengan mengambil factor bilangan keluarga dan tanggungjawab.”
It is clear from this letter that all that the ministry has done on receipt of my compliant is to hard a meeting with the Chief Minister, and not to carry out independent investigations. This shows how unless it is to complain to one department against another department, even if they are between Federal and State departments, because the instinct is to help cover up for each other.
The Ministry of Housing does not explain why Encik Ramli bin Abdul Rahim had himself given his income figures as %1,150 a month.
Secondly, I am surprised and shocked that the Ministry of Housing has now changed its criteria for the allocation of low-cost housing flats, which further proves that the government’s social efforts like housing are not aimed at the really poor.
On the 18th November 1975, in the Dewan Rakyat, in reply to an oral question on the “ cara-cara pemberian rumanh murah”, Tuan Ali bin M. Sharif said:
“ Saya ingin memeklumkan bahawa Kementerian ini telah meletakkan ataupun mengadakan beberapa garis panduan mengenai Jawatankuasa Pemberian Rumah Garis Panduan tersebut adalah meliputi perkara-perkara berikut:
“ (a) Jawatankuasa Pemberian Rumah hendak terlebeh dahulu mengasingkan pemohon-pemohom yang berhak memohom daripada pemohon-pemohon yang tidak berhak memohon. Ini bermakna bahawa semua pemohon-pemohon yang mempunyai pendapatan keluarga sebanyak $ 300 sebulan dan ke bawah adalah dianggap sebagai pemohon-penohon yang berhak memohon.”
Three months later, in February this year, the housing ministry has revised this $300 criteria for the award of low-cost housing to #800. I want to know the reason and the justification for such disregard of the poor!
Coming back to the freeze of sub-division of housing land in Malacca what I have said showed that sudden concern for housing in Malacca is all a stance in the continuing battle between Malacca UMNO and MCA leaders to monopolise the opportunities for property development and business advancement.
Comparatively new UMNO state leaders are making use and abusing their powers in the State to try to dislodge the grip of old MCA leaders identified with old UMNO leaders from their key position in property development and business opportunities, not to help the poor, but so that they could themselves step into their shoes and make money for themselves.
Such things are commonplace in Malacca and the other states of Malaysia, and explains the decline in moral authority of the government leaders in the country.
What is being done to raise the moral quality and integrity of the political leaders both at national and state levels?
This problem is one of the fundamental questions of nation-building, for why should our soldiers go into the jungles and risk getting killed for $150 a month, if the whole object of the exercise I to enable government and political leaders holding high office in the State and Federal Governments to become the new rich, acquire a fleet of bog limousines and a string of real estate, whose only sacrifice is to take time out from their money-making spree to make brave speeches calling on the people to make sacrifices?
I am glad that the Prime Minister gas recently announced that there would be revision of salaries for the armed forces and the police. This has long been a outstanding problem. However, the mere raising of salaries would not solve discontent and frustrations both in the army and the police forces if they find too big a gap between comparative sacrifices and benefits between them and the other government and political leaders.
I see that the government is paying increasingly more concern to security, but uts response to the increase in the communist activities in the towns and jungles is to pass more repressive law 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 phase is where the people are actively opposed to political violence, for they feel that it is case in Malaysia, to the guerrilla warfare and activities of the Malayan communist.
The first phase is where the people are actively opposed to political violence, for they feel that it is not only irrelevant to their political aspirations and demand, which can find satisfaction and fulfillment in existing political institution 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 nit 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 process of law and order have been neutralised and sapped away and the stage is set for the third phase, of passing the point of no return.
This third stage is reached 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 actively o oppose it either.
Nothing is to be gained by ascribing this development to agitation or conspiracy. For kan is in general too little of a public creature, and the force at the disposal of any government is m as a rule, too powerful, for either agitation or conspiracy to make 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 sights is felt as injustices. The demand may be postponed, it may suffer temporary defeat; it kay be suppressed of men must, sooner or later, be given response peacefully if it can, violently if it must.
The government must review its entire range of nation building policies to:
• Redefine the class relations in Malaysia, where poverty and not race govern and dictate economic development policies;
• Regain the confidence of all races, in particular the non-Malays, that they and their children have an assured future, no merely through words, but by concrete action and deeds.
• Restore moral authority of government by stamping out corruption and abuse of power;
• Reinstate public confidence and trust in the democratic processes as a credible avenue for the expression and fulfilment of their legitimate rights and aspirations.
Let us no pretend that because another Opposition party, the SNAP of Sarawak, is going to National Front, there is greater national cohesion and unity. If national cohesion and unity can be achieved by the mere process of the leaders of the various political parties getting together, then there is nothing easier in the world than nation-building.
The People’s Progressive Party is a good example. You have got the party, you have got their leaders, but have you got the people behind you? Let this be a sobering thought for the government.