Government ban on Merdeka University 22nd Oct. meeting highly unfair, undemocratic and one – sided

Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary – General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in Parliament House on Friday, 20.10.1978 at 3 p.m.

Government ban on Merdeka University 22nd Oct. meeting highly unfair, undemocratic and one – sided

The Government ban on the Oct. 22 meeting of Merdeka University is highly unfair, undemocratic and one – sided.

As the Home Affairs Minister, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, admitted the Oct. 22 meeting called by the Merdeka University Sdn. Bhd. is lawful – but because the Merdeka University authorities intended to proceed with the lawful meeting, the Ministry of Home Affairs has banned it on grounds of ‘public order and national security’.

It is all the more strange that the Ministry of Home Affairs statement, in announcing the ban, called on “all quarters to uphold the rule of law to ensure peace and security of the people.”

Clearly, a lawful meeting like the one on Oct. 22, to pursue legal and constitutionally – sanctioned objectives, is completely within the province of the rule of law; and it will be those who wish, for reaso ns of their own, to use the Oct. 22 meeting as an excuse to pursue their unlawful and unconstitutional actions who should come within the strictures of the Ministry of Home Affairs for not upholding the rule of law.

We in Malaysia seemed to have come to a stage where the pursuit of legal, constitutionally – sanctioned objectives by lawful, democratic and constitutional means has become a threat to public order and national security.

In this meeting with the Merdeka University Council members yesterday, the Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, said that although the Oct. 22 Merdeka University could be ‘smoothly’ held, it might trigger off counter – meetings leading to a threat to public order and national security.

If this is the case, it is these counter – meetings which must be banned, especially as there is no reason for any such counter – meetings at all.

For reasons best known to themselves, some irresponsible political leaders had allowed sections of the people to believe that the proposed Merdeka University ponstitutes a grave threat to the rights and interests of the Malays, when there is not a single iota of evidence that could be given to support this impression. The biggest threats to public order and national security are these irresponsible political leaders who fan emotional and racial feelings by picturing the Merdeka University as a threat to Malay interests!

Malaysians from all over the country who would be attending the Oct. 22 meeting have one common objective – not to threaten any other race or community, not to unite to deprive or rob others of their rights, interests or places in society; but to pursue their legal and constitutionally – sanctioned rights by lawful, constitutional, democratic and peaceful means.

When in the past, there had been several Bumiputra Economic Congresses, nobody objected and complained that this would pose a threat to public order national security; why should this time, the Merdeka University meeting be treated so summarilly and cavaliorly.

The ban of the Oct. 22 meeting, which the Home Affairs Minister has admitted would be ‘lawful’ and ‘smoothly’ conducted, without convincing reasons, can only contribute to greater despair and disillusionment with the legal, democratic and constitutional processes. This surely, cannot be healthy for the legal, democratic and constitutional development of our country.

One reason given by Ministry of Home Affairs for the ban is that the Merdeka University issue would be debated by Parliament. But Parliament does not operate in a vacuum. There is not only no law to say that issues cannot be discussed either before Parliamentary deliberations, or after Parliamentary deliberations. In fact, if democracy means anything, it must mean that there must be opportunities and processes for the people to participate in a national debate on questions of national concern outside Parliament, to guide Parliament, and whether before or after the matter had gone up to Parliament for deliberation or decision.

For the interests of racial harmony, it is vital and essential that immediate opportunities be furnished to allow the persons involved, like the Merdeka University authorities, to explain and communicate to the Malay community that the Merdeka University does not constitute a threat to the rights, interest or place of the Malays, and that the Merdeka University is not meant to threaten Malay interests. So far, this important point has never been allowed to reach the Malay community especially through the mass media.

I call on the Prime Minister to give this matter urgent attention – so that through radio, television and the Malay press, the impression that is being spread that Merdeka University is mooted to threaten Malay rights and interests can be countered and clarified. This is not only for the purpose of rectifying the misperception about Merdeka University; but even important, for the longer – term understanding and harmony of the various races in the country.

I regret very much that the ban on Oct. 22 has also denied me of the opportunity to hear the views of representatives from all over the country on the question of Merdeka University – for a MP does not operate in a mental vacuum, but must keep in constant touch with the people. But before the Parliamentary debate on my Merdeka University motion in mid – December, I hope to be able to meet as representative a cross – section of the leaders who would have been represented in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 22 to discuss this undoubtedly, very important issue.

It may be too late to get the Government to change its decision to allow the Merdeka University meeting on Oct. 22 to go on as scheduled. But, it is my hope that the Government would re – consider the decision and allow the Merdeka University Sdn. Bhd. to have a meeting of the representatives of the over 4,000 organisations either end of October or in November.

When the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, announced the government rejection of the Merdeka University petition at the UMNO General Assembly, the MCA Central Executive Committee met for five hours on Sept. 23, and announced that it had instructed its Ministers to take up the Merdeka University issue up at the Cabinet. Is the ban on the Oct. 22 meeting the result of the MCA Ministers’ raising the Merdeka University in the Cabinet.

I believe that the Merdeka University meeting of all the 4,000 – plus organisations can still be held if the component parties in the Barisan are prepared to publicly take a courageous stand that the Meeting should be allowed. In this connection, I ask all the parties in the Barisan, whether UMNO, MCA, MIC, Gerakan, SUPP, Berjaya, USNO, SNAP, PBB, PPP Ministers, MPs and leaders to declare whether they support or oppose the ban on the Oct. 22 meeting, and whether they would join the DAP in urging that such a meeting should be allowed, probably for November.