State revenue growth grants

(Speech by the Parliamentary Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Revenue Growth Grants Amendment Bill 1979 on October 11, 1979)

One of the economic imbalances in the country is the imbalance of economic growth between the states, and any Federal Government effort to rectify the economic imbalance between states will get full DAP support.

At present the most economically backward states, from the stand-point of per capita Gross Domestic Product for each state is Kelantan, which has only a ratio of 0.38 of the Malaysian per capita GDP, Kedah/Perlis which has a ratio of 0.54 of the Malaysian average, and Trengganu which has a ratio of 0.60.

The Barisan National never tires of blaming Kelantan’s economic backwardness on PAS rule in Kelantan until last year though it did not accept the same logic that Kedah/Perlis’ economic backwardness must similarly be attributed to the Barisan Nasional, and previously Alliance, rule in these two states since Merdeka.

The Government should not play politics with development, with eliminating poverty and backwardness. It is the country’s misfortune that political leaders who are so narrow-minded and obsessed about their political interests that they forget their larger national responsibilities.

For instance, there were calls in this House yesterday that development should be denied to areas under Opposition control or that these areas should be discriminated against. Why don’t these speakers also suggest that general elections should be scrapped, and Parliament closed down there areas well?

It is indeed very sad that there are political leaders, who have become MPS, who still do not understand simple things about the duties and responsibilities of Government.

The ruling party, the Barisan Nasional, is a different concept and entity from the Government. The Barisan Nasional got some fifty percent of the votes in the last elections, but as a Government, it is its duty to look after the interest of 100% of the population including those who voted against the Barisan in the elections.

The Government has a duty to carry out development projects and spend development funds for the interest of all Malaysian citizens and not discriminate between Barisan and Opposition areas.

This is because, firstly, public funds do not come from the pockets of Barisan Ministers, MPs or leaders, but come from the people themselves.

Secondly, the people in Opposition areas have the right to question the moral and political right of a Government to collect taxes and rates from them, if the Government does not regard itself as a Government for all Malaysians, but discriminates against opposition areas.

What is the use of the government leaders making speeches on national unity, when the Government acts as if it is not a Government of all Malaysians, but only of a portion of Malaysians?

For the interest of the future of Malaysia and the future generations of Malaysians, I call on all political leaders to rid themselves of such petty, divisive and anti-national attitudes, and to dedicate themselves to creating larger bases for making Malaysians feel themselves as one people, rather than making Malaysians separate and divided.

While fully supporting increased provision of funds for state development purposes, the DAP is greatly concerned by the absence of effective betrayal of development objectives.

A good example is the case of Syarikat Sri Lingga in Malacca. In 1975, Malacca state had a total of 418,000 acres of land suitable for agriculture, 349,000 acres of which had been alienated, leaving behind only 22,000 acres unalienated. In 1975/76, the Barisan Nasional State Government of Malacca alienated some 4,000 acres of land, some 20% of the remaining unalienated arable land, to half a dozen of UMNO leaders in the name of creating the first Malay estate in Malacca in line with the New EconomicPolicy to restructure Malaysian society.

I had raised this matter in this House, and my colleagues and I had raised it also in the Malacca State Assembly, but we were accused of being against the New Economic Policy. Let me state here that if the NEP means that some 20% of the remaining unalienated arable land in Malacca should be granted at give-away prices to six UMN0 officials making them millionaires overnight, without any benefit to the Malay masses, we in the DAP are opposed to the NEP.

The DAP received no support or help in our attempt to try to prevent this betrayal of the Malay masses by a handful of UMNO-putras in the name of New Economic Policy.

I am glad that there is now an attempt by the new Malacca Chief Minister, Adib Adam, to undo the harm, by buying into the Syarikat Sri Lingga. As far as the DAP is concerned, the entire 4,000 acres of land should be taken back by the State Government, as they had been alienated to Syarikat Sri Lingga in betrayal of the development objectives, involving also abuse of power and trust of those in authority.

Last week, two directors of the Syarikat Sri Lingga were charged in court for doing business when they were government servants. The question that I want to ask is why weren’t they charged in the last four years?

Where the NBI or the forces of law and order are seen to be used as bargaining counters in some power plays, whether at Federal or State level, there cannot be much public confidence in the earnestness of the Government to stamp out corruption, deviations and betrayal of development funds and objectives.

With more money being provided for states for development purposes, the absence of effective mechanism to prevent development deviations and betrayals become even more acute.

The NBI, must be given wider powers, and completely removed from the charge of a Minister and Executive, and made a fully autonomous body regardless of political position or status. It is only through such reform that the public can be satisfied that development funds and projects would that the public, filter down to benefit the people, and not just to line the pockets of a few political leaders and their associates.

Call for the launching of massive low-cost housing in all the states

This Bill provides for a new category of grants to be given to States whose per capita gross domestic product is lower than the national average of the per capita gross domestic product, utilised for specific development purposes such as water supply, public housing, industrial estate development, minor works, etc.

Public housing is one of the biggest failures of the Barisan Nasional Government whether at Federal or State levels. The recent case where some 300 squatters in Kampung Sungei Udang took over the government low-cost houses highlight the plight of the ever-increasing masses of homeless in the urban areas.

There is no seriousness of purpose among Federal and State governments to deal positively with the housing shortage crisis for the poor. Firstly, too few low-cost houses are being built. Secondly, the genuinely homeless are denied houses while the propertied are allocated houses. Thirdly, there is widescale inefficiency and maladministration, where low- cost houses completed are not alloted and occupied for years at a stretch.

The DAP calls on the Government to launch a massive low-cost housing programme in all the states to house the homeless.

In carrying out development projects, the Government should not be heartless and unsympathetic, as happened recently in Banting, where the State authorities destroyed the crops cultivated by 152 families in Lubok Kundang, 11 miles from Banting, which are mainly oil palm, banana, yam and maize, covering some 500 acres of land.

Although this is illegal cultivation, this act is not like theft, but involved the honest sweat and toil of the farmers over the years. The State government should have allocated the land there to the cultivators. Provision of development funds to states would not serve much purpose if state governments continue to trample over the legitimate rights and aspirations of the poor.