Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Peraling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Royal Address on Tuesday, March 9, 1982
The Dangerous Eighties for Malaysia with the rise of forces of extremism and chauvinism which reject Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation.
As Malaysia completes our first quarter century as an independent and sovereign nation, the people of Malaysia are still seeking a national consensus on which a united Malaysian nation could be founded.
I will describe the 1980s as a dangerous decade for Malaysia, for I see the rise of the forces of extremism and chauvinism which reject the very premise of Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation.
There had always been advocates of such extremism and chauvinism in the past, but the difference and danger today is that more and more of them are occupying key positions of responsibility in the various government services, universities and other important sectors of the national life in the private sector.
While in the past, such advocates could only preach, today they could begin to put into practice their beliefs. If this dangerous trend continues unchecked, then the possibility of reaching a national consensus to bind the diverse races into one people will become more remote and distant.
I will give an instance of this rise in the forces of extremism and chauvinism in key positions of our national life, which totally rejects Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society.
In a 1981 publication, a University of Malaya academician staked out the following demands for the Malays society which completely reject Malaysia as a plural society, in the book “Tuntutan Melayu”:
- That ‘dari segi sejarah dan budaya, penggubalan perlembagaan kita tidak diasaskan di atas konsep’masyarakat berbilang kaum’.
- That ‘masyarakat majmuk adalah satu warisan penjajah dan sifat kemajmukan itu adalah sesuatu yang sementara wujudnya’; that “masyarakat majmuk telah dimungkinkan oleh beberapa faktor yang dipaksakan kewujudannya oleh penjajahan. Terhapusnya penjajahan membawa terhapusnya faktor-faktor tadi dan sifat-sifat kemajmukan juga beransur-ansur hilang
- That “merujuk masyarakat Tanah Melayu sebagai berbilang bangsa adalah tidak kena pada tempatnya. Rujukan seperti ini menaikan taraf masyarakat serpihan kaum imigran ke paras masyarakat bangsa Melayu yang menjadi induk. Dari segi budaya, istilah berbilang bangsa itu mencabar kedaulatan kebudayaan induk yang menjadi teras. Istilah masyarakat berbilang kaum juga mempunyai implikasi yang serupa.”
His Majesty, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, in his Royal Address advised that in a multi-racial society, there should be no exploitation of sensitive issues which would hurt the feelings of a particular racial or religious groups, and I cannot think of an example which more hurt the feelings of various racial groups than such extremist preachings which reject Malaysia’s multi-racial, multi-cultural nature and in denying for other races their rightful place in Malaysia.
I am very concerned that such intolerant and dangerous views are not only not held in check, but allowed free and full run in the universities in particular and the society at large. We are indeed moving further and further away from a united Malaysian nation which could only be founded on the unequivocal acceptance of this country as a plural society by every Malaysian, high or low.
What is another indication of the danger of the timws is that the criticism and opposition of such extremist rejection of Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society would be condemned as ‘extremist’, ’anti-national’ and even with rejoinder that if you don’t like it, you can leave Malaysia.
I would not be surprised if I am attacked along these lines in Parliament in this debate, which would show how great is the divide among Malaysians on fundamental questions as to what type of a Malaysian nation and society we are building.
We seem to have arrived at the Alice in Wonderland world where moderation has become extremism, and extremism become moderation!
Unless we can in Malaysia reach a new national consensus where every Malaysian, regardless of his rave of origin, cultural past or creed, is fully accepted as a Malaysian, with undivided loyalty to the country, whose allegiance is not constantly questioned as a group, then Malaysians can never be united and harmonious, and Malaysians cannot release the full potential of their human and natural resources to make Malaysia a great nation.
The Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, had asked Malaysians to ‘Look East’ to emulate the work ethnics of the Japanese which made Japan rise phoenix-like from the ashes of defeat and destruction in 1945, to become the most successful example of modern economic growth.
It is not good enough to exhort Malaysians to emulate the work ethics of the Japanese, who seem to find contentment in work, but even more important, to find out the factors which produce such works ethics.
In my mind, one of the most important causes of such extraordinary dedication to work is the profound sense of national unity and shared goals among the Japanese people. I am not aware of any Japanese problem of Japanese professionals emigrating abroad because they feel that they are not wanted given a rightful place in their own country, and also fearful for the educational future of their children. For another important reason for Japan’s phenomenal success is meritocracy where everyone could rise up in society by dint of his achievements. Japan’s education system, had in a couple of generations, changed Japan from a society based on birth and position to one based on knowledge and ability.
If we in Malaysia are still bogged down with the fundamental question as to whether substantial sections of the Malaysian people, constituting a majority of the population, who are born, bred, educated here, with no other homeland, are entitled to a rightful place as co-owners of Malaysia as there are people who propagate and want to impose their will and belief that Malaysia is not a multi-racial or multi-cultural nation, then the conditions are simply not present for Malaysians to ‘Look East’ to learn successfully from the Japanese work ethics.
We must first ‘Look Inwards’ to create the necessary pre-conditions of a National Consensus which could rally and mobilise national energies towards the common national goal of building a united, just and equal Malaysian nation.
The Chinese and the Indian communities had often been accused of being ‘anti-national’ for wanting to preserve their cultural traditions in Malaysia. But what thy seek is fully in conformity with the Rukun Negara objectives to “menjamin satu cara yang liberal terhadap tradisi-tradisi kebudayaan yang kaya dan berbagai corak”. It is those who seek to deny the Chinese and Indian cultures a rightful place in the Malaysian cultural landscape who are ‘anti-national’ in trying to destroy the plural basis of Malaysia.
Call for the immediate suspension of the 3M implementation I Chinese and Tail primary schools.
I would impress on the 2M leadership of Dr. Mahathir and Datuk Musa, as well as other UMNO leaders, to set a good national example of being particularly sensitive to the cultural sensitivities of the other communities, just as the non-Malay communities must be sensitive to the cultural sensitivities of the Malays.
This the 2M government had failed to do in the recent controversy over the 3M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools, in view of the intimate inter-relationship language, education and culture.
In fact, the issue of 3M implementation in the 62 selected Chinese and 29 Tamil primary schools is the first big test under the 2M leadership as to whether the Barisan Nasional government is sincere in respecting the constitutional rights of Malaysians with regard to mother-tongue education in the country.
Nobody would disagree with the idea that every education system should be able to impart the 3 basic skills of reading, writing and counting; but the fact that some 24 years after the establishment of our own education system, there has to be such great far fare about the need for the 3M system in our schools is a serious reflection on our education system and the schools to achieve their elementary objectives.
The 3M system could be faulted educationally, as to whether it would in fact be a superior educational system than the present one. When DAP leaders met the Education Minister, Datuk Dr. Sulaiman Daud, and Education Ministry officials, including Tan Sri Murad, the Director-General of Education, I told them that although the 3M system might be theoretically better on paper, it might in practice prove the reverse.
My comrades and I also pointed out to the Education Minister and the Education Ministry officials of the various factors necessary to make such a system successful were missing: namely, the present over-sized classes of 40 and sometimes over 50 especially for the Chinese primary schools, when the ideal class size of such a 3M system which concentrates on teaching by playway, to allow each student to learn at the pace of their different capabilities, is about 20 or 25. This is because the teachers would otherwise be unable to devote individual attention to the students concerned.
Furthermore, with the removal of textbook for the students, the whole burden of ensuring that school students acquire the basic skills is now dependent on the teachers. Have the teachers in the country been sufficiently trained and motivated to take on such a large responsibility?
The elimination of textbooks for pupils also remove the parental input at home to help the students to keep abreast with school work.
It is more than likely that with inadequate preparations and the absence of the necessary conditions to make teaching by playway successful, the 3M system may prove to be inappropriate.
I understand that some seven or eight years ago, a Education Ministry official from the Singapore Government returned home fro the United Kingdom flushed with great ideas about the superiority of this type of 3M system by playway. As a result, some 15 primary schools were selected for a two-year pilot project. After the two years, the pilot project was dropped and this Singapore Education Ministry official lost considerable face and esteem.
I am not saying that what was unsuitable for Singapore cannot be suitable for Malaysia, but to make the pint that there is no reason to adopt the attitude that regardless of conditions and state of preparation, such a 3M system would definitely be beneficial for our students.
There should be a experimental period of three or four years where students selected for 3M instruction could try out the method, and where the teachers, the parents and public can see and even compare the results of such a system with the present system.
If the 3M system proves to be superior system where children could read, write and count better, even if the Government does not extend the 3M system to other schools, the parents themselves would clamour for it.
This cautious approach would have the virtue of not completely burning our bridges if the 3M system, for one reason or another, prove to be unsuitable. Such a cautious approach is all the more warranted when we consider that the Curriculum Development Centre had not gone beyond 3M preparations for the second to sixth year.
The Curriculum Development Centre is operating on a step by step basis, instead of being guided by a complete overall 3M teaching plan.
But for Chinese and Tamil primary schools, the question as to whether the 3M system would enable our children to better read, write and count is overshadowed by the larger problem as to whether the character of mother-tongue education would be eroded and altered.
There is no doubt from the Education Minister’s announcement about the implementation of the 3M system in Chinese and Tamil primary schools, which he and other Education Ministry officials defended in the meeting with a DAP delegation on January 7, the character o Chinese and Tamil primary schools would begin to change without any change of media of instruction and without the use of Clause 21 (2) of the 1961 Education Act.
This is because the 3M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools involve:
- the abandonment of Chinese and Tamil languages as ‘operative’ languages for the purpose of writing basic textbooks and educational teaching guidebooks and manuals for teachers and students;
- the imposition of the rule that 50 per cent of songs to be sung should be Malay songs while the other 50 percent are merely translations from Malay songs, except for two or three Western songs;
- the treatment of Chinese and Tamil primary schools merely as ‘translated’ version of national primary schools.
The issue of the preservation of Chinese and Tamil primary schools had long been a sensitive and fundamental question in Malaysia for the Chinese and Indian communities for it is a litmus test of the type of nation building policy the government is embarked on: whether it is a policy of integration, where Malaysian consciousness and identity is created out of the diverse races, cultures, languages and religions in the country with everyone of them play their distinctive part to enrich the final integrated product, or whether it is a policy of assimilation where a Malaysian consciousness and identity is created through the eventual elimination of diverse cultures, values and customs in the country, with all conforming to one master model.
This is why the Chinese community had consistently demanded for the repeal of Clause 21 (2) of the 1961 Education Act which vests the Education Minister with the power to convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools. This is also why the Chinese community is opposed to the Recommendation in the Mahathir Cabinet Committee Report which regards the continuation of the present system of Chinese primary schools as ‘temporary’, rather than as a permanent and integral part of the national education system.
The Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, said on 23rd January that Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act should not be tied to the 3M issue, as Clause 21(2) is only enabling clause I case the government needed to convert any national-type primary school into national primary school at the request of the school.
He said that since Independence, there had only been on case with regard to a Tamil school in Kelantan which found it difficult to get students.
This is not exactly the historical truth for the English primary schools were converted wholesale, not at the request of the schools or parents, but as a matter of policy by the government.
Let us also not run away from the fact that ever since the 1960s and 1970s, there were those in high political positions who wanted to have only one type of national primary schools with the Chinese and Tamil primary schools losed down by the use of Clause 21 (2) of the 1961 Education Act.
As recent as two years ago, the UMNO Youth Leader and now the Deputy Education Minister, Haji Suhaimi Kamarrudin, went on public record as demanding the implementation of Clause 21 (2) of the 1961 Education Act.
Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act is therefore no ‘enabling clause’ to be used only at the request of the school or the community concerned, but a blank cheque to be used at any time the political leaders of the day deemed expedient. Isn’t this the reason why the Mahathir Education Report referred to the ‘temporary’ rather than the ‘permanent’ status of Chinese and Tamil primary schools?
We in the DAP had kept a vigilant guard ever since the 1960s against attempts to use Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act. When I spoke in this House some ten years ago, on 10th January 1972, about the fears and apprehensions of the Chinese community about the continued existence of Chinese primary schools, the then Minister of Education did not give a categorical assurance that the government would not convert Chinese and Tamil primary schools into national primary schools. Instead, we were told that this was a question which would have to be decided in two or three years’ time.
A year later, on 16th July 1973, in reply to a DAP question in Parliament, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Education said the question of whether the government would convert all national-type primary schools by 1975 or after had not been decided yet.
Again, in the Royal Debate on 16th April 1974, referring to a government assurance that it was not the intention of the government to convert Chinese primary schools by 1975, I said that “the people at large do not want Chinese and Tamil primary schools only to be allowed to exist until 1975, which means merely for the next 21 months or for another 720 days, but to grow and expand for as long as Malaysians want their children to be educated through the medium of their mother-tongue.”
I have little doubt that if the DAP had been destroyed in the 1974 general elections, which was what the Barisan Nasional intended with the three prong strategy of the mass disenfranchisement of voters in opposition areas, the re-drawing of electoral constituencies to put the opposition in even greater disadvantage, and the exploitation of the Peking meeting of Tun Razak with Chairman Mao Tse Tung, the pressures for the implementation of Clause 21 (2) of the 1961 Education Act would be quite irresistible.
That Chinese an Tamil primary schools exist today, and that Clause 21 (2) of the 1961 Education Act remain uninvoked, owes in large to the ability of the DAP to withstand the Barisan onslaughts in the 1974 general elections.
ACCORD TUNG CHUNG AND CHIO CHUNG OFFICIAL CONSULTATIVE STATUS
I would have thought that after a quarter century of nationhood and experience, the government which is committed to the creation of a united, harmonious multi-racial Malaysian, would have fully understood the sensitivities and aspirations of the Malaysian Chinese with regard to the preservation of Chinese primary schools, and would go out of its way not to tread on their sensitivities on this matter.
That such legitimate sensitivities and aspirations of the Malaysian Chinese community with regard to Chinese primary schools are time and again disregarded, the most recent being the 3M implementation, can only mean one of two things: that those entrusted with the governance of this nation are still not aware of such sensitivities and aspirations; or they reject the legitimacy of such sensitivities and aspirations.
The former would mean that we have national leaders who cannot learn, or would not want to learn form the quarter century of Malaysian nationhood and experience. What is worse, it also means that they are not prepared to listen too, for as far back on April 9, 1981, I had brought to the attention of the Government in this House of the fears among Chinese educational circles that the proposed 3M implementation would lead to a change in character of Chinese primary schools.
I had called on the Education Ministry to convene a conference with officials from Tung ChUng and Chiau Chung and to involve them in every step of the 3M process, from formulation to implementation.
The Education Ministry should in fact accord official government recognition to Tung Chung and Chiau Chung as the two organisations in the country qualified because of its composition and representation to authoritatively represent the interests of Chinese education in the country, and to accord both these bodies the status of official consultants of the government where the government consults them before faking any new step, measure or policy involving Chinese schools.
But far from enlisting the co-operation of Tung Chung and Chiau Chung on matters relating to Chinese education, the Education Ministry has virtually treated both these organisations as outlaw bodies, with their representatives rejected outside the Education Ministry office even though they were brought there by Barisan Nasional component party leaders.
The latter possibility to explain the government’s actions, as stemming from the rejection of the legitimacy of the sensitivities and aspirations of the Chinese community with regard to Chinese education, is even more horrifying, for it then tantamount to rejecting Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society.
The 2M administration’s actions would be viewed from the perspective of Dr. Mahathir hasic political philosophy as contained in Malay Dilemma
After he became Prime Minister, and the ban on Dr. Mahathir’s ‘Malay Dilemma’ was lifted, and the Prime Minister urged the people to read the book to understand his thinking.
It is only natural that the actions of the 2M administration would be viewed from the perspective of Dr. Mahathir’ basic political philosophy in Malay Dilemma, which as outlined in the preface, contained Dr. Mahathir’s argument that “the Malays are the rightful owners of Malay, that immigrants are guests until properly absorbed” and that “immigrants are not truly absorbed until they have abandoned the language and culture of their past.”
In page 143, it is written: “The language medium is of extreme importance in creating a feeling of oneness, and so the medium of instruction is always that of the definitive race… But language is not the only important aspect of a national education policy. The whole curriculum is important. The teaching of history, geography, and literature are all designed to propagate one ideas: that the country belongs to the definitive people, and to belong to the country, and to claim it, entails identification with the definitive people. This identification is all-pervading and leaves no room for identification with other countries and cultures. To be identified with the definitive people is to accept their history, their geography, their literature, their language and their culture, and to reject anything else.”
It is significant that in the Chinese edition of the Malay Dilemma, Dr. Mahathir wrote a preface under the title ‘Not a Second Though’ and asked the people to judge him on the basis of his views in the book.
If Malaysia is an open and democratic society, then there must be opportunities for the people to urge on him and his administration that there must be second thoughts, not only on his views in the Malay Dilemma, but also various of the government policies like the 3M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
Unfortunately, the 2M government has virtually banned public meetings on the 3M. Not only have the government prohibited two separate meetings called by educational organisations in Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur on the 3M , the government had imposed the condition that in DAP ceramahs, the DAP cannot talk about the 3M.
If the 3M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools would not affect the character of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, why then the fear of a public discussion, for such a public discussion would only show the hollowness and baselessness of the critics of 3M. It is only when the Government has no answer to the strong case against the 3M for affecting the character of Chinese and Tail primary schools that such a ban is necessary.
I find it rather distasteful the attempts by some people who are blaming the DAP for the 3M issue. In the first place, it is not the DAP which created the 3M issue. If the 3M issue has reached the stage it is today, the Barisan Nasional government and its component parties must bear full responsibility, for their gross insensitively to the legitimate aspirations of the people with regard to mother-tongue education. The DAP is in fact trying to de-sensitise the 3M issue by proposing solutions where by the 3M could be experimented with popular support without treading on the sensitivities of the Malaysian Chinese and Indian communities. Is this a crime?
The Education Minister had said that the had been ‘misunderstood’ when even today, with some slight modifications in the 3M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools the Chinese and Indian communities still cannot accept it because of the detrimental effect on the character of mother-tongue education.
The DAP had been accused of trapping the MCA leaders into criticising the 3M. We are pleased that we have powers that we have not been aware that we possess, that we could maek the Deputy Education Minister, Datuk Chan Siang Sum, to condemn the 3M details as announced by the Education Minister as contrary to national education policy, and the work of certain extremists in the Education Ministry to sabotage Chinese primary schools, and even make the MCA President and Minister of Transport, Datuk Lee San Choon, declare that he, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister were “insulted and belittled” by such ‘deviation’ from the Cabinet Committee Reoprt, declaring the MCA’s intention to dissociate from the 3M.
When Datuk Lee found that neither Dr. Mahathir nor Datuk Musa felt ‘insulted or belittled’ by the 3M implementation in Chinese and Tamil primary schools, the only way he and the MCA could explain their ‘fierce stand of ‘dissociation from the 3M was to blame the DAP from ‘trapping’ them.
Be that as it may, we in the DAP do not apologise for our continued opposition to the implementation of the 3M in Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
HONOUR 4-POINT DEMAND BY THE CHINESE COMMUNITY ON THE 3M
From all available information, including the briefing which the DAP leaders received from the Education Minister and his officials on January 7, the explanations and booklet on 3M published by the government, the failure of the Education Ministry to comply with the four-point demand for Chinese primary schools, we are convinced that it would lead to a long term change in the character of these schools even though the medium of instruction remain unchanged.
Mother-tongue education is not merely learning to read and write the mother-tongue, but even more important, to develop cultural roots for the pupils concerned by imbibing the ethical values and cultural traditions of the culture.
This is best learnt by stories of mythological and historical figures in each culture by learning about the lives, achievements, exploits of the heroes, the saints and matyrs or the misdeeds, crimes or betrayals of the villains and traitors, to distinguish between good and bad, the noble and ignoble, how to be a good man and a useful citizen.
Just as a tree without strong roots cannot stand straight in a storm, a man or a race without cultural foots cannot withstand any test or crisis. In America, the Negroes are seeking their cultural roots after losing them for two hundred years as a result of slavery and racial discrimination, not because they want to be less an American citizen, but to become a more useful and stronger member of the American nation, with self and cultural pride.
Similarly, the yearnings of the Malaysian Chinese to preserve their cultural roots is not because they want to be less a Malaysian citizen, but so that they could better contribute to the enrichment of the Malaysian nation where the best form the cultural diversities could be harnessed for the advancement of the country.
Although DAAP has been accused of trying to make an issue of the 3M, my comrades and I in the DAP want more than anybody else to see mother-tongue education fully entrenched in the Malaysian education system and forever removed from the heat and conflict of the political arena.
This is why we have always suggested solutions to de-sensitise the problems of Chinese education in general, and the 3M issue in particular.
The 3M issue with regard to its detrimental effect of the character of mother-tongue education could be resolved by the government immediately honouring the four-point proposal reflective of the views of the Chinese community, as put forward by Tung Chung and Chiau Chung, namely:
- Apart from Bahasa Malaysia and English language study, all other educational and teaching materials, including references, should be written in Chinese, and not be a tracnsltion in any form.
- Apart from Bahasa Malaysia and English, the Chinese language should be the language of instruction and examination for all other subjects, and teachers not conversant in the Chinese language should not be sent to Chinese primary schools except to teach Bahasa Malaysia and English.
- In Chinese primary schools, humanities, environment, moral education and music should fully reflect the Chinese cultural characteristics.
- Increase in the teaching time for English in Chinese primary schools.
If the government cannot or is not prepared to honour these four proposals to make the 3M experiment fully acceptable to the Chinese community, then the government should immediately suspend the 3M implementation in the Chinese primary schools.
The government should not regard the parents of the Kajang and Semenyih Chinese primary schools who staged a class boycott against the 3M implementation as ‘trouble makers’, but loyal Malaysians who have been driven to find some way to express their opposition to the 3M. The government must accede to the legitimated views of the people, bearing in mind the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s speech that ‘the government is not the master, but an administrative tool to serve the people.’
Secondly, to allay the fears of the Chinese community about Clause 21 (2) of the 1961 Education Act which confer such untrammelled powers on the Education Minister to convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools, the Government should repeal Clause 21 (2) forthwith, or amend it to specifically remove the Education Minister’s untrammelled powers and provide instead the specific circumstances where the Minister may convert national-type schools into national primary schools at the specific and unanimous request of the community and the schools concerned.
When the 2M leadership first took over the rains of government, its initial acts gave hope that there would be greater openness of Government and accountability to the people.
Mengkarak Case: DAP reaffirms its condemnation of communist violence but declares that it would not condone military indiscipline and lawlessness.
Unfortunately, before the one year period that the Dr. Mahathir asked from the people to judge his administration is up, there are already indications of the 2M leadership backsliding from the early promises.
The virtual ban on public meetings and criticisms on the 3M is one example. Another is the growing tendency to label critics, if not yet as enemies of the country, as aiding and abetting the enemies of the country.
I am referring in particular to the recent Mengkarak incident where soldiers went on a rampage assaulting and molesting rubber tappers.
This happened on Feb. 26 at Batu 66, Mengkarak, Pahang, where a platoon of soldiers had assaulted tappers, including women and a 13-year-old boy, using their rifle butts, slapping and kicking them, even demanding that they strip themselves. One was so seriously injured as to be hospitalised in the Mentakab General Hospital
On receipt of the complaints by the tappers concerned, I had called a press conference on 1st March to call on the Acting Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, to hold an immediate inquiry and take stern disciplinary action including court martial against soldiers involved for such military indiscipline and lawlessness.
Two days ago, Datuk Musa alleged that the communists had been given “Kit Siang-sent’ issue to get the sympathy of the people, and that such an issue would result in the people becoming different to the terrorists.
I do not agree and I regret very much Datuk Musa’s attempt to turn the Mengkarak incident into a political issue. Firstly, let me reaffirm the DAP’s condemnation of armed communist struggle and struggle and violence, for we believe that such struggle and violence is destructive of Malaysian society and progress. However, we cannot condone military indiscipline or lawlessness, for it is such incidents which if not condemned and stamped out would create a situation where the ordinary people become more frightened of the soldiers than the armed communists. Then the whole battle is lost.
It is not the disclosure of such incidents which would make the people indifferent to the terrorists, but the indifference of the government to such incidents, or the government’s attempt to cover-up such incidents, which would make the people indifferent to the communist terrorists.
A government cover-up can take various forms. One is to attack the bona fide of those who brought to public attention such atrocities, or even attack the loyalty of the victims themselves.
This is in fact what happened. The Chief of, Army, Jen. Tan Sri Zain Hashim, told a press conference in Mentakab last Friday that based on past experience, the communist terrorists would attempt all kinds of delaying tactics to cause the Army to move out of an operational area. The ploy includes such tactics as staging ambushes away from operations areas to divert the army, or raise allegations such as those which surfaced in Bentong three years ago.
I do not know which particular Bentong incident Gen. Tan Sri Zain is referring to, but the context makes it very clear that the tappers who were victims of the military rampage are regarded as likely communist decoys.
This is a most serious and unfair imputation, which tantamount to rubbing salt into a wound – after being assaulted by the soldiers, being accused of being communist sympathisers for complaining that they had been assaulted.
With such an official attitude, I doubt whether there could be an impartial inquiry to get to the bottom of the Mengkarak incident.
I would call on the Government to institute a public inquiry into the Mengkarak incident, either to vindicate the soldiers or to show to the country that the government would brook no military indiscipline and armed lawlessness.
I have no intention to undermine military morale, but I think I is even more important that public morale should not be undermined by government cover-ups of military rampages against the innocent public.
Call for establishment of an independent body to inquire into allegations of police brutalities
In the last few months, I had occasion to bring to public attention several cases of allegations of police brutalities.
The police made inquiries into some of these allegations, while in others they simply relied on the version of the police personnel involved.
All in all however, I must state my complete dissatisfaction with the way such cases had been handled. I am not alleging that the entire police force make it a habit to assault people in the lock-ups throughout the country, but let us not pretend that every police personnel is a certified angel who would never lift a finger to touch any person.
I understand that the instinct of the police, in allegations of police brutality, is to cover-up if it is possible to do so. This was the reason why the Deputy Defence Minister, Abang Abu Bakar, in his initial reaction to the Mengkarak incident, said that it could have been caused by communist terrorists dressed in army uniforms to drive a wedge between the people and government. He did not realise in trying to deny the possibility of army involvement, he was in fact painting a picture of complete breakdown of security in Mengkarak where the communists could operate at will.
To secure full public confidence that every case of allegation of brutality against the police would be thoroughly investigated, without any temptation of a police cover-up to help each other in the same service, such allegations must be investigated by a completely independent body which does not come under the Police jurisdiction at all. It must be some sort of a Police Ombudsman with wide ranging powers to investigate into police excesses.
CALL FOR MEANINGFUL GENERAL ELECTION
The general elections fever is rising every day. Although the 2M leadership presents itself as more liberal and more open than the previous leadership, it would appear that the coming general elections would be held under the most undemocratic conditions in the history of the country.
The 2M leadership had virtually indicated that the ban on public rallies, imposed for the 1978 general elections on the excuse of the 30th anniversary of the Malaysian Communist Party armed struggle in 1948, would stay.
The control on the press would be even tighter than in the past, especially with the take0over of more and more newspaper by component parties in the Barisan Nasional. All sorts of difficulities continue to be placed I the way of the Opposition parties even to publish their party organs. The DAP journal, the Rocket was never able to come out regularly at the beginning of each year. In the earlier years, it was because of the delay in renewing the Rocket’s KDN. In the last two years, it is the delay in renewing the printing licence of the printers of the Rockets. For instance, although it is now nearly mid-March, the printing licence of the Rocket had not been renewed, and as a resul the Rocket could not be published.
In previous general elections, the Opposition were allocated a few radio broadcast to present their platforms and policies, although this was out of proportion to the radio and television time dominated by the Barisan Ministers and leaders for their political campaigning.
Now such radio time will also be withdrawn from Opposition parties, although Barisan Ministers and leaders would undoubtedly continue to monopolise radio and television time during the general elections to try to get voters.
This is probably a main plank in the Barisan Nasional strategy to destroy the DAP and other opposition parties, by trying to deny them access to the people. Datuk Musa had said many times that the DAP is now without issues, that the 2M administration had taken the winds out of the DAP sail.
In the first place, the government Ministers had never admitted in the past that the DAP had winds in its sail, that it was a downright irresponsible and useless political party which is completely bankrupt. This is at least a tacit recognition of the DAP’s contribution and role in the past.
But Datuk Musa’s mistake is the same his predecessors had make in the past – to believe that the DAP’s sail has no winds. But I think he does not really think so, for otherwise the 2M leadership would not be planning to tighten up the controls on the media and public access to block the DAP ‘s voice from reaching the people.
Probably, this is the only way for the 2M leadership to secure a ‘strong government ‘which the Prime Minister spoke about at the Bar Council dinner last month. I think the majority of Malaysians would agree that the Barisan Government is already too strong, which require a stronger Opposition to keep it in check.
Twelve years ago, a critic of the Alliance government wrote:
“Secure n its absolute majority in Parliament, it was openly contemptuous of criticism. Policies were made which completely ignored public opinion…… In the main, Parliamentary sittings were regards as a pleasant formality which afforded members opportunities to be heard and quote, but which would have absolutely no effect on the course of the Government. The general feeling was that whether or not Parliament sat, the Government would carry on. The sittings were a concession to a superfluous democratic practice. Its main value lay in the opportunity to flaunt Government strength. Off and on, this strength was used to change the Constitution. The manner, the frequency and the trivial reasons for altering the constitution reduced this supreme law of the nation to a useless scrap of paper.”
This diagnosis was as correct of the majority government in the 1960s, as it is today, although the critic has now become the criticised, for the writer was none nother than Dr. Mahathir in ‘The Malay Dilemma’.
I would end by urging the 2M leadership to allow for a meaningful general elections to be held, where the various contending parties and candidates have the fullest facilities and opportunities to explain their policies and the issues at stake to the electorate, so that the people could make an informed and intelligent choice.
Otherwise, the next general elections, instead of celebrating the democratic right of the citizens to help decide in the national destiny of the country, would merely mark another debasement of the democratic process where there is no freedom of speech and campaigning, and where the politics of money and intimidation rob the electorate of their democratic rights.