Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, to the Perak DAP State Committee meeting at Perak DAP state premises at Jalan Chamberlain, Ipoh on Friday, 29th May 1981 at 8 p.m.
Call on Malaysians who cherish democratic freedoms to fully support and sign the national petition to the Prime Minister to repeal the amendments to the Societies Act
Yesterday, the Chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee of Societies opposing the amendments to the Societies act, Anwar Ibrahim, and leaders of other societies and DAP leaders had a discussion about the amendments to the Societies Act, which had attracted widespread opposition by Malaysian societies and individuals for trampling on the fundamental rights of free speech and association of Malaysians.
The Co-ordinating Committee has launched a national signature campaign to petition the Prime Minister to repeal the amendments to the Societies Act which had been rushed through all stages to become law at a most unusual and indecent speed.
This petition deserves the support of all Malaysians who cherish democratic freedoms and liberties not only for themselves, but also for their children and children’s children. This is because once basic freedoms are taken away, it becomes very difficult to restore them. If we in this generation passively allow basic freedoms to be trampled upon, then we will be doing our children and future generations a grave disservice for making them grow up and live in a society bereft of fundamental liberties and democratic freedoms.
I therefore call on Malaysians of all races and creed to come forward and support this petition by signing up to appeal to the Prime Minister to repeal the amendments to the Societies Act.
If the national signature campaign to petition for the repeal of the amendments to the Societies Act is successful, then the Government has no choice but to heed the views and demands of the people if it is not to suffer massive rejection in the next general elections likely to be held in 15 months time.
The DAP fully support the national signature campaign of the Co-ordinating Committee to petition for the repeal of the amendments to the Societies Act, and all DAP Members of Parliament, State Assemblymen, national, state and branch leaders and members will sign the petition.
With the implementation of the amendments of the Societies Act, there is some confusion as to the actual status of the societies in the country.
The Registrar of Societies has said that under the law, the societies must decide within three months whether they want to become ‘political societies’ or remain as friendly societies.
The amendments provide that if societies do not decide within three months of implementation whether to become political societies or otherwise, the Registrar will then decide himself whether to denote them as political societies.
As such, there is no need for societies to apply or register themselves as ‘political societies’. This job should be carried out by the Registrar himself three months after the coming into force of the amendments.
Malaysian societies, including Chinese guilds, clans and associations, however, should not be afraid of being as ‘political societies’ by the Registrar of Societies after the expiry of three months, for the duty to influence the Government to respect and respond to public responsibility of every Malaysian, whether individually or collectively as a group.
In fact, the freedom of individuals and groups to express their opinions and to associate without stifling governmental controls is a distinguishing mark between a free society and one which is unfree.
Article 10 of the Malaysian constitution guarantees the triple freedoms of expression, assembly and association. The amendments to the Societies Act attacked the two freedoms of assembly in Article 10 has also come under further attack, as evidenced by the arrest of PAS leaders in Trengganu while carrying out normal party activities.
Malaysian democracy has already become very diluted and adulterated with authoritarian inroads. Malaysians should resist further encroachments on the limited freedoms which Malaysians still have, and this is the national signature campaign to petition for the repeal the Societies Act amendments to restore the two freedoms of expression and association to the status before May 14 (the coming into force of the amendments) deserve national popular support.
This is therefore an opportunity for Malaysians to do something to safeguard democracy and their liberties. Even more important, they will also be doing something to preserve the important principle of the doctrine of the Separation of Powers, where the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary each has its important constitutional role – and check the growing tendency of the Malaysian executive to usurp the powers of the Judiciary. The amendments to the Societies is such an attempt to usurp the powers of the Judiciary because under the new provisions, the powers of the registrar of Societies and the Minister of Home Affairs could not be challenged in a Court of Law.
The DAP will give full support to the Co-ordinating Committee of Societies opposing the amendments to the amendments to the Societies Act, and the national Organising Secretary, Sdr. P. Patto, will be specially entrusted with the responsibility of liaising with the Co-ordinating Committee on all aspects of the campaign or secure the repeal of the Societies Act amendments.