Imposition of NOC-type of rule in Kelantan a subversion of the democratic basis of the Malaysian Constitution and DAP calls for general elections in Kelantan to return the mandate to the People of Kelantan.

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader and DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday. Nov. 8, 1977 on the Bill to enable the Federal Government to take over the administration of the Kelantan Government.

Imposition of NOC-type of rule in Kelantan a subversion of the democratic basis of the Malaysian Constitution and DAP calls for general elections in Kelantan to return the mandate to the People of Kelantan.

I rise with a heavy heart, for what Parliament is about to do by invoking Article 150 of the Federal Constitution to suspend the Kelantan State Constitution and impose NOC-type of rule in the State is a subversion of the democratic basis of the Malaysian Constitution.

If parliamentary democracy and the Federal-State system is to survive, it is paramount that those in power realise and understand that whatever the political differences or however intense the party rivalries, democratic principles and the fundamental safeguards in the Constitution for a democratic society should not be sacrificed in the furtherance of partisan political interests.

Government Ministers have of then warned that the communists want to use “democracy to destroy democracy”; but let us remember that in many Asian and African countries, ruling parties through their dominant parliamentary majorities have used “democracy to destroy democracy” and institute instead authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

It is not good enough that what Parliament is being asked this evening, to impose NOC-type of rule in Kelantan, that it is permitted under Article 150 of the Malaysian Constitution; for strict and scrupulous adherence to the laws of the land can also lay the basis for a undemocratic, authoritarian and even totalitarian system in Malaysia. As the Deputy Dean of the Law Faculty of the university of Malaya, Nik Rashid, at the recent Law Conference on “Erosion of Fundamental Rights”, unless there were checks and balance on the executive powers, it was not unreasonable to suggest that there would come a day when the executive could table a Bill in Parliament amending the Constitution and giving it the power to legislate and to amend the Constitution by regulation. And this too will be legal!

What Parliament, the people of Kelantan and Malaysia, in fact, the world has to be satisfied is that the situation in Kelantan justifies the invocation of Article 150 to impose NOC-type of rule, and not that Barisan Nasional, or more specifically, UMNO, has the requisite number of Parliamentary votes to legislate emergency laws under Article 150 of rule in Kelantan.

It is therefore necessary to trace the background of events in Kelantan, leading to this dreadful Bill before Parliament this evening.

Nearly the middle of September, the Mentri Besar of Kelantan, Datuk Haji Mohamad Nasir, was given an ultimatum by his own Party, the Kelantan PAS Liaison Committee, that he either resigned as Mentri Besar by Sept. 20 or face a vote of no confidence in the State Assembly, where PAS holds 22 out of an Assembly of 36.

Datuk Haji Mohamed Nasir refused to resign, and he clamed that the move was made against him because he had acted to withdraw a concession of 350,000 acres of land given to the Timbermine Company and froze 240,000 acres of land at the Kelantan-Perak border which was believed to contain high grade tin ore deposits.

On Sept. 29, after the PAS Central Executive Committee meeting, it was announced that Datuk Mohamed Nasir had been expelled from PAS. Subsequently, it was admitted that the expulsion of Datuk Mohamed Nasir was an error, apologies were made, and another meeting held on Oct. 10, where Haji Mohamed Nasir was expelled by the PAS Central Executive Committee by 13 votes for, 7 against, and 2 abstentions.

On 15th October 1977, the Kelantan State Assembly passed a vote of no confidence on Datuk Haji Mohamed bin Nasir by 20 votes, with Datuk Haji Mohamed Nasir, 13 UMNO Members and one MCA member staging a walk-out.

Meanwhile, public demonstrations and meetings, which had started in September in support of Mohamed Nasir when he was asked to show cause why he should not be expelled from PAS, increased in frequency and size – all the time, with the knowledge, consent and even encouragement of the higher authorities in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, in one of the public rallies, which was held without a police permit, no less a person then the Kelantan Chief Police Officer, the guardian of law and order, was there to open the door of Mohamed Nasir’s car to welcome him to a rally without police permit.

Thus, on Thursday, 22nd September 1977, it was announced publicly that a mammoth demonstration of more that 100,000 people will be held on Padang Merdeka, Kota Bahru, on 24th Sept. to express support for Datuk Mohamed Nasir.

And Bernama reported that on 24th Sept. some 60,000 people thronged the Merdeka Padang to demonstrate their support for the Kelantan Mentri Besar in an hour-long rally.

Following demonstrations after the No Confidence Motion, on 19th October, 24-hour curfew was imposed in Kota Bahru and which was later extended to Kubang Krian. What is noteworthy is that even after the imposition of the 24-hour our few, public rallies and demonstrations were allowed in other parts of Kelantan.

Before I proceed further, I want to make clear my Party’s stand on public rallies. In a country which believes in democratic practices, there should be freedom to hold public rallies which are orderly and peaceful, so that political parties have direct access to the people and explain to them what is happening in the country, and their political points of view.

The DAP does not oppose the people of Kelantan holding public rallies, but what calls for an explanation is why the Police Authorities have imposed a general ban on public rallies, and every time the DAP applied for permission to hold public rallies (excluding by-election campaigns), the police have refused. Yet in Kelantan, public rallies which do not have police permits are allowed to be held.

This raises the question as to why the authorities in Kuala Lumpur, who finally are in charge of public rallies, allowed and even, encouraged such public rallies to be held. It raises the question whether some other motives are at play involving highly-placed and influential personalities at the national level.

Meanwhile, what is known as the four-point Mahathir formula was mooted, proposed and counter-proposed. The Mahathir formula is the imposition of NOC-type of government in Kelantan like the one headed by Tun Razak in 1969, after the suspension of the Kelantan State Constitution under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution.

Article 150 of the Constitution provides that if the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (acting on Cabinet advice) is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security or economic life of the Federation or any part there of is threatened, he is empowered to laws to suspend State Constitutions and impose undemocratic NOC-types of Rule.

On 2nd November, the Prime Minister, Dato Hussein Onn, met PAS leader and gave them until yesterday for a reply on the Mahathir formula, after further explaining it. Yesterday, PAS again rejected the formula imposing NOC rule in Kelantan.

It must be very rare that the threat of a declaration of Emergency and the suspension of popularly-elected system of government through the imposition of NOC rule has been used so blatantly in a conflict between political parties and personalities.

This is deplorable. For security should not be used as blackmail in political negotiations. Either a grave emergency exists or it does not exist. If a grave emergency exists, then Proclamation of Emergency should have been made long ago, and not dependent on acceptance or rejection of the Mahathir-formula. In fact, this proof that there are no conditions justifying Emergency situation for Emergency situations justifying the Proclamation of Emergency waits for no person.

The Question that is uppermost in the minds of the people today is whether the Proclamation of Emergency under Article and the imposition of NOC-type of is dictated by weighty considerations “whereby the security or economic life of the Federation or any part thereof is threatened”, or whether it is being used indiscriminately and even frivolously to further certain partisan political interests.

I have the greatest respect for the integrity and honesty of the Prime Minister, who has introduced this Bill believing that this is in the national interest. But we have the right to question whether he, or even the Deputy Prime Minister, is in possession of all the hull facts or whether they are armed with sufficiently irrebutal justifications for the resort to Article 150 to suspend the Kelantan State Constitution.

Members of the House will remember that on Sept.19.1966, a Proclamation of State of Emergency in Sarawak was made and a Bill. The Emergency (Federal Constitution and Constitution of Sarawak) Bill 1966, was rusher through both Houses of Parliament to suspend the Sarawak Constitution in order to unseat the Chief Minister, Stephen Kalong Ningkan, who had declared that the dismissal of Stephen Kalong Ningkan was unconstitutional and that he was still the Chief Minister.

Let me recapitulate briefly the facts of the Stephen Kalong Ningkan case. On June 14,1966, 21 members out of 42 Council Negeri members sent a letter addressed from Kuala Lumpur to the Governor of Sarawak stating that they no longer have any confidence in Dato Stephen Kalong Ningkan as Chief Minister. On June 16, the Governor’s private secretary wrote to Ningkan that the Governor being satisfied on the representation of the majority in the Council Negeri that Ningkan had ceased to command their confidence, Ningkan was requested to resign. When Ningkan refused, pointing to a meeting of the Council Negeri on 14th June 1966 “which did not appear to support His Excellency’s view that I have lost the confidence of the majority of its members”, the Governor on June 17 dismissed Ningkan as Chief Minister and appointed Penghulu Tawi Sli as Chief Minister.

Ningkan instituted proceedings in the Sarawak High Court requesting a declaration by the Court that the Governor had acted unconstitutionally and that his dismissal as Chief Minister was ultra vires and void. The High Court of Sarawak declared in a judgement on 7th Sept. 1966 that the Governor had no power to dismiss the Chief Minister under the present Constitution of the State of Sarawak and that the only way to show the loss of confidence of the Members of the Council Negeri in its Chief Minister is by a vote on the floor of the House. The Court declared Dato Stephen Kalong Ningkan as Chief Minister of Sarawak.

A State of Emergency in Sarawak was declared on Sept. 14, and on Sept. 19, Parliament passed emergency legislation suspending the state Constitution of Sarawak on the ground that a “serious situation which poses a grave threat not only to the security of the state of Sarawak but also to whole country” has arisen.

That there are was a constitutional crisis in Sarawak was apparent, but was there an emergency situation as provided for by Article 150. Was there a genuine emergency situation?

Here, let us see what one of the dramatis personae in the Stephen Kalong Ningkan crisis had to say in retrospect. I refer to the book, the “Politics of Federalism” by Bruce Ross-Larson, virtually an autobiography by Senator Syed Kechik.

This is from page 44, on the thickening plot before Sept. 7 High Court Judgement declaring Ningkan is still Chief Minister: “Syed Kechik saw that if the courts were to deliver a final judgement in Ningkan’s favor, little could be done to compel Ningkan to convence Council Negeri immediately. According to the Sarawak constitution, the Council could be convened only on the instruction of the State Cabinet, of which Ningkan would again be head, to the Governor.”

And further on, on page 45: “An alternative plan had to be developed, and Syek Kechik saw this as residing in the Sarawak constitution. The gaps in the constitution which made it impossible for the Chief Minister to be dismissed and for the Council Negeri to be convened, even though the Chief Minister did not have majority support, had to be closed. This could be done by Kuala Lumpur’s suspension of constitutional process in the state.” Here, we must note that this plan for emergency and suspension of the state Constitution was being mooted even before the High Court Judgment.

The book went on: “To begin to set the stage for such federal action, Syed Kechik drafted statements for release to the press on August 26 regarding the gravity of the security situation because of political tensions and the communist threat. A petition was sent by the Council Negeri Members to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and copied to the Prime Minister, in which the events were recounted of the preceding two-and-a-half months, the legal aspects were detailed of the likely suspension of constitutional government because of the impasse in the courts, and a request was made for special action to prevent security and prevent administrative chaos.”

The book also described how as a precaution against Ningkan’s persuading fence-sitters to join his force before the judgement was rendered, the 25 members of Council Negeri were flown to Kuala Lumpur to ensure that they would remain resolute in their backing of the Tawi Sli government.

When judgement was delivered by Sarawak High Court reinstating Stephen Kalong Ningkan as Chief Minister, the book said that Syek Kechik immediately got on to Tun Razak to say that Ningkan had to be brought down at whatever cost – financial or constitutional. He was sent $20,000 to cover the expenses of ministers who had to move out of government houses and of Council members who had to be cloistered until matters were resolved. The rest of the chapter went on to describe how Syed Kechik engineered the conditions to justify declaration of emergency. Thus, on page 51, the book said:

“On September 14, Syed Kechik reported to Tun Razak through his military channels that Supp and SNAP had agreed to make a united stand with a common platform in the coming elections and that their support in the state was growing. He reported also that there was a possibility of some demonstrations being staged in Kuching that very day. Indeed, these were already being planned.

“Leaflets denouncing Ningkan with allegations that SNAP and the communists in SUPP would ‘kill’ democracy in Sarawak were distributed throughout Kuching. A demonstration was organised at Pangkalan Batu across from the Astana, where hundreds assembled to proclaim their support for Tawi Sli and the Sarawak Alliance government. Although such assemblies were strictly illegal under the emergency regulations, the police had been informed of the benign intent and asked to stay out of it. As frosting to all this, some Berjasa supporters engaged in a bit of vandalism later that evening, breaking the windows of a few establishments in Kuching to reflect anti-British and anti-Ningkan sentiment.” And reports on the tense security situation had been circulating for some days. The tension was real; the manifestations of it contrived. But the federal government had the justification it needed for fresh and radical action.”

And as Syed Kechik and his Sarawak counterparts plotted, Emergency was declared.

The accounts of the events leading to the Emergency declaration in Sarawak seem very akin to what is happening in Kelantan.

Is Syed Kechik’s account a figment of imagination of someone who has an over-inflated sense of importance about himself?

I have here with me a signed affidavit of one of the instigators of the tense atmosphere to justify the creation of Emergency in 1966. He is Encik SENAWI BIN SULAIMAN, 661108, of Kampong Hilir, Kabong, Kalaka, Second Division, and who was SNAP Candidate for Kalaka State constituency in the 1974 General Elections.

This is what he said:

“In 1966, sometimes in September, when I was then the Executive Secretary of the Sarawak Alliance, I remembered being called to a meeting by Datuk Rahman, at the that time he was a Federal Minister on one of his visits of Kuching……

“In between the gathering-cum-meeting, Datuk Rahman gravely told the gathering that the State’s destiny in Malaysian was at stake. He said that as Datuk Stephen Kalong Ningkan bad won his appeal case and had been reinstated as Chief Minister following the 1966 crisis, NOTHING could make Datuk Ningkan to convence a Council Negeri meeting despite the many approaches made on latter by dissident Alliance council Negeri member who were opposed to Datuk Ningkan.

“Datuk Rahman eventually concluded that “we (meaning the Bumiputera and Pesaka dissidents) must create an ‘emergency’ and an atmosphere of tension in the State in order to constitutionally enable His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to direct his Excellency the Governor to direct the Chief Minister to convene a Council Negeri Meeting as soon as possible. With the convention of the Council Negeri under such circumstances, Datuk Ningkan” will be ousted once and for all.”

The affidavit was made on 29.9.74, while the book, the Politics of Federalism, was first published in December, 1976.

As in the case of the 1966 Emergency declaration in Sarawak, the then Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Tungku Abdul Rahman and Tun Razak, probably did not know that an emergency situation is being delivered engineered and promoted; does the Prime Minister Dato Hussein Onn and the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, know for sure that there is no purposeful exploitation of the Kelantan situation to justify an emergency being declared which benefits the UMNO at the expense of PAS?

Earlier, I mentioned the holding of public rallies and demonstrations with the knowledge, consent and even encouragement of the authorities in Kelantan. I asked because I wanted to know whether we are seeing a repetition of the Sarawak emergency.

I retrospect, I draw the following conclusions: that Mohamed Nasir had been encouraged by UMNO leaders to stand up against PAS, and the demonstrations and public rallies before and after the Motion of No Confidence, had been allowed and even encouraged by those in authority in Kelantan and Kuala Lumpur – not to uphold the principle that the people have the final say in determining their political future by the holding of general elections, but to crest the conditions where by NOC-rule can be imposed.

I want to make clear the standpoint my colleagues and I are taking in this important debate. We are not defenders of PAS, or Mohamed Nasir, or UMNO. We are concerned to see that the democratic basis of the Malaysian Constitution is not subverted or the integrity of the democratic system undermined by partisan political forces or considerations.

It is ironical that in the 1966 Case, in the words of Tun Razak in the Dewan Rakyat, Article 150 is invoked because although the Menteri Besar, Mohamed Nasir has lost the confidence of the State Assembly, in a vote on October 15, he had not resigned ( with explicit blessing of the top UMNO leaders ) although the practice of real democracy and accepted practices would require it.

There is in fact no constitutional crisis or deadlock in Kelantan. Firstly, in a democratic society, power resides with the People, and the most democratic and sensible solution to the Political Crisis in Kelantan is to hold general elections in the State for the People to decide who they went to give the new mandate to govern.

I have no doubt that a pronounced police and security presence in Kelantan would be able to ensure a peaceful and trouble-free general elections. If PAS, UMNO and Datuk Mohd. Nasir have all along acted in the best interest of the people of Kelantan, and believe in the final power of the people, then they should have no serious objections to solve the Political Crisis in the most democratic manner possible.

In fact, this can be done straight away, and Kelantan State Assembly dissolved under Clause XVI (6) of the Kelantan Constitution which provides:

“If the Menteri Besar ceases to command the confidence of the majority of the members of the Legislative Assembly, then, unless at his request His Highness dissolves the Legislative Assembly, he shall tender the resignation of the State Executive Council.”

The Kelantan State Assembly can be dissolved either by the Regent acceding to the request of Mohd. Nasir for dissolution or by the 21 PAS State Assemblymen resigning en bloc together with UMNO Assemblymen to cause general elections to be held.

To borrow Tun Razak’s words: to see that real democracy is practiced in Kelantan permits of only one solution: General Elections. But if both PAS and UMNO are not prepared to accede to the popular demand and right of the Kelantanese, then to see that accepted democratic practices are adhered to, permits of one other solution; that the Party which sustains the majority in the State Assembly appoints the Menteri Besar.

The constitutional solution has not been exhausted, and there is therefore moral or constitutional justification or propriety for the imposition of NOC in Kelantan.

It has been said that NOC rule is urgent and necessary to allow normal awareness of government to proceed. But this can very well be done by the appoint part of a Menteri Besar from the majority party in the Kelantan State Assembly.

Whatever the political differences, the State Constitution or Federal Constitution as the basic legal document of the land, should be respected and adhered to, both in words and spirit, for if it is seen that the Constitution of the Land could be bent or undermined through most unconstitutional and irregular practices, then the final losers will be the Constitution and our system of constitutional government.

Indeed, the question that has arisen again and again in Malaysia is: “Does the Constitution govern the conduct of the ruling party, or does the ruling party govern the conduct of the Constitution.”

It is important for Members of Parliament and the Government to realise that parliamentary democracy depends for its success, in fact its survival and continuance, on a certain moderation in party warfare. Majorities must not exploit their advantage so far as to reach the point at which a large minority would resist than obey, and parties must not be more anxious to get power or more power rather than to preserve the spirit of a democratic constitution.

Just as earlier, I have mentioned about the Sarawak emergency background, which clearly establish that in 1966, the proclamation of emergency and invocation of Article 150 was in fraudem legis in that it was made, not to deal with a grave emergency where by the security or economic life of Sarawak was threatened, but for the purpose of removing Stephen Kalong Ningkan from his lawful position as Chief Minister; the question is whether the proclamation of emergency today and the invocation of Article 150 to impose NOC-type of rule in Kelantan is also in fraudem legis not to deal with a grave emergency whereby the security or economic life of Kelantan was threatened, but for the purpose of enabling Kelantan UMNO to take advantage of the political conditions in Kelantan whereby it might, for the first time since Independence, form the government in Kelantan.

This Bill this evening is in fact the most Draconian measure that has ever been taken against a State. In the case of Sarawak, in 1966, at least certain constitutional forms were observed in forcing a convening of the Legislative Assembly where a motion of no confidence was passed. In the case of Kelantan, it is a direct central Governmental take-over, depriving the Menteri Besar, the Executive Council and the State Assembly of their powers.

It is such draconian measures which pose greater threats to the continued survival of parliamentary democracy, than any other challenges or threats, including threats posed by the Malayan Communist Party. For such draconian, undemocratic measures subvert the faith of Malaysians in the democratic basis of the Malaysian Constitution, and the easy resort of the ruling party to emergency powers to further their partisan political interests.

The Bill today has again brought into open the future of democracy in Malaysia. It is none other than the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, who in one article said that the problems of democracy in Malaysia are brought about by two very important factors. The first is the failure of the people, from the top leaders to the masses, to understand democracy. The second is the deep cleavage between the two evenly matched racial groups which dominate the country: the Malays and Chinese.

The present Kelantan crisis is solely the result of the first factor: the failure of the top leaders, including the Deputy Prime Minister, to understand democracy.

It may be too late now to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw this Bill, and let everyone satisfy himself, he himself and every Member of Parliament, that the conditions permits of no other solution but NOC-type of rule.

I want to reiterate that I have the fullest respect for his personal integrity and honesty of purpose, but I want to ask him, whether he really know what he is doing?

This Bill will create dangerous precedents, which will make undemocratic and authoritarian creatures like the NOCs respectable and acceptable. There appears to be a certain hankering in certain quarters to the NOC days in 1969 and 1970, when according to Dr. Mahathir in the Solidarity magazine, “all democratic practices were suspended. Even trade unions had their activities curbed. For a long time a state of tension was artificially maintained by a one-hour curfew imposed on the capital, Kuala Lumpur.”

The Bill will set back the task of democratic nation-building. It will undermine the democratic forces in the land, and strengthen those anti-democratic forces – on hand, the communist, and on the other, the advocates of one-party rule or military dictatorship, and the favourite solutions of feudalists.

I call on all MPs in the Barisan Nasional, who can still discern national interest from party or personal interest, to speak up and vote according to his own conscience. I ask the Prime Minister to withdrawn the whip, so that every MP can vote freely, without compulsion, on this fundamental matter which will have such a decisive influence on the fragile plant of democracy in Malaysia.