DAP proposes the convening of an All-Party Conference to reach a national accord on the issue of Vietnamese Refugees

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, when officially declaring open the Johore DAP State Convention held in Kluang, on Sunday, 15th July 1979 at 10 a.m.

DAP proposes the convening of an All-Party Conference to reach a national accord on the issue of Vietnamese Refugees illegal immigrants which will take politics out of it, and enable the socio-economic and security interests of Malaysia to be safeguard while rendering humanitarian assistance to the victims of Vietnamese inhumanity.

The Vietnamese holocaust, which has already sent a quarter of a million human beings to their watery graves in the high seas, is the greatest blot to humanity.

It is a high crime against mankind. It has also upset ASEAN countries, imposing socio-economic and security strains which threaten to destabilize and undermine their nation building efforts.

For Malaysia, it has posed a specially complicated problem because of the ethnic composition in the country. There are those who want to exploit fears that the Vietnamese refugees would upset the ethnic equation, when the view that the refugees are predominantly of Chinese descent is not borne out by facts.

In the first two or three years after the fall of South Vietnam, most of the boat people were ethnic Vietnamese. In 1978, the number of ethnic Chinese increased dramatically until they dominated Malaysian refugee camps by nearly three to one.

This year, the numbers of ethnic Vietnamese are again on the rise so that in May this year, only 52 per cent of all arrivals were Chinese while 48 per cent were ethnic Vietnamese.

The government must be on the alert against irresponsible elements who want to ‘fish in troubled waters’ and arouse fears by raising the spectra of a Chinese or non-Malay swamping of the country, or even to raise the question of the loyalty of Malaysian Chinese in the country.

If we examine the conduct of the Malaysian Chinese over the refugee question, it should banish from the minds of doubting Thomases about the loyalty of Malaysian Chinese to Malaysia. This is because Malaysian Chinese as a whole understood and accepted the complex plural nature of our nation, the ethnic equation, and have gone out of their way not to do or say anything on the refugee question which could remotely be misconstrued as siding with ethnic Chinese from other countries against the interests and welfare of Malaysia.

Although there is unprecedented human suffering and sorrows among the Vietnamese refugees, and although their ethnic composition is now half Chinese and half Vietnamese, the Chinese community in Malaysia have as a whole steered clear of the issue, and even refrained from rendering humanitarian assistance from human beings to human beings to reduce the sufferings and pain of the Vietnamese refugees.

This conduct is nothing to be proud of from the humanitarian point of view, but it speaks a consciousness and realization of the Malaysian Chinese to act and conduct themselves in a way which takes into account the fears of the Malays in the country, and their acceptance that he delicate ethnic equation should not be upset. It will definitely make for long-tern national cohesion if all Malaysians of all racial groups can similarly agree that the ethnic equation should not be upset from any direction.

The conduct of the Chinese community in Malaysia over the refugee issue should be accepted and recognized by all Malaysians as a mark of loyalty and attachment to Malaysia, albeit at a price of humanitarianism.

I am of the view however that Malaysians should not be blind or indifferent to the colossal human sufferings of the Vietnamese refugees, in Pulau Bidong and other temporary settlement camps, for we would then have allowed Vietnam to mould us in their image of utter, inhumanity, insensitivity and barbarity.

We in Malaysia must work out an approach and solution which would look after and protect the social, economic and security interests of Malaysia, without losing our moral and humanitarian senses.

This is why I suggested a few days ago that Malaysia should appoint a High Commissioner for Refugees to render humanitarian assistance to the refugees in the context of fully safeguard in our national social, economic and security interests.

The major cause inhibiting or restraining greater humanitarian assistance being rendered to the Vietnamese refugees by Malaysians, whether individually or in groups, is the fear that this might be exploited politically to fan the fears of an upset of the ethnic equation.

Politics, and in particular party politics, should be taken out of the refugee tragedy so that while Malaysian national economic, social and security interests are safeguarded, we do not also lose sight of our humanitarian responsibilities.

This can only be done if all political parties in the country could reach a national accord to take politics out of the Vietnamese refugee illegal immigrant issue, so as to enable the socio-economic and security interests of Malaysia to be safeguarded together with the rendering of greater humanitarian assistance to the victims of the Vietnamese holocaust.

The DAP proposes the convening of an All-Party Conference on the Vietnamese refugee illegal immigrant issue, to make this a completely non-partisan issue.

The DAP will give every support to make this issue non-partisan on the basis of fully safeguarding the social, economic and security interests of Malaysia, and the rendering of humanitarian assistance to the refugees. I commend this proposal to the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn.

Call on Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, to order a public inquiry into security forces shooting of two innocent tappers and compensation to the bereaved family

In Parliament on June 28, in the motion for the annulment of the Four Proclamations of Emergency, I mentioned the case of the security forces shooting of two innocent tappers in Sungai Chalit near Raub on June 25. After the killing, the Mentri Besar of Pahang, Encik Abdul Rahim bin Abdul Bakar, said the security forces shot dead three hungry terrorists in a skirmish in a rubber estate at Sungai Chalit near Raub, and that the killings was the biggest single success in the state so far this year.

Unfortunately, However, two of the three killed were not ‘hungry terrorists’, but innocent tappers from Sungai Klau, namely 60-year-old Lai Kwai ( who was in fact a MCA member ) and his 17-year-old son Lai Chee Kong, who were clearly mistakenly shot by the security forces. The Pahang Mentri Besar has subsequently said that the father-and-son couple were not ‘hungry terrorists’ but ‘collaborators’. This is unacceptable to the Sungai Klau village who know the two tappers well.

Where the security forces have mistakenly shot innocent people, the Government should be ready to admit mistakes and to pay compensation to the bereaved family, and not to defame the dead and the living by branding them as ‘terrorists’ or ‘collaborators’. Such insensitivity will only alienate more people against the government, and encourage those in power or authority to trample on the legitimate rights of the rakyat. I call on the Home Affairs Minister, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, to intervene and admit that there had been mistaken shooting of the two innocent tappers, or hold a public inquiry, and to pay compensation to the family of the victim, to clear their name.

Because of the security situation in Pahang, there are many road blocks leading in and out of almost all new villagers. I call on the Government to recruit enough women police or women soldiers to help man the road-blocks where searches of people are conducted, as there are complaints about girls and women being searched by male soldiers in some of these road blocks. This again will cause bitterness and grievances, and I urge the Ministers concerned to give this matter urgent and serious attention, to ensure that the battle to win the hearts and minds of the people not lost by administrative indifference or government insensitivity.

DAP to hold Party Congress in Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 1 and 2 to elect new Central Executive Committee

The DAP has been smoothly holding State Conventions to elect, State officials for the first time in party history. With the election of the State committees, the State committees will have even greater responsibility than in the past, and will be directly responsible to the branches and members in the State for providing the leadership, organization and planning in party progress in the State.

As the new 15-men State Committees elected at State Conventions will mean that not all branches will be represented in the state committees as in the past, there is a need to devise a new organizational method to ensure closer branch-state contact.

I suggest that one way to achieve this is that once in every six months, there must be a state meeting of branch officials to review party organization and progress.

The Central Executive Committee has decide to postpone Party Congress originally fixed for Sept. 22 and 23 to Dec. 1 and 2, because of many reasons, including the impending Sarawak State general elections.

The Party Congress on Dec. 1 and 2 will also elect the new Central Executive committee for the new term of office.