Call on Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, to convene an emergency Parliament meeting on the unending influx of Vietnamese refugees/illegal immigrants

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, when declaring open the First DAP Selangor State Annual Convention held at Transport Workers’ Union Hall on Sunday, 8th July 1979 at 10 a.m.

Call on Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, to convene an emergency Parliament meeting on the unending influx of Vietnamese refugees/illegal immigrants before the International Conference on the Indo-Chinese Refugees in Geneva on July 20 and July 21.

The world community has too long allowed Vietnam to get away with its barbaric and uncivilized policy of extorting blood money and exporting refugees, conducting with impunity a blatant policy of racism and genocide, which should have goaded the international community into drastic action against the Vietnamese regime, both in the United Nations and outside.

The reason why the world community had been so slow in reacting to the barbaric policy of Vietnam in sending hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, both of Chinese and Vietnamese descent, on unsafe boats into the high seas where it has been estimated that 50 per cent drowned without reaching land, was because of the admiration the people of the world had for the Vietnamese in putting up a valiant fight for independence in the face of the might of American superpower.

This moral capital which the Vietnamese had acquired in the world conscience, arising from a puny nation going through a generation of warfare and sufferings and sacrifices for independence against American super-power intervention, made the people and the nations of the world hesitant in voicing their reservations and even moral horrors at the initial period of Vietnamese inhuman policy in exporting refugees.

But this moral capital of the Vietnamese had been completely frittered away, with Vietnam demonstrating that the early inhuman and barbaric policy sending out hundreds of thousands into the high seas to face death or abject human indignity and suffering was not a temporary aberration, but a deliberate and cold-blooded state policy.

Vietnam has forfeited the admiration and whatever moral standing it has enjoyed in the world.

With the several hundreds of thousands who had been forced to seek a new life or death in the high seas, it is a conservative estimate that over a hundred thousand’s had been sent to deaths in a watery grave by the Vietnamese regime, and the blood of these hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths must be on the Vietnamese regime.

Instead of running away from Vietnam, if these several hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, both of Chinese and Vietnamese descent, had stayed back in Vietnam to fight for their rights to bring about internal changes in the country, even if they had died, it would have been more worthwhile and would have effected modifications in the inhuman Vietnam policy. This would have been a more purposive thing to do than to be forced out, with all savings extorted, and with a high rate of refugees died from drowning in the high seas.

If there is a lesson Malaysians can learn from the tragedy of the Vietnamese refugees, it is that as citizens, we have our rights and responsibilities which we must be prepared to exercise and shoulder, to determine our own destiny and that of our country. If we allow our rights to be trampled upon, then we forfeit too the right to a say as to our own future and the future of the coming generations.

It is essential that Malaysia and the ASEAN countries should take a determined and united stand to bring international pressure to bear on Vietnam, and Soviet Russia, to end this ‘New Barbarism’ of the 20th Century, not only because of its inhumanity, but because of the social, economic, political and security problems it posed for ASEAN nations.

In view of the seriousness of this unending influx of Vietnamese refugees/illegal immigrants on Malaysia and the ASEAN countries, the DAP calls on the Prime Minister to convene an emergency meeting of Parliament to have a special debate on this matter, before the International Conference on the Indo-Chinese Refugees to be held in Geneva on July 20 and July 21.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, introduced and emergency motion to be debated on the MAS-AEU dispute, which became an international crisis because of the mishandling of a simple employer-employee wage dispute. The problem of the Vietnamese refugees/illegal immigrants is many times more important than the MAS-AEU industrial dispute, and there can be no reason why Parliament should not be summoned into emergency session.

It is most regrettable that in the June meeting of Parliament, I twice tried to cause an emergency Parliament debate on the Vietnamese refugees/illegal immigrants, but was sabotaged on the second occasion by of all persons the UMNO Member of Parliament for Tanah Merah – who clearly showed he was not concerned about the Vietnamese refugee/illegal immigrant problem.

2. DAP calls on Government to introduce National Service to train Malaysian youths to defend Malaysia

The situation in South East Asia, with the massing of Vietnamese troops at the Thai-Vietnam and Thai-Khmer Borders, have become very unstable and fluid. The UMNO Youth Leader, Haji Suhaimi, has called on the Government to beef up armed forces in the country.

However, Malaysian leaders should realize that the defense of Malaysia is not merely a matter of beefing up armed forces or increasing military expenditures – but even more important, of upgrading the resilience of the people through inculcating greater unity and popular capability to stand and fight for the country’s security.

In this connection, the DAP calls on the Government to introduce a National Service to train Malaysian youths to defend Malaysia. This will not only be an excellent crucible to weld the youths of various races into one Malaysian entity, but also provide opportunities for Malaysian youths to equip themselves with the knowledge and know-how of defending Malaysia from external threats.

3. Government should review policies on education which retard national unity and undermine Malaysia’s resilience in the face of external threats

At a stage when South East Asia is in turmoil, with war clouds looming ever larger over the skies, it is imperative that Malaysia should review nation building policies, especially in the field of education, which retard national unity and undermine Malaysia’s resilience in the face of external threats coming from the Indo-China direction.

Whether the Barisan Nasional Government wants to admit or not, it is an undeniable fact that education, and in particular, the problem of higher education opportunities for Malaysian students, have become the single most divisive issue in the country. To let this problem deteriorate without solving it, is to permit a serious factor of disunity fester and further undermine Malaysia’s defense resilience in the face of a very unstable South East Asia.

There have been too many reasons why non-Malay students should not get more places in the local universities – to the extent that frustration and discontent in Malaysia have been allowed to grow unchecked.

The UMNO Youth Leader, Haji Suhaimi, said at the UMNO Youth Assembly last Thursday he failed to understand why there were political parties which “failed to accept in good faith the two percent increase of non-bumiputra student intake to local universities this year.” Haji Suhaimi went on : “I do not understand why those who are getting more should feel discontented. The ones who rightly should feel discontented are those who are getting less or those who are surrendering the two per cent to others.”

Haji Suhaimi wants to give the impression that a great magnanimous act had been done by the Barisan Nasional Government with a 2% increase of non-Malay university student intake, when in fact it was a breach of the solemn pledge given by the Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, on Dec. 11 in Parliament last year to significantly increase non-Malay student intake into local universities.

What Haji Suhaimi should understand is that nobody is asking for magnanimity from anyone. What the people of Malaysia are asking, are for their rights.

No non-Malay Malaysian begrudges or complains about the number of university places given to Malay students. Why should Haji Suhaimi and other UMNO leaders complain or be unhappy about university places being given to non-Malay student. If the government is not prepared to build more universities or expand more higher education places, then why should UMNO and UMNO Youth leaders obstruct the Malaysian people from establishing universities to expand more university places for Malaysian students?

The people are listening to more and more reasons as to why there should not be more places for non-Malay students. Firstly, many years ago, it was because the Malay students are backward educationally, and that special government efforts must be made for them to catch up educationally with the other races. This has been accepted in good faith by all non-Malays. All that the non-Malays ask is that while the Government give all possible assistance to increase Malay opportunities for higher education opportunities, non-Malay students should not be held back or denied higher educational opportunities too.

Recently, we hear of another reason why there should not be more places for non-Malay students in universities. This is that the government must take into consideration the number of non-Malay students studying overseas, although the majority of them are paying on their own, or studying courses which the Government may not accord recognition.

Another reason has been heard of late. This is that the Government must not only take into account the number of students accepted by the universities, but also the number of students who actually passed!

I won’t be surprised that in future, another reason which would be advanced is that the Government must take into account the total number of Malay and non-Malays who had actually graduated from universities, both locally and abroad.

I find reasons why one group or another should not get more university places as unacceptable, and detrimental to Malaysia nation building.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, at the opening of the MIC annual general meeting in Klang end of last month said that “if we do not rise beyond communal considerations and continue to assume that the benefits enjoyed by one community is at the expense of another, there is a danger that the gains that we have achieved so far will be wiped out.”

The important question is whether Malaysians of all races can quickly think, not purely in terms of group gain or loss, but even more important, of national gain and loss.

There is no reason why the provision of more higher education opportunities for non-Malay students should be a loss to any group, when it would positively be a gain for the nation, within the context of all possible help to Malays to gain higher educational opportunities.

4. DAP calls for a public inquiry into all public enterprises and companies to ensure that the incipient Bank-Rakyat scandals are weeded out

The Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, in his UMNO Presidential address on Friday, said that the Bank Rakyat ‘fiasco’ should be a lesson to all Government institutions and agencies, declaring that ‘the downfall and collapse of any nation is inevitable if its leaders are corrupt and lacked integrity’.

Unfortunately, the Prime Minister appears to be a lone voice even in the UMNO General Assembly. Last year, he had to scold the UMNO General Assembly for not raising the Bank Rakyat scandal. The situation does not appear to have sunk in the public enterprises and companies. The DAP calls for a public inquiry into all public enterprises and companies, like Pernas, UDA, MARA, Petronas, Bank Bumiputra, to ensure that the Bank Rakyat scandal does not repeat in other government corporations.

The UMNO leadership, apart from the Prime Minister, appears to be very shy and timid about the Bank Rakyat scandal, largely because they are not prepared to condemn the practices which brought about the bankruptcy of Bank Rakyat, if not for government intervention. For instance, UMNO Selangor has still refused to refund $82,500 kick-back it received from Bank Rakyat, contributing to Bank Rakyat losses. No wonder UMNO leaders want to forget the Bank Rakyat scandal as fast as possible, not to learn any lesson from it.

5. DAP call for release of Chan Kok Kit and Chiang Heng Kai

DAP MPs Chan Kok Kit (Sungei Besi) and Chian Heng Kai (Batu Gajah) haven been detained for over two years because of their political opposition to the education policies of the Barisan Nasional. They are not threats to the security of the country, but embarrassment to the unjust policies of the Barisan Nasional Government. To continue to detain them without trial is the grossest abuse of human rights in Malaysia. The DAP calls on the Government to release them without conditions immediately, or to put them on trial, if they have any evidence against them.