Racial polarisation

(Speech by the Parliamentary Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat during the debate on the Royal Address on October 13, 1978)

His Majesty, in his Royal Address, called upon the people of all ethnic origins to join hands in support of the noble efforts of the Prime Minister in his task of forging a sense of solidarity among Malaysians. As the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong said: “Emphasis on ethnic, religious, cultural and political differences should not be done on such a scale as to destroy national unity. The spirit of tolerance should continuously be maintained.”

Unfortunately, His Majesty’s advice has not been heeded by Hon’ble Members in this House itself during the debates of the past few days. We hear the voices of intolerance, of rejection that Malaysia is a multi-racial society; we hear voices of extremism and racialism, completely insensitive to the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the various communities in the country.

After the recent general elections, where the DAP secured some 700,000 votes under the most undemocratic and unfair conditions, several Barisan Nasional leaders expressed concern that the election results have demonstrated increased polarisation in the country.

This was taken up by the international press and weeklies, to the extent that the Minister for Industry, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, became worried that it would nullify his efforts to woo foreign investors to Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir then denounced the foreign press and magazines for writing about polarisation’ when his own Ministerial colleagues had been talking about it the loudest!

However, the problem of polarisation in Malaysia cannot be wished away either by denouncing foreign journals, or keeping quiet about it. We can only deal with the problem of defusing polarisation by recognising the problem and resolving its root causes.

Firstly, let me emphasise that polarisation in Malaysia runs along two levels. There is polarisation along racial lines, and there is polarisation along class lines.

Racial polarisation in Malaysia has been created, not by the 1978 general elections results, but by the long-standing neglect and indifference to the legitimate demands and aspirations of all the races in Malaysia.

Racial polarisation must be halted, and it can only be halted by government recognition that racial dissatisfactions exist in the country and must be resolved.

We in the DAP are prepared to give all assistance and co-operation to help the Government and the Prime Minister to reduce polarisation in our society – but we cannot be a party or remain silent to the continued neglect and indifference to the long-standing grievances of the people which should be resolved by the government.

Let me stress that we in the DAP are no less patriotic and committed to Malaysia as our one and only homeland. We want to see a Malaysia which is harmonious, united, peaceful, prosperous, just and equal, and free.

We may have different viewpoints and opinions, but we do not expect our integrity and loyalty to be questioned by anyone.

Here, I wish to discuss four areas where new efforts and attitudes must be made and taken by Malaysians if we are to make progress to reduce polarisation in the country.

1.Politics and Political Leadership

We have the strange spectacle where component parties in the Barisan Nasional go around the country calling on the Chinese to unite as Chinese, Malays to unite as Malays, and Indians to unite as Indians, and yet pointing the finger at other people as being ‘racialist and communal’.

Are all the political parties in the National Front, all the Barisan Nasional Members of Parliament and Ministers prepared to join the DAP in making a pledge that henceforth no one will go round calling on Malays to unite as Malays, Chinese to unite as Chinese, or Indians to unite as Indians, to stop talking about Chinese unity, Malay unity, or Indian unity, but only of Malaysian unity?

This probably explains which parties have been most responsible for creating and perpetuating racial polarisation in the country.

Another cause of racial polarisation is the ever-readiness of certain irresponsible political leaders to give a racial twist to every development.

An example is the mover of this motion, Shamsuri bin Mohd Salleh Member for Balik Pulau, in his reference to the case of six DAP Perak State Assemblymen who followed the rulings of the Perak State Assembly Speaker and did not take the second oath of allegiance to the Sultan of Perak in accordance with the provisions of the Perak State Constitution.

We have already explained that we did not intend any disrespect to the Sultan of Perak, and that we apologise for any such unintended disrespect; although legally and constitutionally, the six DAP State Assembly had strictly complied with the Constitution.

Unfortunately, there are people like the mover of this motion, who wanted to give a racial twist to such an inadvertent incident, to create racial sentiments and emotions.

Recently, in Malacca, the new Malacca State Assembly started its business session without inviting the Malacca Tuan Yang di-Pertua to declare open the Assembly. It is fortunate that the Malacca State Government is UMNO-run, for if it had been a DAP government, I can imagine accusations that the DAP was trying to do away with the Sultanate system or the Governor system.

I am very shocked at the very racist speeches made in this House in the last two days.

I refer in particular to the speech by the Member for Kinabalu, Mark Koding, who, although an Independent MP, everybody knows is a Berjaya stalking horse’, and the voice of Datuk Harris Salleh, Sabah Chief Minister. I have no doubt that every word uttered by Mark Koding was with the blessing of Datuk Harris Salleh.

Firstly, let me state that in my nine years in Parliament, there had not been a more racialist speech than the one made by Mark Koding, which is a great shame to him.

He abused the privilege of this House to fan to the most primitive racial emotions. He called for the closure of all Chinese and Tamil schools and the ban of all other languages, apart from Bahasa Malaysia, on signboards. He also called for the amendment of Article 152 of the Malaysian Constitution which guarantees ‘free use’ of all other languages if his proposals are contrary to this Constitutional guarantee.

In 1971, the Government amended the Constitution to make four issues ‘sensitive’, the questioning of which is a sedition offence, conviction of which renders the guilty person, among other things, disqualified from holding Parliamentary office. Parliamentary immunity was also removed for these four ‘sensitive issues’.

One of these four sensitive issues is Article 152 of the Malaysian Constitution, on the position of Bahasa Malaysia as the National Language and the guaranteed position of the other languages, as enshrined in Article 152(1)(a) that “no person shall be prohibited or prevented from using (otherwise than for official purposes) or from teaching or learning, any other language,” and in Article 152(1)(b) that “nothing in this Clause shall prejudice the right of the Federal Government or of any State Government to preserve and sustain the use and study of the language of any other community in the Federation.”

The Sedition Ordinance, as amended by Emergency Ordinance No.45 of 1970, prohibits the questioning of such sensitive matters. The amendment made it a “seditious tendency”:

“(1) to question any matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative established or protected by the provisions of Part III of the Federal Constitution (i.e. provisions relating to citizenship), or Article 152 (National Language and other languages), Article 153 (special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of the other communities), or Article 181 (the sovereignty of Rulers) of the Federal Constitution.”

The amendment to the Sedition Ordinance further provides in effect that in respect of any such matter, right, status, position, privilege, sovereignty or prerogative, an act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall be deemed to be seditious even if it has a tendency.

“i) to persuade the subjects of any Ruler or the inhabitants of territory governed by the Government to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in the territory of the Ruler or governed by such Government as by law established; or

“(ii) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Malaysia.”

The Member for Kinabalu, in his speech, calling for the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, the ban of the use of other languages on signboards, and the amendment of Article 152 which has entrenched the guarantees for the other languages, has clearly questioned Article 152 and challenged one of the four ‘sensitive’ issues. His speech comes completely within the Sedition Ordinance, for his speech, aimed at removing the constitutional guarantees for the other languages in Article 152, has produced feelings of ill — will and enmity between different races in the country.

I call on the Attorney-General and the Minister of Home Affairs to initiate police and legal actions against the Member for Kinabalu, to demonstrate to all Malaysians that what is protected and entrenched as sensitive in Article 152 is not only the first limb on Malay as the National Language, but also the second limb with regard to the guaranteed constitutional position of the other languages. We also want to know whether the law is applied equally to Opposition MPs and also BN MPs, including BN-inspired MPs like Mark Koding. I will like the Attorney General and the Minister of Home Affairs, in winding up the debate, to inform the House, whether they are taking action on this speech by the Member for Kinabalu which openly questioned one of the four sensitive issues entrenched in the Malaysian Constitution.

In his speech, the Member for Kinabalu, described non-Malay Malaysians as ‘orang asing’; and he inferred and insinuated about non-Malay Malaysians as having the attitude “What is mine is mine, and what is yours is also mine”, trying to portray non-Malay Malaysians not only as irresponsible, greedy, exploitative but also no better than robbers.

I am shocked that such utterances are made in this House, whichh not only is contrary to Dewan Rakyat Standing Orders 36(10) prohibiting the use of “words which are likely to promote feelings of ill-will or hostility between different communities in the Federation” but because this speech of his has aroused racial emotions and ill-will. It is such speeches which polarise and divide the country.

In his speech, the Member for Kinabalu, made two substantial quotations from the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, although he did not enlighten this House where he quoted from.

I have now ascertained that both the quotations were derived word- for-word from a banned book, ‘The Malay Dilemma’ written by Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, when he was in the political wilderness after his defeat in the 1969 general elections.

This is again another abuse of privilege of this House by the Member for Kinabalu, in quoting and getting on parliamentary record passages from a banned book.

As the Committee of Privileges has not yet been set up, I formally request the Speaker to take note of this abuse of privilege and for reference to the Committee of Privileges.

Although the Yang di-Pertuan Agong stressed the importance of ‘tolerance’ in our plural society, I also do not see it in the maiden speech by the Member for Ulu Trengganu, Alias bin Md. Ali.

Teaming up with the Member for Kinabalu, the Member for Ulu Trengganu, spoke of “penderhakaan terhadap cita-cita bahasa sudah sampai kepada puncak yang tidak patut lagi kita toleratekan”. He also spoke of ‘perbuatan mengkorap bahasa dalam Dewan yang mulia ini, and proposed that there should be changes in election laws to require every intending candidate to pass a Bahasa Malaysia test prepared by a panel of Bahasa Malaysia experts.

If there is such a Bahasa Malaysia test, I for one will not pass. But not only will I not qualify to stand for Parliamentary elections, I believe all the MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP, and the non-Malay members of Berjaya, and even SNAP will completely fail and disqualify to stand as Parliamentary candidates.

I have never undergone formal study of Bahasa Malaysia during my school-days, it was not taught as a serious subject. I believe this is the case with the overwhelming majority of non-Malay Ministers and MPs. But we do our best to learn and to be able to speak the language, because it is the national and official language. I do not expect the post-Merdeka generation and subsequent generations to have difficulty whatsoever in Bahasa Malaysia, but to make it difficult for the pre-Merdeka generation of Malaysians to take their positions in public life by requiring them to sit for Bahasa Malaysia tests prepared by language experts is intolerance to say the least.

I do not understand what Alias bin Md. Ali meant by ‘penderhakaan terhadap cita-cita bahasa’ when all post-Merdeka Malaysians of all races will be proficient in Bahasa Malaysia; nor do I understand about what Alias meant when he spoke of ‘perbuatan mengkorap bahasa’. Is his use of the English-term ‘corrupt’ in ‘perbuatan mengkorap bahasa’ one of these ‘perbuatan mengkorap bahasa’ in this House?

During the debate on the Royal Address, not a day passes without an UMNO MP standing up and questioning the loyalty of what the MP for Tumpat, Tengku Noor Asiah binti Tengku Ahmad, described as the ‘immigrant races’.

This is most sad and shocking. Firstly, it illustrates more than anything else the failure of the nation-building policies in Malaysia despite 21 years of Merdeka.

Secondly, even more important, such speeches and statements more than anything else are the daily sustenance and aggravating agent of racial polarisation in the country. The distrust, suspicion and antagonism manifested by such speeches can only engender counter-distrust, suspicion and antagonism!

In a multi-racial society like Malaysia, terms like ‘disloyalty’ should not be bandied about freely and indiscriminately, for they are so sensitive and emotive that emotions can overpower reason and sanity.

There is nothing more inimical and a greater hindrance to national integration and Malaysian nation building than for non-Malays to feel that they are regarded as innately ‘disloyal’ to the country, when in actual fact, they have no other object of loyalty and their one and only home- land is Malaysia. Nor does it positively help in welding the diverse races together for the non-Malay Malaysians to be disrespectfully described as immigrant races’-when I for one, like the majority of non-Malay Malaysians, have never thought of ourselves as immigrant races, but as Malaysians who are born, bred and will die here. The only impression to be gathered by such terms is that those in authority are only interested in dividing the people in Malaysia into more and more groups and sub-groups, rather than dissolving these divisions into one national whole.

“Disloyalty’ is a highly divisive and inflammatory word, especially when it is used as a blanket term to cover entire communities or all the non-Malays.

What does ‘disloyalty’ mean? Is it ‘disloyalty’ to the Barisan Nasional, or ‘disloyalty’ to Malaysia? Is it ‘disloyalty’ to a racist doctrine, or to a multi-racial Malaysia?

And who are the people capable of disloyalty? Are they only the so-called immigrant races’? Are Malays not capable of ‘disloyalty”? If we look at the world stage, are Englishmen incapable of treason to England, or Italians to Italy, or Egyptians to United Arab Republic, or Indians to India, or Chinese to China, or Indonesians to Indonesia?

We know that disloyalty or treason sometimes occur in homogeneous societies too, for otherwise, ‘disloyalty’ and treason would have no meaning and applicability in homogeneous societies.

“Disloyalty’ should only be used in relation to specific persons and specific instances – and properly should be applied to persons found guilty of treason by a court of law. If one racial group is allowed to bandy ‘disloyalty charges’ indiscriminately against another racial group, then unreason will sweep and sway the country!

The first point I wish to make about efforts to depolarise the country is that in the political arena, there must be efforts by political leaders and politicians to conduct themselves consciously to reduce polarisation, and not by irresponsible utterances and blanket terms aggravate racial polarisation in the country.

2. Economic Factors of Racial Polarisation

I have said earlier that there is the problem of polarisation along class lines, created by the fact that ever since Independence, national development has basically benefitted an elite few. However, I wish to confine myself today with the economic factors of racial polarization.

This is created largely by the government propagation of the idea that the problem of poverty in Malaysia is a Malay problem; that the majority of Malays are poor in comparison to non-Malays especially Chinese who are seen as well-to-do. This is a travesty of the truth, for the majority of the non-Malays are poor; and in any event, the wealth of the country is in the hands of foreigners and not the non-Malays or the Chinese.

However, with the endless government emphasis and reiteration on the Malay-ness of the problem of poverty, about Malay urbanisation, Malay jobs, Malay graduates and Malay entrepreneurial class and so on, the net result is a more heightened communal consciousness and awareness the among the Malays and non-Malays leading to greater racial polarisation.

This is most unnecessary and tragic for the problem of poverty is Malay problem, nor confined to Malays, but a socio-economic problem. Both the Malay and non-Malay poor are not given the opportunity to understand the truth about poverty; that poverty and the gap between the rich apex and the poor base is essentially a problem created by the social structure; that there is nothing racial or cultural about the backwardness of Malay society; that the Chinese role in the economy is not responsible for Malay poverty; that the really significant difference in income is within each community and within sectors and not between communities; that merely urbanising Malays will not solve the problem of the Malay masses; that creating rich Malays will not help achieve national unity. The Malay and non-Malay poor are not told that the major economic challenges confronting them have nothing to do with race; that land reform, the credit and marketing system, the co-operative movement, rural social services, the clearance of slums, better wages and working conditions, proper housing, fair prices for goods and commodities, fuller employment opportunities and the elimination of corruption and greed are basically social issues which need not be coloured by race.

An important step to de-polarise our society, therefore, is for Government leaders, both inside and outside Parliament, to concentrate on the socio-economic aspects of poverty rather than the communal or Malay aspect of poverty – and to work towards greater equality in the distribution of incomes between the poor of all races and the rich of all races, rather than to work towards the creation of a new class of Malay rich to keep company with the non-Malay rich.

3. Education

Education has become the most divisive force in our society and a major factor of racial polarisation. As the Prime Minister has promised to allow time for a full debate on my motion asking for Parliamentary approval for the establishment of Merdeka University, I have no intention of embarking on a debate on the issue here.

However, as in the last few days, many MPs had made pronouncements on the Merdeka University which clearly were based on misconceptions, I wish here to clarify these misconceptions so that they will not continue to mislead Malaysians when discussing or debating on this subject:

(1) The proposed Merdeka University is aimed at expanding high education opportunities for all races, and not aimed at, as appears to be the conception of some Malay leaders, at dimunition of higher education opportunities for Malay students just as the Government pledges that there will be a bigger economic cake. This is to ensure an expanding educational cake, so that the resolution of old injustices will not new injustices;

(2) The proposed Merdeka University is not a purely Chinese media just as under the university, but a multi-media university present education system, there are different language media provide instruction in primary and secondary schools. It will places for students from all media institutions – including Malay students who will increasingly find that more and more of them cannot get places in the government’s five local universities. It will not be a Chinese university. It will be Malaysian university;

(3) The proposed Merdeka University is fully in accordance with the Constitutional guarantee of Article 152 for the free use of other languages, except for official purposes, and this guarantee has been entrenched as one of the unchallengeable issues- just like the National Language, Citizenship, Malay Rights and Sovereignty of Rulers.

There can be different opinions about the proposed Merdeka University, but they should not be based on misconceptions, misperception completely false premises.

It is regrettable that in the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s speech, there has been no word of mention about education – when education occupies such a central place in our national affairs; not only about the problem of dimunition of higher education opportunities, but also about the content and quality of higher education, the problem of deteriorating standards in primary and secondary schools, the problem of school drop-outs, and the problem of the direction, quality and syllabi of secondary education.

But directly bearing on the problem of polarisation is also the position and place of mother-tongue education in Malaysia the position of the Chinese and Tamil primary schools. I call on the Education Minister to have a special fund every year for the maintenance, expansion and renewal of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, whose physical expansion needs and facilities have been greatly neglected in the past years. The Government should set aside at least $25 million a year, just for the purpose of renovating, maintaining and building school buildings and classrooms of Chinese and Tamil primary schools and providing for adequate facilities.

In Sarawak, the Chinese primary schools find many obstacles in opening up sufficient classes to cater to enrolment demands. In Kuching for instance, I understand that the Sarawak Education Department has imposed a ruling that no Chinese primary school should have more than a thousand pupils – causing great inconvenience to school pupils. The Kuching Chung Hwa Chinese Primary School I, and School III for instance, had requested for one additional class to be opened up, to meet enrolment demands. This was refused, and Chung Hwa School II, which did not ask for increase of classes, was told to open up two new classes- but as it had no more classrooms, it had to borrow two classrooms from Chung Hwa School (1). What type of bureaucratic nonsense is this?

The Minister of Education, Datuk Musa Hitam, should also see to it that new Chinese primary schools are built in areas where there is demand, as for instance in Petaling Jaya and in Sibu.

Before I leave education, I would want the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, to explain the conflicting figures he gave on university student intake this year, on 10th October in the Dewan Rakyat. During question time, in reply to my colleague, Dr.Chen Man Hin, Datuk Musa Hitam said that the total number of applicants for degree courses in the five local universities this year was 11,938, out of whom 4,400 were successful.

The racial breakdown were Bumiputras 2,881; Chinese 1,210 and Indians/others 309.

However, later the same day, when speaking on my motion introduce a private member’s bill to amend the Universities and University Colleges Act, Datuk Musa Hitam said that for this year, there were 30,265 applicants for entry into the local universities, out of which 23,828 failed to get places. I hope Datuk Musa Hitam could reconcile these conflicting figures for 1978 which he gave on the very same day!

4. Cultural and Social Field

The fourth arena which I wish to speak in connection with racial polarisation is in the cultural and social field. Malaysia, with her diverse people of different races, cultures and religions, must be ever-conscious of the cultural sensitivities of all races.

Any attempt by any group to upset the cultural sensitivities of any racial group is bound to have adverse long-term consequences. The episode of the Universiti Teknologi convocation ceremony is a good case in point.

No racial group should be made to feel that it is compelled to depart from its customary way of life and cultural norms.

The allocation of TV programmes is another area where the legitimate aspirations of the various cultural and racial groups have been consistently overlooked. It is such daily incidents which sustain the sense of deprivation and denial by the different racial and cultural groups. I call on the Government to increase television time for the Chinese and Tamil language programmes for Peninsular Malaysia and if necessary by of a third television channel.

Although the situation in Peninsular Malaysia is very unsatisfactory, the position in Sabah and Sarawak is unbelievable – for ever since the introduction of Television to Sabah and Sarawak, not a single Chinese language film or Chinese language news telecast or Iban or Kadazan newcast had been transmitted. This grave omission and denial over TV Sabah/Sarawak should be rectified immediately.

The diverse cultures and customs in Malaysia have now become a source of polarisation- when they could become a source of integration. For instance, the various religions and cultures contain a commonality on a large number of issues – as to how to be good men and responsible citizens, If we teach all our citizens to be aware and cherish the common universal values to be found in the different religions, they could serve as strong bonds to bring the various races together.

Call for Parliamentary Committee to propose administrative reforms to upgrade efficiency and productivity of all Ministries and departments

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, in his Royal Address, said that the government had launched a programme to modernize the systems and tools of the entire government machinery. His Majesty noted: “With these innovative measures, all developmental constraints will be effectively and expeditiously surmounted.”

The record and history of the administrative service, however, does not hold out much promise that there would be major administrative improvements.

Only several months ago, the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed, said that the country’s administration was still largely based on “19th century methods” and that a thorough study was being carried out to upgrade efficiency and productivity in all ministries and departments. He said the Government intended to improve its administrative machinery by using modern management techniques, like the greater use of computers, accumulation of data by a centralised data-bank system and refined management techniques such as work-flow and time-span analysis.

Dr. Mahathir was not the first person to discover the “19th century methods” of the Malaysian administration. As far back as 1965, the Government had commissioned a Special Report by two Administration experts, Professor John Montgomery and Professor Esman, to undertake a review of public administration in Malaysia with the objective “to improve the administrative system and achieve greater efficiency and administrative leadership in the public service to meet the needs of a dynamic and rapidly developing country.”

Professors Montgomery and Esman found the administrative service a 19th century system, and recommended proposals for urgent modernisation. They commented that the administrative system was not producing “adequate results, largely because they have not incorporated many modern and progressive management practices employed by other governments.”

With great fanfare, in March 1966, the Government announced full acceptance of the Montgomery-Esman blueprint to modernise the administrative system and move it out of its 19th century mould, and started implementing the recommendations of the Montgomery-Esman Report intended to “increase the speed, reduce the costs and improve the quality of government services.”

The major recommendations were:

1. The major The creation of a Development Administration Unit in the Prime Minister’s Department, staffed by professional management analysts to ‘plan and guide the major programmes of administrative improvement’;

2. Improvement of the government’s education and training programme for all levels of the civil service;

3. Strengthen the professional competence of the MCS (Malayan Civil Service) “so that it can provide the necessary administrative leadership for this rapidly developing country.”

What is the result of this Montgomery-Esman blueprint to modernise the Malaysian administrative system?

As Dr. Mahathir said in April at the National Land Council meeting, 13 years after the much-publicised modernisation programme for the administrative service, the administration is still largely based on 19th century methods.

Dr. Mahathir’s reference to modern management techniques especially with regard to work-flow system were not unknown to the public administrators in the Sixties. But their implementation and modernization had been resisted and defeated by the MCS itself.

This explains why the Development Administration Unit, which was formed as the major organ for administrative modernisation, has today become a very ineffective body, with many of its responsibilities snatched away by other departments. The DAP, which was formed to abolish the Seven Deadly Sins of Administration, has itself fallen victim to one of the sins inter-departmental jealousy and warfare.

The INTAN, which was established following the Montgomery-Esman blueprint, to upgrade the professional and administrative competence of the MCS, is a failure, for a tree must be judged by its fruits, and here the fruits are the ’19th century methods’ despite 13 years of modernisation.

In the past two weeks, the people of Malaysia learnt of how top civil service officers and administrators bungled from job to job, and it is frightening to find many public administrators do not have a clue as to what is happening to the vast sums of public funds under their charge.

Only an outside study, a non-civil service study, on the reasons for the failure of the Montgomery-Esman modernisation blueprint can produce results, for the MCS has a vested interest to perpetuate its ’19th century methods’ and colonial mentality.

I call on the Prime Minister to institute such an outside, non-civil service study into the administrative system in the country. A Parliamentary Committee would be an appropriate vehicle, for a ’19th century’ civil as is illustrated service cannot serve the modern needs of Malaysians by endless examples – like the disastrous tinted glass regulations for motor vehicles; the deterioration of service and standards of administration as a backlog of 70,000 cases of transfers of ownership to heirs and survivors of deceased persons; land alienation cases still pending probably touching 100,000; letters take longer time to reach their destinations; phones and telexes ceasing to be a service and becoming a burden, etc.

People-Oriented Government should give first priority to the interests of the poor

After the general elections, the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, announced that the new government will be people-oriented. But the actual performance of the Barisan Nasional government at all levels belie this claim.

After the general elections, in many states, there was a massive campaign against the people.

In Johore for instance, the squatters, unlicensed hawkers and agriculturists who cultivate vegetables and crops on government land without permit became the targets of government action.

In Kluang, over 50 hawkers who had been hawking for some 18 year had their stalls demolished without the authorities giving them alternate hawking sites – completely regardless of whether these hawkers and their dependants have any source of livelihood!

In Batu Pahat, in Tanjong Laboh, over 2,000 acres of vegetable farm were destroyed by the authorities who refused to give time for the farmers to harvest their crops. And in Segamat, and for that matter, in Bentong in Pahang, in Kajang in Selangor, the authorities, demolished squatter huts without caring whether these poor people have any roof over their heads!

Yesterday, the Prime Minister during question time, said that a Social Justice division is being established under the Complaints Bureau – but when I asked him where is the social justice in government action against unlicensed hawkers, squatters and farmers cultivating illegally on government land without taking into account the need to provide alternative sites, or houses or land for cultivation for them, the Prime Minister said social justice was not a passport for the people to act against rules and procedures and the laws of the land, or there would be anarchy.

I am sad that the Prime Minister does not understand that legal justice does not necessarily mean social justice. The persecution and prosecution of unlicensed hawkers may be legal justice for the Government – it is clearly not social justice in the ordinary sense understood by common people.

A government which is people-oriented must be prepared to put social justice even above legal justice! We in the DAP are not defending but we stress that problems like squatters, unlicensed hawking or illegal farming are social problems and not criminal problems.

These problems arise because of the failure of the economic and social law-breakers policies and programmes of the government to provide jobs, shelter and land for the rakyat.

These problems must be dealt with social justice pre-eminent in the minds of the government, and not pre-occupation with strict enforcement of laws and procedures. Even more important, these social problems should not be treated on par with criminal matters like gangsterism, drug trafficking, exploitation of yellow culture, etc.

Yet, in Johore, after the general elections, the State Government launched a campaign to rid the State of the Seven Sins of Johore, which relisted as gangsterism, drug trafficking and abuse, exploitation of sex, subversive elements, unlicensed hawkers, illegal farming and squatters.

If this is the concept of the Barisan Nasional’s people-oriented government, clearly the Barisan Nasional government is not oriented to the people of the masses, but to the people of the elite!

If there is a greater sin in the country, it is corruption, especially corruption at high public and political levels – and not unlicensed hawkers. Squatters or unlicensed farming. But no, there is not special campaign against corruption, but there is a special campaign against the rakyat!

I call on the Prime Minister to give this grave matter his serious attention – for our overriding concern should be how to help and improve the lives of the ordinary people, and not how to make their lives more miserable!