Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, at the 23rd Annual General Meeting and Presidential Installation Dinner of the Apex Club of Kuala Lumpur held at Shepherd’s Inn, Lorong University ‘C’, Section 16, Petanling Jaya on Saturday, 26th July 1980 at 7.3 0pm
Lim Kit Siang proposes the formation of Concerned Citizens Committees (CCCs), transcending politics, race, religion, to involve Malaysians in mass participation to protect and safeguard their basic rights as citizens
I commend the Apex Club of Kuala Lumpur for the community services it had rendered in the last 23 years. It outs into practice the universal teachings of all the great religions about compassion, equality, justice, brotherhood and love. It is service clubs like the Apex Clubs which contribute to making Malaysians become aware of their larger responsibilities as self-willed human beings to rise above their daily pre-occupation with self-interest and help in the betterment of the human community.
Malaysia is a blessed and unique country. Our nation has been showered with rich natural and man-made resources. We are also unique in our attempt to create a united nation out of the conglomeration of races, languages, religions and cultures in Malaysia.
With the vast natural and man-made resources at our command, and the drive, industry and the genius of the different races found in our country, Malaysia should have advanced very much further in all fields of human endeavour than it is today.
This is because of man-made obstacles and obstructions to the mobilization of all human resources, efforts and energies to propel Malaysia forward to a stronger economic footing and more just and united national basis.
Only a few days ago, I met a non-Malay Malaysian who was once a No.2 man in a big statutory board. He went overseas to further his studies and was hounded out of government service. To day, he has become a Professor in his field of speciality in an American University. This non-Malay professional would still want to come back to serve in Malaysia, but he could not find any capacity in which he could be of service. Malaysia’s loss is America’s gain. This Professor has returned to the United States, and is in fact getting more money there than he would ever get should he return to Malaysia. Yet he wanted to return and could not!
This is the tragedy of Malaysia. There is so much which we all Malaysians of all races could do to make Malaysia great, but we appear to be more intent on cutting each other down to size and in the process, reducing Malaysia. down to size.
Recent events have shown that the Decade of the Eighties would be even more dangerous Decade than the Sixties and Seventies with extremist and chauvinistic forces rearing their ugly heads.
Malaysians or reason, moderation and common sense cannot afford to disregard such forces, for as Edmund Burke once said, ‘All that is indeed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’
Let us not live in an age when, as the poet W. B. Yeats put it in The Second Coming.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Foe then the best would be abdicating their responsibility to help shape the destiny of our nation to the worst elements in our society, with all its horrendous and awful consequences to our beloved nation, our children and our children’s children.
Theflame of democracy in Malaysia, however flickering, must be kept alive, for once it is completely snuffed out, then it is the day of triumph of all forms of extremism and intolerance in the country.
All Malaysians of goodwill, moderation and reason must therefore regard it as their duty to nurture the democratic process, not necessarily from any party political viewpoint, but from the Malaysian standpoint.
This can be done by ever greater mass participation in public affairs of the country, to hold the Big Government to greater account for its services and performances; to humanize government departments; to save our environment from pollution; to ensure that our education system produce inquiring young citizens and not educated illiterate; to demand an ever-improving quality of life; to rescue our children from the curse of drugs, etc.
To involve Malaysians in mass participation to protect and safeguard their basic rights as citizens, I propose that organizations like Concerned Citizens Committees (CCCs) should be formed which should transcend politics, race, religion.
I believe that whatever one’s political ideologies and persuasions, there is room for Malaysians to meet and discuss and jointly find solutions to common problems like the strangulation of the cities caused by bad roads, inadequate water supplies, poor sewerage, housing shortages, improper garbage disposal, scanty greenery, traffic congestion, high prices, environmental pollution, dehumanization, etc.
The time has come for the manifestation of ‘People’s Power’ in the area of improvement of the quality of life of the citizens, as when some residents in PJ and KL gathered at the Selangor Waterworks Department in June to protest against the atrocious water service.
It is through such alert, vigilant mass participation in the public decision-making process that the flame of democracy could be kept alive and stronger.
The public must not hesitate to make clear their disapproval of government ineptitude, inefficiency, graft or corruption. As an example, the entire Northam Court Saga in Penang smack of government ineptitude.
The neighbouring residents were one fine morning told to evacuate because of imminent collapse of Northam Court, there was great publicity about explosives experts specially flown in from abroad to stage a Seven-Second Wonder End to Northam Court. Less than a month later, we get the impression that the Penang Municipal Council feels that all is not that dangerous anymore, and instead of a Seven-Second Explosion End to the Northam Court, demolition squads have been at work since the last few days to take down the 16-storey building brick by brick, wall by wall! The Northam Court saga has all the ingredients of high comedy, if not for the fact that human lives and property are involved.
Did the Penang Municipal Council panic in June in proclaiming the area concerned a ‘disaster area’? of course, the paramountcy of saving lives is not questioned by anybody – but was the Municipal Council, on hindsight, sufficiently possesse of technical expertise and information to justify such a conclusion? And if not, why not?
The $250 million Kuantan Port fiasco where the gigantic port has begun to crack in an irreparable manner even before it could be put into operation is another example of areas of concern to vigilant citizens.
I am not suggesting that the Concerned Citizens Committees should become an instrument of any political party. They should become active instruments to protect and safeguard the interests of Malaysians as citizens, who have an inherent right to know why things go round or why things have not gone right, and to get prompt government attention so that they live in a more congenial, harmonious, peaceful and cleaner country.