Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, at the Klang Pasar DAP Branch Annual General Meeting in Klang, on Wednesday, 24th June 1981 at 8 p.m.
Call on Minister of Home Affairs to have two categories of political parties- one the ordinary one, the other for those more interested in commercialization of politics and making money
In April, the Barisan Nasional government, in the face of nation-wide opposition and protests, amendment the Societies Act 1966 to classify as ‘political societies’ organisations which seek to influence the government to accept their views with regard to any aspect of national policy, whether it be socio-economic, educational, cultural or political questions.
This is a serious violation of the fundamental liberties of free speech, expression and association. Unlike other government bills, which take a considerable time to be gazetted and become law, the Societies Amendment Bill 1981 was rushed through all stages of getting the Royal Assent and gazette to come into effect on May 14, 1981.
During the first three months of the coming into force of the amendments to the Societies Act, the societies in the country are required to apply to the Registrar of Societies to be classified as ‘political societies’ if they want to be concerned about public and national issues, whether it be quality of life, clean environment, reasonable consumer prices, quality of education, efficient and competent service, corruption-free societies, political freedoms, etc.
The Societies Act amendment have brought disrepute to Malaysia internationally, for it is another lurch towards totalitarian rule in the country.
Many societies have been wondering whether they should be registered as ‘political societies’, fearing the various forms of administrative control and constraints which the Registrar of Societies could thereby regulate their activities.
In my view, there is not a single worthwhile thing any society is going to be engaged in which is, in the largest sense, not ‘political’ in meaning, and that every society in Malaysia must be classified and be prepared to be classified as a ‘political society’, so that they could take part in the important process of opinion-shaping and building to take Malaysia towards a more open and tolerant, free and democratic society.
No societies should therefore be afraid of being classified as ‘political society’. This is in fact, the bounden-duty of every society not to cut its membership and organisation off from the mainstream of national events and developments – which are interpreted by the Government as political developments.
However, as the amendments to the Societies Act are so unreasonable, undemocratic and unwelcome, there is no reason for any society to rush to the Registrar of Societies to register as a ‘political society’.
There are over 14,000 societies in the country, and I suggest that all the 14,000 societies should just sit thigh in the three months from May 14 – August 14, and let the Registrar of Societies after August 13 discharge his new duties under the Amendments to classify on his own initiative, whether a society is ‘political society’ or not.
This is completely lawful, as it is provided by the amendments to the Societies Act that after three months of coming into force of the amendments, it is for the Registrar to classify societies as ‘political societies’ if not applied for during the first three months.
With 14,000 societies to classify as ‘political societies,’ the Registrar of Societies will have to expand his staff probably 100 times to cope with the new work-load.
The classification of societies into ‘political societies’ and ‘friendly societies’ is most uncalled for and undemocratic.
What should be classified are political parties, and I call on the Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Ghazalie Shafie, to classify political parties, into two types – the ordinary ones which seek to being about political changes through the political process, and those political parties more interested in the commercialization of politics and to make money from politics.
The most typical example of the second variety is the MCA, which is attracting thousands of new members on the ground of facilities to buy ‘holding shares’, which is an utter disgrace to a political party with self-respect and political principles.
The danger of ruling parties becoming money – and business – making political parties will be attempt to bend the laws of the land to profit itself. Thus we have already cases where there have been attempts of non-listed public companies trying to invite public subscriptions when this is against the law. What is worst, we have private limited companies, which are prohibited from inviting public subscriptions and whose membership is limited to 50 people, also trying to invite public subscriptions.
The commercialisation of politics by political parties will further debase politics, and make people believe that politics is not only dirty, but dishonourable – a place for dishonest people to make quick money in the guise of serving the public interest.
The DAP will continue to be vigilant against anyone making use of their political position to manipulate and deceive the people for their own selfish ends.
DAP Branches should immediately report to the DAP Headquarters when they come across any incidents or happenings from parties which are only interested in commercialization of politics smacking of deceit and dishonest so that we can thoroughly investigate and expose such malpractices.