The national budget has not occupied the first place of attention of Malaysians

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary – General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday, 23rd October 1978 on the 1979 Budget

For the first time, the national budget has not occupied the first place of attention of Malaysians

This is probably the first time that the national budget has not occupied the first place of attention of Malaysians. There are two main reasons for this.

FIRSTLY, despite the great pre – budget publicity build – up in the press about the many tax changes and reliefs that would be introduced by the Minister of Finance in the 1979 Budget, the actual budget has been somewhat of a let – down as the Finance Minister had not brought about drastic tax changes and reliefs to help the poor and low – income Malaysians to have more purchasing power and a higher standard of living.

The biggest disappointment of course has been the failure of the Finance Minister to increase income text reliefs, both for individuals and wife. At present, the income tax relief for an individual is $2,000 and relief for wife is $1,000. Under this scheme, a worker who earns $167 a month will have to start paying income tax.

The Finance Minister and his collegues do not seem to be able to appreciate that a $167 – a – month worker is a very different category of person from a $167 – a – month wage – earner 31 years old in 1947 when Income Tax laws were first introduced in the country.

In 1947, a person who earns $167 a month is a fairly high – grade and important person, who is equivalent to present purchasing power, to a person who is now drawing $800 a month or $10,000 a year, and who could not only support a big family, including aged parents, but also employ servants for the house.

In 1947, a person who earns $167 a month can afford to pay income tax but definitely not a person who earns $167 a month in 1978.

Yet in 1947, when income tax was first introduced, the relief for an individual was $3,000 and the relief for wife was $2,000. This was adjusted downwards to $2,000 for an individual and $1,000 for wife in 1960.

This present scale of income tax reliefs is most inequitable and hit the poor and low – income groups the hardest. I call on the Minister of Finance to take immediate steps to double the reliefs for individuals to $4,000 to and for wife to $2,000. The Finance Minister does not have to wait until the 1980 budget next October, for these changes could be effected by introduction of a mini – budget say early next year when Parliament debates the Mid – Term Review If the Third Malaysia Plan.

The increase in the income tax reliefs for children are so minute that one wonders whether the Finance Minister is aware of the costs of bringing up children. Probably, the Finance Minister is not aware, as he is still fetchingly single.

Educational tax rebate for Malaysian students studying abroad

It is also regrettable that the Finance Minister has not introduced innovations to relate the income tax laws to the national and social needs. For instance, the Government should grant tax reliefs or an educational rebate to Malaysians with less than $15,000 annual income to meet the educational expenditure of their children abroad, where their children could not get local university places. This should be considered both on grounds of equity – as this will help remove social injustice and make the lower – income Malaysians more able to compete with higher – income Malaysians; and on grounds of national interest – as this is a valuable form of national investment in human skills. I hope that in future budgets, this proposal of tax reliefs or educational rebate for Malaysians with less than $15,000

The loss of revenue in the above instances could be made up by higher income tax rates for the higher income brackets and more efficient collection of income tax and combating income tax evasion and avoidance.

Apart from the 50 per cent reduction in the import duty on fruits, which we in the DAP welcome and had right from the very start of imposition of high duty on foreign fruits called for, the other taxation variations are either inconsequential or benefit the well – to – do class. It is probably no surprise, considering the class which Barisan Nasional MPs derive from, that the tax change which received the greatest applause and table – thumping was Tengku Razaleigh’s announcement that import duties for cosmetics and perfumery was being reduced from 60% to 45%.

But I think what the overwhelming majority of Malaysians are more interested about is why the prices of essential commodities have not been brought down, especially with regard to sugar.

Calls on Government to give satisfactory explanation why retail price of sugar has not been reduced despite re – negotiation of sugar agreement with Australia

The Malaysian Government’s sugar deal with Australia has so far been blanketed in secrecy. All that the people knows is that although the world price of raw sugar has plummeted, Malaysians have still to pay 65 cents a kati for sugar in Peninsular Malaysia and 70 cents for Sabah and Sarawak – the price reached at the height of sugar price in 1975.

According to the Treasury Report, in the first 6 months of 1978 a total of 160,615 tonnes of raw sugar valued at $85.1 million was imported compared to 157,262 tonnes valued at $101.5 million in the same period of 1977. The import unit value at about $550 per tone was about 18% lower than that of the corresponding period of 1977 due to the general decline in the world sugar price as a result of the current world – wide sugar surplus. Yet, this saving of some $20 million in the import of raw sugar in the first six months of 1978 has not been passed on to the consumers, especially the poor!

In 1975, Malaysia entered into a long – term supply contract with Australia to buy 1.65 million tonnes of sugar from Queensland over a period of six years up to 1980 at a starting price of $814.50 per tonne. The Malaysian public were given the impression that this long – term supply agreement was a great achievement, and which was entered into to maintain the retail price of sugar.

With the world fall in the price of raw sugar, and sugar surplus, this long – term supply contract with Australia has proved to be an expensive disaster. Malaysian Ministers and officials made threatening noises about grave damage to Malaysia – Australia trade and other relations unless this long – term supply contract was re-negotiated. This was achieved in March 1978. But now, we are told that although the Australian sugar contract has been re-negotiated, and more reasonable terms obtained from the Australian sugar suppliers, the sugar retail price remains unchanged because it is the new agreement which will enable the Government to maintain the retail price of refined sugar in Malaysia. But meanwhile, the sugar refineries in the last two years, like Malayan Sugar Manufacturing Bhd. (MSM) and the Central Sugar Berhad (CSB) are chalking up big profits.

The Malaysian public have a right to know whether the Malaysian Government was representing the interests of the sugar refineries, or the Malaysian people, when it re-negotiated the sugar contract with the Australian Government; as the only beneficiaries of the sugar re-negotiation are the refineries, and not the rakyat.

I call on the Minister of Trade and Industry to give a detailed explanation, with facts of and figures, of prices of the sugar agreements before and after the re-negotiations, and the profit levels of the sugar refineries in Malaysia, to convince Malaysian people that they are not playing higher price for retail sugar just to enabled the sugar refineries to make bigger profits.

The Malaysian rakyat has also a right to know at whose folly and short – sightedness they have to continue to pay for expensive sugar when all over the world, they people elsewhere are getting cheap sugar.

Unfair, undemocratic and one – sided ban on Merdeka University meeting undermine public confidence in democratic process and will adversely affect economy

The other reason why the budget did not occupy the first place of national attention is because of the unreasonable exercise of executive and police power last Thursday. The government ban on the proposed Merdeka University meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 22 was highly unfair, undemocratic and one – sided.

As the Home Affairs Minister, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, admitted to directors of Merdeka University Sdn. Bhd. when he called them up for a meeting on Oct. 19 – the Merdeka University directors were roused from bed at midnight or the early hours of that morning to be informed of the meeting with the Minister – the Merdeka University meeting would be lawful and disciplined. What the Minister feared was that the meeting would lead to counter – meeting which would be a threat to public order and national security.

If this was the case, then it is these ‘counter – meetings’ which should 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 constitutes 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 contention. The biggest threat to public order and national security are these irresponsible political leaders who ran emotional and racial feelings by picturing the Merdeka University as a threat to Malay interests.

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

In Malaysia, we 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.

This can only deeper the despair and disillusionment of substantial sections of the reputation in the legal, democratic and constitutional processes – and this clearly cannot be beneficial to economic development and progress.

The Merdeka University Council has sent a cable to the Prime Minister, and I hope the Prime Minister would intervene to life the ban on the meeting imposed by the chief Police Officer who invoked the Internal Security Act regulations.

The reason given the Ministry of Home Affairs that the Merdeka University issue would be debated by Parliament is no valid ground for imposing the ban. Parliament does not operate in a vacuum. There is no law or constitutional convention to say that issues cannot be discussed by the public just because there is a parliamentary motion on it.

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, whether before or after Parliamentary deliberation or decision on the matter.

For the interests of racial harmony, it is vital and essential that immediate opportunities be furnished to allow for instance the Merdeka University authorities to explain and communicate to the Malay community that the Merdeka University does not constitute a threat to the rights, interests 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 misperceptions about Merdeka University; but even more important, for the longer – term understanding and harmony of the various races in the country.

Only 1 per cent of Malaysia’s university age group receives higher education

In the Chapter on socio – economic indicators on the Quality of Life in Malaysia (Chapter VI) in the 1978 – 79 Treasury Report, Table TV, Malaysia compares very unfavourably with other countries in terms of the percentage of university age group who are enrolled in higher education institutes.

Thus for the year 1975, only 3% of the university – age group aged 20 – 24 in Malaysia are enrolled in the higher education institutes; compared to 8% in Singapore; 20% in Philippines; 10% in the Republic of Korea; 22% in Australia and 25% in Japan. Only Thailand has a smaller percentage with only 2%.

Clearly, there is room and need for a doubling of higher education opportunities in our own country – either through public funds by expansion of existing universities and establishment of new universities; or the establishment of private universities.

The Government is spending $1,943 million for education from the operating expenditure of $8,709 million for 1979; but equally worthy of note is that security itself will appropriate a comparable figure of $1,924 million.

These are clearly too massive an expenditure on security sector, which not only has within it the seeds of a future military take – over in the future, future, but which money would be more profitably spent on education and other social services. I am not advocating a neglect of the importance of security and defence in our country – but finally, the surest foundation and assurance of security in Malaysia is to have a united, contented and happy Malaysian citizenry, rather in the billions spent on defence hardwares and cantonments.

I believe that the siphoning of expenditures from security sector to provide jobs for jobless, houses for homeless and land for landless, and educational opportunities for the educational denied, will do more to strengthen the national resilience than the over – massive expenditure on the security sector alone.

Call for a $25 million fund a year for maintaining, renovating Chinese primary school buildings

The Finance Minister, in his budget speech, said that a sum of $421 million is allocated to provide for 6,968 classrooms in primary education and 4,483 secondary classrooms. I have found over the years that the Chinese primary schools face great difficulties in getting funds and support from the Education Ministry to renew, maintain and renovate school facilities and buildings. In this connection, I call for the establishment of a standing fund of $25 million a year for the specific purpose of maintaining and renovating Chinese primary school buildings and facilities.

Another recurrent complaint by parents is the refusal of the Ministry of Education to build Chinese primary schools in areas where there is a demand, for instance in Petaling Jaya, where in fact, there should be two new Chinese primary schools. When I was in Sibu recently, there was also complaints about the need for a new Chinese primary school there.

When I was in Sarawak, I found that the Chinese primary schools faced many obstacles in opening 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 One and School (3), for instance, had requested for one additional class each to be opened up; but this was refused; instead Chung Hwa School (2) which did not ask for any increase in classes, was told to open up two new classes. But as it had no spare classrooms, Chung Hwa School II had to borrow and use two classrooms from Chung Hwa School (1). What type of bureaucratic nonsense is this?

Before I leave education, I would ask the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, to explain the conflicting figures he gave on university student intake for the current academic year. During question time on Oct. 10, 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 who which 4,400 were successful, with the following racial breakdown: Bumiputras 2,881; Chinese 1,210 and Indians and others 309.

However, later the same day, when speaking on my motion to 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 the Minister could reconcile and explain these conflicting figures.

Call for removal of pepper export duty to help pepper farmers in Sarawak

When I visited Sarawak at the end of last month, I met pepper farmers who belong to a very poor and hard-working lot. During the recent general elections, they were promised that there would be a 60 per cent reduction in the export duty of pepper to help pepper farmers. This got the Sarawak Barisan Nasional, and in particular SUPP, a lot of votes. But when the details of the change in the pepper export duty was announced, the pepper farmers found that they had been taken for a ride.

For all practical purposes, the pepper farmers had not benefited from the export duty change, but had been adversely affected by it. Although it is true that after July 20,1978, the dutiable price for black pepper is now above $110 per picul instead of $40 per picul, while that of white pepper is above $130 compared to 455 per picul previously, this is no great improvement. The reason is that when the price of black pepper is $40 per picul or white pepper at the price of $55 per picul, the pepper farmers would not be able to recover their costs of production, and would have gone bankrupt.

Under the revised export duty for pepper, the rate went up as high as 50 per cent, or in other words, after a certain market price, the government collects 50 cents from every dollar. From what I understand, when this price level is reached attracting a 50% export levy, the pepper farmer’s income is only about $250 to $300 a month. How can the government, which claims be committed to wipe out poverty, have the social conscience to impose a 50 per cent tax on such a category of farmers? Under income tax laws, the government imposes 50 per cent incidence of tax only where a taxpayer’s income exceeds $50,000 a year, or over $4,000 a month. But for pepper farmers, who make $250 a month, they have to pay export duty of 50 per cent for their product – without yet deducting fertiliser and labour costs!

My meeting with the pepper farmers have convinced me that the government should give special consideration to the pepper farmers to help them stand on their own feet. Pepper cultivators face many problems and high risks in their planting efforts – the most common of which is the fatal pepper disease such as ‘foot rot’. In Sarikei, the pepper death rate because of ‘Foot – Rot’ Disease is as high as 40 per cent. I met many who were previous pepper cultivators, but whose crops had been wiped out by foot – rot disease, and who lost not only their meagre savings invested in the pepper vines, but who are reduced to destitution.

As far as I know, the Government has no special grant or help for pepper cultivators whose plants have been wiped out by ‘Foot – Rot’ Disease. And although there is a Pepper Subsidy Scheme in Sarawak, I understand its implementation is most unsatisfactory and irregular. There are genuine pepper cultivators who could not get subsidy because the land in is not in their names – while the subsidy is distributed as if by way of lottery through chance.

Pepper takes two – years of gestation period, and if on the third year or fourth year, the pepper vines are all wiped out by disease, clearly acute poverty is caused. It is because of the high risk nature of pepper cultivation that there are no large pepper estates. Pepper cultivators put in their labour in family – units to cultivate the vines – and until pepper cultivation is more secure in the sense of prevention of ‘foot – rot’ diseases discovered, the government should help them in all way possible.

The pepper farmers would prefer this aid in the form of an abolition of the pepper export tax – for this accrue directly to the benefit of the pepper farmers; rather than the pepper subsidy scheme which is sometimes inequitably distributed, and the genuine farmers do not enjoy the benefit.

I am sure that my call for an abolition of the pepper export tax will get the support of the Minister of Agriculture for Sarawak, who I am sure will support what I have raised on behalf of the Sarawak pepper farmers.

Calls for Waiver of 25% Customs import duty, 5% surtax and 5% Sales Tax for stationary and marine diesel engine which are over 100 horse power

I have been asked by the people of Sarawak to ask the Finance Minister to waive the 25% customs import duty, 5% surtax and 5% Sales Tax on stationary diesel engines and marine diesel engines which are over 100 horsepower, first imposed on 16th November 1972.

Although two assembly plants in Peninsular Malaysia assemble “Lister” and “Yanmar” stationary and marine diesel engines, they do not assemble engines over 100 horsepower. The imposition of 25% customs import duty, 5% surtax and 5% sales tax on engines over 100 horsepower is unfair and unreasonable in East Malaysia, because:

1. Sabah and Sarawak are still far backward and least developed in terms of road communications;

2. A lot of machineries are required to assist in the development of both states, whether in terms of more industries to create jobs or to raise the standard of living of the people.

3. 80% of communications in Sarawak is still dependent on waterways which is the cheapest means of transportation.

I therefore urge the Finance Minister to waive the 25% customs import duty, 5% surtax and 5% sales tax on stationary and marine diesel engines of over 100 horsepower until they are locally assembled.

Call for a public inquiry into public transportation in Malaysia

The Finance Minister, in announcing reduction of excise duty on buses from 15% to 5%, and the reduction of the engine tax of buses by 25% and the abolition of the passenger seat tax, said that these steps were aimed at improving public transport service, especially in the urban areas.

The public transport service is not likely to be improved by such pious hopes. I still remember that last year, when the Government buckled down to public transport pressures to increase bus fares, the Acting Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed defended the bus fare increase by asserting that the bus fare increases were given with conditions for improved bus services.

The bus services had not improved in any degree.

Clearly, the problem of public transport requires a deep – seated and comprehensive study, the reasons why bus companies had not modernised their fleet of buses – whether the reasons were merely because of the presence of taxes, or because of other factors more intractable which are the creation of the government bureaucracy.

Public transport, especially in the urban areas, is one of the basic amenities facilities and services for the low – income salaried workers, but there must not only be a cheap, system but an efficient one. The present public transport system, where Malaysians have to rush and cram into buses and mini – buses is a disgrace to the Ministry of Transport.

There have never been an intensive study into the public transport system, and I call on the government to commission a public inquiry into the entire public transport system to ensure that the main towns will enjoy cheap, efficient and courteous public transport service.

State Housing Unit a step in right direction

During the Second Malaysia Plan Mid – Term Review Debate in November 1973, I called for the establishment of a separate Ministry of Housing to grapple with the serious problem of housing shortage for the low income groups in the country.

A housing Ministry has been formed, but the back of housing shortage for the low – income people has not yet been broken. There is a need for both the Federal and State Government to demonstrate by deeds and low – cost houses built that they are committed to providing a shelter for every Malaysian.

The announcement by the Finance Minister that the Federal Government has directed that each State Government should establish its own State Housing unit is therefore to be welcomed as a step in the right direction. This in itself would not be enough, for the state Housing Units should be able to spearhead the crash building of low – cost housing in their respective states for the poor, which has been too long neglected especially in the town areas.

Call for Parliamentary Committee on administrative reforms to upgrade efficiency and productivity of all Ministries and public authorities

The budget for 1979 amounts of $13,570 million made up of $8,709 million for Operating Expenditure and $4,861 million for development expenditure. The Federal Government is expected to invest another $94.1 million in 1978, bringing the total Federal Government investments in public authorities and companies to $1,130 million, while gross Federal government lendings to state governments, state economic development corporations, public authorities and companies is estimated at about $1,080 in 1978.

These vast sums of public funds raises not only the problem of the implementation capacity of the Federal government, but also the administrative competence of the administrative machinery.

The government has announced that it had launched a programme to modernize the systems and tools of the entire government machinery. The record and history of the administrative service, however, does not hold out much promise that there would be major administrative improvements. The case of Bank Rakyat is also a case of administrative default. by the Federal Government.

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 date – bank system 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 has 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.”

Professor 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 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 improvements;

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 modernisation had been resisted and defeated by the MCS itself.

This explained 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 DAU, which was formed to abolish the Seven Deadly Sins of Administration, has itself fallen victim to one of the sins – interdepartmental 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 and reforms.

In the past few weeks, the people of Malaysia have learnt of how top civil service officers and administrators bungle 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 ’19 th century’ civil service cannot serve the modern needs of Malaysians – as is illustrated by endless examples – like the unthinkable tinted glass regulations for motor vehicles early this year; the deterioration of service and standards of administration as seen by 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 (e.g. a letter from Alor Star to Penang takes 3 days); phones and telexes have ceased to be a service but a burden and daily frustration, etc.

People – oriented government should give first priority to the interests of poor

After the general elections, the Prime Minister Datuk Hussein Onn announced that the new government will be people oriented. And as the Finance Minister repeated in his budget address, the government had pledged “to enhance the quality of life of all citizens, and in particular the poor, through the expansion of education, health services, housing, transportation and social amenities.”

But the actual performance of the Barisan Nasional government at all levels believe this claims.

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 years 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 in Bentong, Pahang, in Kajang in Selangor, the authorities demolished squatter huts without caring whether these poor people have any roof over their head.

During question time a few days ago, when the Prime Minister announced that a Social Justice Division is being established under the Complaints Bureau, 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 to anarchy or for people to act against rules and procedures and the laws of the land.

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 doing legal justice to the Government – but it is clearly not doing social justice in the ordinary sense of the word to the 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 law-breakers, but we stress that problem like squatters, unlicensed hawking or illegal farming are social problems and not criminal problems. These problems arise because of the failures of the economic and social policies and programes of the government to provide jobs, shelter and land for the rakyat.

These problems must be dealt with the concept of social justice pre-eminent in the minds of the government, and not 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 sex, 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 are listed as gangsterism, drug trafficking and abuse, exploitation of sex, subversive elements, unlicensed hawkers, illegal farming and squatters.

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

If there is a greater sin in the country, it is corruption, especially corruption in high public and political places – and not unlicensed hawkers, squatters and unlicensed farmers. But no, there is not special campaign against corruption, but there is a special campaign against the rakyat.

The government should give this grave matter 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!