Statement by DAP Secretary-General, Lim Kit Siang , at press conference on Monday, 12th June 1978 in Kuala Lumpur at 2 p.m.
DAP accuses Barisan Nasional of trying to crush Opposition in coming general elections by resort to the most unfair and undemocratic tactic and campaign
I call this Press Conference to sound a warning that the Barisan Nasional has a plot to try to crush the Opposition in the general elections by resorting to the most unfair and undemocratic tactics and elections campaign.
The National Front Secretary-General, Ghaffer Baba, said yesterday that the Front would not only repeat the performance of 1974, but also win some seats now held by the Opposition.
The DAP is not afraid of the National Front challenge in the coming police, and we are confident of proving Ghaffar Baba wrong. However, the election campaign must be a clean, honest, fair and democratic campaign.
The DAP is hopeful of winning over 20 Parliamentary and 50 State Assembly seats in the coming polis on the basis of the support we have received throughout the country and other indicators. However, this is premised on the holding of a fair and democratic general elections, where all political parties are allowed free access to the electorate to explain to them their respective policies and programmes. And the most important means of access is by way of public rallies.
The remarks by Ghaffar Baba yesterday that there was a possibility that public rallies would be banned in view of the security situation in the country, and the speech by the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Haniff Omar, a week ago, calling on the police to be on the alert until August 31 in view of the coming 30th anniversary of the Communist Party of Malaya are disturbing signs that the National Front has decided to ban public rallies in this general elections.
This indicates that the Barisan Nasional is determined to crush Opposition in the general election even by resorting to the most unfair and undemocratic tactics. If public rallies are banned, then this is a gross abuse of power and another instance of the Barisan Nasional engineering and making use of security reasons to achieve party interests.
I would caution the Prime Minister, Dato Jusein Onn, not to resort to such unfair and under democratic tactics. Every party, whether the Barisan Nasional or Opposition party, would like to win a maximum number of seats. But even more important than winning parliamentary seats is to safeguard the parliamentary system and strengthen the people’s faith in the democratic process.
Neither the Barisan Nasional nor the Opposition should sacrifice or undermine the democratic system of the people’s faith in the democratic process just for the sake of winning seas, for in the end, the losers will be parliamentary democracy itself.
A general elections is to fulfil democracy, and not to destroy and erode the democratic system.
If the Barisan Nasional can win more seats than 1974 and defeat the Opposition, as Barisan Nasional leaders are claiming, then let them do so, but on the basis of a clean, honest, just and democratic campaign. They should not throw justice, fair play and all democratic nations to the winds just for the sake of winning seats. There are Barisan Nasional strategists who think that they have won the Kelantan state elections because of the ban on public rallies in Kelantan, and hope to use the same undemocratic formula to crush the Opposition in the national election. Even in Manila in the recent Philippines elections, public rallies are allowed. What have the BN leaders to fear? Is Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, even lost once in 1969, afraid again of losing another time in the hands of PAS in Kubang Pasu despite the tens of millions of public funds which have been poured into his constituency?
I deplore the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir yesterday that “kerajaan tidak mahu pihak pembangkang menyebarkan api hingga bbolth mencetuskan peristewa seperti yang berlaku 1969 lalu”, all the more because Dr. Mahathir’s role in the 1969 May 13 incident remains a mystery. I call on Dr. Mahathir to stop distorting history for his own ends, and challenge him to make public his Open Letter to the then Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1969 after Dr. Mahathir was defeated by PAS in Kedah, which should help remove some of the mysteries surrounding May 13.
Dr. Mahathir’s statement in Ipoh yesterday that “kerajaan akan mengawasi sebarang akhbar yang mengapi-apikan ‘issue perkauman’ terutamanya sepanjang kempen pilihanraya umum nanti” and his threats to arrest and prosecute editors and writers of such reports is an open intimidation of the Press. The DAP agrees that communal issues should not be raised or published – but the Barisan Nasional or Dr. Mahathir are the least competent to decide what is communal and what is not communal. From past experience, the Barisan’s yardstick of ‘communalism’ is everything said by the Opposition, while whatever is said by UMNO, MCA, MIC even if they are the most blatant appeals to racialism ate not communal. Even now, MCA, UMNO AND MIC leaders and members are going round fanning the fires of communalism, demanding that Malays must vote as Malays; Chinese as Chinese and Indians. If Dr. Mahathir is such a greater defender of ‘non-communalism, then should be the first to stop making such communal appeals and to instruct the police to prosecute whoever makes election appeals based on considerations of race.
In every general elections, the Barisan had a ‘secret weapon’ to try to crush the Opposition. In 1974, it was the two-point strategy of the mass disenfranchisement of some 100,000 voters, where voters went to the polling booths on polling day and found that their names had been deregistered from the electoral rolls. The other measure was the delineation of electoral constituencies to favour the Barisan Nasional and disadvantage the Opposition.
In 1978, the Barisan’s ‘secret weapon’ to crush the Opposition is the ban on public rallies and restrictions on electioneering during the campaign period, and the press blackout of Opposition news on fundamental questions of nation building, like education, economics and human rights with the 100 per cent control over radio and television already in their hands, the Barisan hopes to deny the Oppositon all possible access to the electorate.
If the Barisan Nasional, Dato Hussein Onn and Dr. Mahathir are so keen to win the general elections at whatever cost, even if the elections campaign has lost all democratic meaning, they might as well pass an emergency law and legislate that in view of the coming 30th anniversary celebrations of the MCP, only Barisan Nasional members can be nominated to become candidates!
The Prime Minister should realise that an elections campaign should be an educative experience for every citizen, where even those should in normal times would pay no interest to political questions, would take time out and have the opportunity to weigh, consider and choose between competing political platforms, programmes, parties and personalities. If this is denied them, as by the ban on public rallies, then our election campaign is not to build a democratic system but for an undemocratic system.
This whole world is watching Malaysia, whether we have a meaningful democratic system, or whether we have joined the ranks of those countries which hold elections but do not have democracy.
Finally, I call on the Prime Minister to ensure that the 978 general elections will be fair and democratic, that there will be free holding of public rallies as in previous general elections and that there will be adequate campaigning of about one month. Let not the 1978 general elections be held up by the world and by the people in the future as an example where there was elections, but where the electorate was denied a free choice.