DAP ‘obstacle to national unity’?

(Speech by the Parliamentary Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the First 1979 Supplementary Development Estimates on March 29, 1979)

In presenting this first 1979 supplementary development estimates, amounting to $2,954 million, the items which stand out are the proposed increases in expenditures for defence and security purposes. The Government is asking for approval for a hefty $372 million increase for the Ministry of Defence and another $306 million for police, bringing increased expenditures for these two heads to $678 million.

These two items represent 23% of the first development supplementary estimates. This means that out of every dollar that we are spending out of the $2,954 million we are being asked to approve today, 23 cents will be on defence and security. In contrast, education in the first 1979 development estimates is only a paltry $29 million, or 1% of the supplementary development estimates. This means that for every dollar of the supplementary development estimates, only one cent goes to education.

This clearly shows a lop-sided and misplacement of priorities on the part of the government. Is the great increase of expenditure in security and defence because of the developments in Indo-China, the Vietnamese intervention in Kampuchea, and the recent establishment of the Indo-Chinese military juggernaut bringing Kampuchea and Laos under Vietnamese control?

These are undoubtedly disturbing developments on which Malaysia must take a clear stand, and must unequivocally demand the withdrawal of all foreign troops in Indo-China, and in particular the withdrawal of Vietnamese troops from Kampuchea, where it is clearly playing the role of the new aggressor.

But the internal security, resilience and solidarity of the country cannot depend on spending more and more on defence. In fact, over-expenditure on defence can become counter-productive where it deprives expenditures in essential areas like education, social and economic development, which must build the first and most important line of defence to any threat to the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.

The allocation of 23% of the first development estimates of $2,954 million to military and security, while only 1% to education, is a great disappointment to all Malaysians who had looked forward to revision of Third Malaysia Plan expenditures to see the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, fulfilling his promise made to this House on December 11 to increase non-Malay intake into the five local universities.

The unsatisfactory reply given by the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, on March 19, to my question as to how the Government would increase the intake of non-Malay students into the five local universities, and the woefully meagre provision for increased expenditures for education, especially higher education, as seen in the supplementary development estimates, have only raised profound doubts as to whether the Educaticon Minister’s solemn pledge on December 11 would be honoured.

The speech by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohd, yesterday when winding up the debate on the Mid-Term Review of the Third Malaysia Plan, attacking me for not drawing the attention of the Education Minister and the Government to the importance of their fulfilling the December 11 pledge to increase the intake of non-Malay students, is even more disturbing. For the Barisan Nasional Government appeared to be preparing the ground for branding those who criticise the Government for not fulfilling the December 11 pledge to increase the intake of non-Malay students into the local universities as “anti-national”, blissfully ignoring the fact that government policies which create national division are the real enemies of Malaysia!

In fact, the entire speech by the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday was a most irresponsible and unfortunate one. He accused the DAP, and I myself, as the biggest obstacle to national unity. If Dr. Mahathir genuinelv wants to find out the biggest obstacle to national unity, he should look in the mirror, and he will find the person- especially with the type of speeches that he made, like the one yesterday.

The DAP is prepared to dissolve, and I withdraw from politics, if Dr. Mahathir can convince us and the people that we are the ‘obstacles’ to Malaysian national unity. I challenge Dr. Mahathir to show where in my speech during the debate on the Mid-Term Review of the Third Malaysia Plan had I espoused or preached racialism.

Dr. Mahathir had given as an example my speech on the need for increased intake for non-Malay students.

This is what I said during the Mid-Term Review debate:

“The reply that the Minister of Education has given on Monday to my question as to what steps the Minister has taken to implement his assurance has not pleased anybody.

“Let me inform the Minister of Education that public expectation on his fulfilling his promise is very high. In fact, to the non-Malays, the government decision on the intake of university students for the new academic year would be a test case of the Government’s commitment to forge ahead towards a multi-racial Malaysia. In all sincerity and humility, I urge the Minister of Education to keep faith and not to break the government’s solemn undertaking.

“Nobody wants to or expects the Minister of Education to reduce by one single place the government’s proposed intake of Malay students into the universities. Malaysians, including non-Malays, do not begrudge the provision of special assistance to Malay students to attain university education. All that they ask is that, without depriving any Malay student of university place, the Government should provide university educational opportunities for non-Malay students. It is short-sighted and self-defeating to try to solve old injustices and inequalities by creating now injustices and inequalities.”

To Dr. Mahathir, the above extract is a blatant preaching of racialism. I am very disappointed with Dr. Mahathir, for we had all hoped that he had matured and mellowed in his years of office to acquire a more multi-racial outlook and approach.

One strong plea, which has clearly been rejected by the Deputy Prime Minister, is that the restructuring of Malaysian society must work towards the objective of Malaysian-isation and not Malay-isation, or Chinese-isation or Indian-isation!

To Dr. Mahathir, those who plead for more places to be given to non-Malay students, without depriving one single Malay student of a place in the local universities, are ‘racialists’, but those who oppose more local university places being given to non-Malays are ‘patriots’!

To Dr. Mahathir, those who urge a Malaysian, multi-racial approach to the problems of the country are ‘racialists’, while those who want a racial approach, like the taking down of non-Malay road names, are ‘patriots’!

Let me inform the Deputy Prime Minister that if this is his approach to problems of Malaysian nation building, then as the Deputy Prime Minister and potential Prime Minister, he will become the biggest obstacle to Malaysian national unity. I call on him, for the good of Malaysia and the people of Malaysia of all races, to examine himself as to whether his speeches, actions and policy preferences have indeed become major obstacle to the fostering of a multi-racial Malaysian identity, consciousness and nationalism.

Dr. Mahathir has tried to put the failures of Barisan Nasional’s nation building policies on the DAP’s shoulders, even declaring that the DAP and I are the biggest obstacles to national unity, and that without the DAP and I, national unity would have succeeded.

If Dr. Mahathir’s diagnosis of the ills of Malaysian nation-building is correct, then the solution is very easy. Ban the DAP, and put me in the detention camp- and hey presto! like magic, national unity in Malaysia is created.

I respect Dr. Mahathir’s intellect and mind too much to think he really believes in such nonsense. I have no doubt that there are people in the Barisan Nasional leadership who want to resort to such actions for short-term political considerations, and who might use these arguments as excuses.

The Barisan Nasional Government, and in particular the Deputy Prime Minister, should know that the reasons and root causes for national disunity, and failure to build national consciousness and identity, is because of the Government policies and measures of the last 22 years -which have made the people of different races and classes to become more apart from each other.

The solution lies in reviewing and modifying these policies, in educating each race towards greater Malaysian consciousness and identity.

Dr. Mahathir has distorted my speech in the Mid-Term Review debate and made a baseless accusation in alleging that the DAP is differentiating Malays and non-Malays into first-class and second-class citizens.

He said that patriotic citizens have a right to tell unpatriotic citizen to leave the country. Let me ask Dr. Mahathir, who decides who is patriotic, and who is unpatriotic?

Are all critics of the Barisan Nasional, all DAP MPs, and the 700,000 voters who voted for the DAP in the general elections last year, unpatriotic’, and could be told to leave Malaysia?

Can Dr. Mahathir define ‘patriotism’ in this context, as to whether ‘patriotism’ is to Malaysia as a multi-racial nation, or to Malaysia as a land for the Malays, or for the Chinese, or for the Indians?

If the Barisan Nasional government accepts that Malaysia is founded as a multi-racial nation, then clearly those who do not accept multi-racial policies and approaches to Malaysian development are not ‘patriotic’ to Malaysia; those who reject a policy of Malaysianisation propounded by the DAP are not ‘patriotic’ to Malaysia. Then, following Dr. Mahathir’s argument, these type of citizens should be told to leave Malaysia, so that only Malaysian citizens who accept the multi-racial basis of Malaysia are left in peace in the country.

Dr. Mahathir’s speech yesterday has damaged inter-racial relations in the country. If this was Dr. Mahathir’s intention, then I have nothing to add, but to let the people make their own judgement. But if that was not Dr. Mahathir’s intention, then I hope he would accept the need for him and for the Government to desist from a course of confrontation, and embark on a special effort, at building a new consensus among the various peoples to foster national unity.

We in the DAP have made personal and political sacrifices because we believe that the nation-building policies and measures pursued in the country are wrong, and we believe that as citizens, we have the responsibility to try to put things right. The sacrifices that DAP leaders, members and supporters are making are the very proof of ‘patriotism’ and loyalty to a multi-racial Malaysia.

Dr. Mahathir should not make political capital for the sake of scoring political points and gaining greater popularity, in disregard of the harm to the future of the country.

I urge him to give deeper thought to the problems of nation disunity, and find new solutions to deal with the problem. The DAP prepared to give assistance and contribution in any search for new answer and solutions to national unity, but we will not be cowed or intimidated into silence by threats or the tactics of political distortion or character assassination.