Why the 1978 General Elections is an elections without issues
The Democratic Action Party is fighting the most difficult general elections, with all access to the people denied to us. We are fighting this elections with our hands tied behind our backs, our mouths sealed, while brave Barisan Nasional leaders are punching and kicking us all over the body, even giving Siamese kicks. They are of course fully aided and abetted by the government – controlled television and radio, and the Barisan – run newspapers like the New Straits Times and the Star.
The 1978 General Elections is an elections without issues, not because there are no basic issues and grave problems to be decided by the people, but because the Barisan Nasional has suppressed all these issues. The DAP has found it virtually impossible to raise, let alone crystallise, issues in the 1978 general elections because of the complete denial of media access to the people.
The 1978 General Elections is the most unfair and undemocratic general elections in the history of Malaysia. We have not heard of other countries which hold elections but ban public rallies. In Malaysia, however, under the National Front, we are always in the forefront, breaking new ground, not to broaden and expand liberties and rights of the people, but to erode away and curtail further the existing rights and freedoms of the people.
There is no justification whatsoever for the ban on public rallies. The Barisan Nasional claims that this is the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Malayan Communist Party and that public rallies must be banned on security grounds. A few days before the dissolution of Parliament and the State Assemblies, the Inspector General of Police, Tan Sri Haniff Omar, made a far – from coincidental call to the Police “to maintain maximum vigilance” until Merdeka Day on August 31 because of the possibility of violent incidents on the 30th anniversary of the MCP. In an all – embracing reference, the IGP said such incidents might be carried out in “States where there had been no previous manifestation of communist activity.”
The National Front thinks that the people of Malaysia have a short memory. Only a few days before the IGP’s warning about the security situation, the Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir had been touring Europe to woo foreign investors with the declaration that security was no problem in Malaysia. How did the security situation in Malaysia deteriorate so swiftly in a matter of days that public rallies, the very essence of a general elections, have to be banned.
Even Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, has criticised the ban on public rallies as unjustifiable. He has good reasons too, for he had as Prime Minister conducted four general elections, every one of them under Emergency conditions, but at no time was public rallies banned. In the 1964 General Elections, when Malaysia was faced with external aggression in the form of Indonesian Confrontation, public rallies were still permitted!
If it is true that the security situation in Malaysia has become so ‘grave’, then Dato Hussein Onn who had always prided himself of putting duty before self and before party, should have postponed general elections at least until after August 31. After all, the life of this session of Parliament does not expire until August of 1978.
A general elections does not mean merely the fixing of a date for the people to go and cast their votes. It means an opportunity for the people to pass judgement on the record of the government, to listen, consider and weigh the various party programmes and policies and to decide which one of them is worthy of their support. This can only be meaningfully achieved if there are adequate facilities and time for the contesting parties to put their programmes and policies to the people through public rallies, mobile announcements and the mass media, like television, radio and the press.
Every party, whether the National Front or Opposition party, would like to win the 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.
A general elections is to fulfill democracy, and not to destroy the democratic system. What the National Front is doing is ‘to use democracy to destroy democracy’.
The National Front has banned public rallies to prevent the DAP from explaining to you what is really happening in the country and from exposing the injustices, inequalities and wrongs committed by the ruling parties.
The National Front hopes that by banning public rallies, the electorate would be misled into believing that no issues are at stake in the 1978 general elections, but only a conflict of parties and personalities. If the people vote for the National Front, the National Front would then tell the whole world that the people support their economic, educational, social, cultural, and political record and policies – when these records and issues have not been allowed to surface as election issues at all. This is nothing less than an attempt to win elections by deception.
We all know that to qualify as National Front candidates, the nominees must fulfil one indispensable condition: that is, they must be like the three traditional monkeys who see not, hear not and know not. Now, the National Front want the people also to see not, hear not and know not, but just to vote for the Daching.
Since Nomination Day, the National Front had commandeered the television, radio and the press and turned them into extensions of the party propaganda machinery. The News Straits Times and the Star have been carrying biased and distorted reports and editorials about the DAP, giving attacks on the DAP huge headlines, while blacking out DAP news and activities.
For instance, the New Straits Times carried on its front page in full, the UMNO’s five questions to the DAP. When I rang up the New Straits Times Group Editor, Tan Sri Lee Siew Yee, and asked whether the New Straits Times would publish the DAP’s reply in full on the front page, Tan Sri Lee said: “ I am sorry. I do not discuss these things.” We all know that the Giants of fearless and independent journalism in New Straits Times also do not discuss ‘these things’ with UMNO and the Barisan Nasional leaders. They just take directives and carry out instructions from the UMNO and Barisan National headquarters, and they will go into a cold sweat should they omit a comma or a semi colon.
The Star is even worse than the New Straits Times. It does not even have a shred of journalistic integrity, sending reporters to cover DAP press conferences to do the MCA’ sidrty work.
The Star has been carrying out a systematic campaign to smear, discredit and defame the image of the DAP and DAP leaders not only by distorted news presentation, but in concocting untrue reports.
I expect this campaign to reach its climax a few days before Polling Day on July 8, 1978, in the hope that the people will believe what is printed in the Star. Let me therefore forewarn you that in the last few days before Polling Day, you are going to read the most gruesome reports about the DAP in the New Straits Times, to be outclassed by the Star, which if true, the DAP and all the DAP leaders would not be worth a cent.
The National Front hopes that their Kelantan formula, the ban on public rallies and control of the mass media, which nearly wiped out PAS in Kelantan, will also succeed in wiping out the DAP on July 8.
It is you and your fellow citizens who will decide whether the Kelantan formula will succeed, whether the DAP will be wiped out on July 8, 1978.
Malaysia needs a strong and outspoken Opposition to tame the Barisan Nasional from abuse of power. As a noted historian has said, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The greatest single issue in the 1978 general elections is to save democracy from being trampled upon by those in the National Front who want to build a one – party state in Malaysia by wiping out the Opposition. There are observers who believe that the 1978 General Elections is the last general elections for Malaysia. If you do not want the 1978 general elections to be the last general elections in Malaysia, then come out solidly on Polling Day and demonstrate your support for the Opposition, for the DAP, which will manifest to the National Front and the world that the people of Malaysia reject any attempt to foist a one – party state on the people.
In this 1978 general elections, we in the DAP need the people’s help. In previous general elections, the initiative was in our hands, for we could hold public rallies and expose the record of misgovernment, corruption and failures of the National Front. In this elections, the initiative has been taken out of our hands, as we have been cut off from the people. With our limited resources – whether in terms of finance, manpower or time – the initiative rest with the people to come out and exercise their political right and responsibility to to determine our own destiny and the destiny of our children. You can do this by helping to spread the word to your friends and neighbours, not for the sake of any DAP candidate, but for your own sake and for your own children’s sake. Make sure that there is a maximum voter turn out on Polling Day to save democracy, to condemn the idea of a one – party state, and to help build a new order in Malaysia.
July 8 will decide whether democracy will be given a new lease of life, or whether the long shadown of Night will be cast over Malaysia.