Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary – General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Bagan Jermal Branch Solidarity Dinner at Gala Restaurant, Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Jalan Bagan Luar, Butterworth on Saturday, 23rd September 1978 at 6.30 pm.
DAP suggest a million – people signature campaign for the establishment of Merdeka University
At the recent UMNO General Assembly, the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, made the startling announcement that the Barisan Nasional Government rejected the petition for the establishment of Merdeka University to expand higher education opportunities for our children in Malaysia.
The Barisan Nasional Government claims to be a democratic government, but it has set its face to thwart the democratic wishes of the people to establish the Merdeka University.
Ever since the idea of Merdeka University was first mooted, there had been people in influential circles who had tried to sabotage and destroy it. What is most saddening is that component parties of the Barisan Nasional, like the MCA and Gerakan, have joined forces with those who wish to see Merdeka University fail. The MCA and the Gerakan had given no support or endorsement for the highly noble and worthwhile cause of forming a Merdeka University.
Those who oppose the Merdeka University are fond of arguing that in the interest of national integration and unity, Merdeka University cannot be allowed.
I invite these people, and in particular the MCA President, Datuk Lee San Choon and the Gerakan President, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, to explain clearly to the people of Malaysia why they oppose the Merdeka University proposal, and how the expansion of higher education opportunities can undermine national unity.
This is because if MCA and Gerakan oppose the Merdeka University, it is difficult to expect the UMNO leaders to give support to Merdeka University.
Malaysia has been independent for 21 years, but over this period of time the people have become more and more divided because of the government’s heavy – handed policies over a wide range of national activities. Now and then Government leaders would express concern about the lack of national unity, and even about the problem of racial polarisation in the country.
Unfortunately, these leaders fail to see that the problem of racial polarisation is directly caused by the government’s refusal to accommodate and accept the legitimate wishes and needs of the people in the country.
The case of Merdeka University is an excellent example. I just cannot see how any reasonable and just person can oppose the establishment of a private university to expand higher education opportunities in our country in view of the very grave problem of drastic dimunition of higher education opportunities our children face today.
If the Merdeka University is aimed at reducing or closing off higher education opportunities of any racial group, then it must be opposed. But as it aims at widening higher education opportunities for all Malaysians, clearly only those who are very narrow – minded can speak out against it.
The issue of Merdeka University is a test as to whether the Barisan Nasional Government is a fair and democratic one. Over 4,000 organisations, guilds and associations (with the conspicuous exception of MCA and Gerakan) have signed the petition to the Yang di – Pertuan Agong asking for approval for the Merdeka University.
A government which cherishes democratic values and principles will respect the wishes of the people as embodied in the petition representing over 4,000 organisations.
In disregarding the petition of over 4,000 organisations, the Barisan Nasional Government is in fact telling the country and the world that it does not respect the democratic rights of the people.
Although the government’s rejection of the Merdeka University petition, without first consulting the Merdeka University sponsors, has caused frustration and disappointment to the people, the cause of Merdeka University has not come to an end.
So long as the people want a Merdeka University, and are prepared to make their views known to the government, so long will Merdeka University have an opportunity of being established. Merdeka University cannot be killed by a Ministerial announcement. Merdeka University can only be killed if the people give up hope for the Merdeka University.
Although the Merdeka University movement has suffered a setback in the form of the announcement by Datuk Musa Hitam, I believe that this is the time for the people and supporters of the Merdeka University to press even harder for its establishment. So long as the Barisan Nasional government claims to be democratic, the people have the democratic right to continue to pressurise the government to heed their wishes.
I wish here to make a suggestion as to what the Merdeka University Council can do, apart from the various other actions they have decided to take following Datuk Musa Hitam’s announcement.
It will be a good idea if the Merdeka University launch a nation – wide million – people signature campaign for endorsement of the Merdeka University proposal, to show that this proposal has the greatest support of the people.
Let every street and every lorong have a street or lorong committee to collect this million signatures and I have no doubt that every fair – minded, and responsible citizen would put this signature to the Million Signature Merdeka University Petition.
If such a million – signature Merdeka University Petition movement is launched, the DAP is prepared to give the fullest support.
Let the people show the government clearly and unequivocally what they desire, and let the government obey and respect the people’s wishes.
Visiting Sarawak to expand DAP
Tomorrow, I will leave for Kuching for a tour of Sarawak to look into the question of the DAP’s expansion into Sarawak.
The DAP has received very encouraging support from the people of Sarawak, and I hope to make a first – hand study of the Sarawak political situation during my visit to Sarawak.
The DAP is the only political party in Malaysia which is pan – Malaysian, with branches not only in Peninsular Malaysia, but also in Sabah and Sarawak.