(Speech by the Parliamentary Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Petaling, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Royal Address on March 18, 1982)
We are entering the second decade of the New Economic Policy, and on the threshold of launching the Fourth Malaysia Five Year Plan. Central to the success of the New Economic Policy as the government’s basic strategy to create a united, peaceful and prosperous Malaysia is the strict adherence of the government at all levels to the NEP’s cardinal tenets that “no particular group would experience any loss or feel any sense of deprivation of its rights, privileges, income, job or opportunity” and that there would be no robbing Peter to pay Paul’.
If it gains general currency that these cardinal tenets of the NEP are not respected, then irreparable harm would be done to the entire process of nation building in Malaysia.
This is why what happened in Bintulu, Sarawak, is very important to the entire question of confidence in the NEP, and why the Federal Government must intervene to allow for no doubt in anyone’s mind about its seriousness and sincerity to honour the NEP’s cardinal tenets.
In Bintulu, since July last year, the Bintulu Development Authority, which has been vested with the duties and powers of being responsible with the development of Bintulu, introduced a shocking regulation which not only violate the constitutional rights of Malaysians, but destroy the very basis of the New Economic Policy.
Since July 1980, the Bintulu Development Authority, in response to applications by land-owners in Bintulu for sub-division and variation of title, invariably answered these applications with the following reply:
“I refer to your application for the sub-division and variation of title condition for the above parcels of land and am directed to advise you to form a Development Company with a fifty per cent Bumiputra equity shareholding before the application can be considered for approval.
“Would you please supply to the Bintulu Development Authority all relevant documents in respect of the said company.”
This letter, to all applications for subdivision and variation of title from agricultural to commercial/residential use, was signed by a BDA official.
This decision of the Bintulu Development Authority has far-reaching implications. For it means that before an application could be considered by the BDA for sub-division and viaration of title condition of land in Bintulu from agricultural to residential/commercial purposes, which is necessary before development plans are submitted for approval, the landowners must extend 50 per cent ownership of the land to bumiputras through the formation of a Development Company.
This is firstly a violation of the Constitutional right to property which protects Malaysians from expropriation of property without compensation. What the Bintulu Development Authority seeks to do is nothing less than a back-door’ expropriation of property of Malaysians.
It is secondly an attempt to nullify the constitutional rights of Malaysians, not through an amendment to the Constitution in Parliament through a two-thirds parliamentary majority, but by administrative fiat which is both unconstitutional and illegal. Such a method of ‘amending’ the Constitution not by the proper process of parliamentary amendment but by administrative fiat cannot be allowed to go unchallenged in Parliament if the constitutional rights of Malaysians are to have any meaning and protection.
Thirdly, such a BDA regulation constitutes a gross abuse of power, for whether applications for sub-division and variation of title condition of land should be approved or not should depend not on the whims and fancies of any bureaucrat or bureaucracy, but on the Master Plan in Bintulu with regard to the various land use and development needs. Such applications should be considered strictly on the basis of their merit, as to whether they conform with the development Master Plan, and not on irrelevant and extraneous issues completely unrelated to land development and use.
Such a Master Plan should be available for inspection and by the public so that there is no room for abuse of power and corruption. Otherwise, the people will be completely at the mercy of the bureaucrats, study who can one day insist that before subdivision and conversion of title is considered, 50 per cent of the land should be contributed to the ruling party.
Fourthly, and most important of all, the BDA regulation violates the entire basis of the New Economic Policy that in its implementation the government would ensure that “no particular group experiences any loss or feels any sense of deprivation of its rights, privileges, income, job or opportunity” or in the spirit of “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
The people of Malaysia, in particular the non-Malays, fully support every measure by the government to help the more economically-backward bumiputras to catch up economically, but this must not be done by depriving the non-Malays of their constitutional rights.
And there can be no dispute whatsoever that to require non-Malays to give up 50% of their property, through whatever forms of coercion or duress, in order to secure approval for conversion, subdivision and development is a clear cut deprivation of their property rights in the name of restructuring society.
The BDA regulation is the thin end of the wedge which if allowed, would open up the Pandora’s box of the Eighties, where the NEP would be implemented in utter disregard to the cardinal tenet that “no particular group experiences any loss or feels any sense of deprivation of its rights ..…”
Let me declare here that the DAP has raised the Bintulu case not championing the landowners in Bintulu, but because an important principle of constitutional right is concerned.
This is because if it is permitted to impose by administrative fiat deprivation of a constitutional right of a Malaysian, then in future, the Bintulu ruling would be extended to all other spheres of economic life, and not just confined to land development, e.g. in the issuing of permits, licences, etc., and even to other spheres in national life, as in educational because we are opportunities, etc.
The people have a right to know the Federal Government’s position as to whether in the 1980s, in the second decade, there is going to be a full-scale Bintulu-isation of the New Economic Policy, where in all spheres of economic and national activities, conditions like the BDA regulation are going to be imposed.
In the interest of securing the fullest public confidence in the NEP before the launching of the Fourth Malaysia Five Year Plan, I call on the Acting Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to dispel the apprehensions created by the Bintulu affair, and to give the people a clear-cut assurance that the Government is not the process of Bintulu-isation of the NEP in the 1980s. The government should also intervene in the Bintulu affair and have the unconstitutional and anti-NEP regulation repealed.
The Samad Ismail line
After twenty four years of Merdeka in 1957, the task of nation building, of making one people out of the diverse races, is still as distant as ever.
Malaysia has one of the most difficult tasks in nation building in the world, with the diversity of races, languages, cultures to be found here.
The only sure way to build such a plural society into one nation is to honour and respect the diversities, but channelling them into one common national goal. Any attempt to suppress any aspect of Malaysia’s diversity, whether it be race, language or culture, is condemned to failure and futility, and even worse, national discord.
It is important that the national leaders, and more and more Malaysians, must understand Malaysia’s pluralistic nature, and to respect the people’s legitimate and natural attachment to their mother-tongues or way of life.
Thus, I view with great concern the television statement of the former New Straits Times managing editor, Samad Ismail, before his release from detention who suggested that those who cherish and want to see Chinese language, education and culture have their rightful place in Malaysia as playing the communist line.
To succumb to such a suggestion is to deal a grievous blow to Malaysian nation building.
At one time, there were many in authority who look at Chinese schools as the seed-bed of communism, and those who fight for Chinese educational, language and cultural rights in the Malaysian polity as communists or fellow-travellers.
For the sake of Malaysia’s future and successful nation building, such myopic attitudes must be banished from those in authority, for there must be a clear distinction between Chinese education, language and culture one the one hand, and communism on the other.
One can be a 100 per cent Malaysian nationalist and Malaysian, who is prepared to die in the defence of Malaysia against aggression from any quarter, whether it be the Vietnamese communist variety, Russian communist variety, or even Chinese communist variety, accept Malay as the national and official language, and yet be completely attached to Chinese language, education and culture.
For anyone to regard Malaysian Chinese who are deeply attached to Chinese language, education and culture as being pro-communist, is not only a travesty of the truth, but even worse, to write off almost the entire Chinese community as disloyal, anti-national elements of which they are certainly not. Such a myopic attitude would in fact strengthen the cause of the communists, for the government would be compelling such an identification of the two groups which does not exist.
Although the communists are exploiting the issues of Chinese education, language and culture, the best way to undercut communist ground is to accord to Chinese education, language and culture the constitutionally-guaranteed position in the country, which is also in accordance with the deeply-held aspiration of the Malaysian Chinese. This is why recent incidents like the Klang District Council decision not to allow Chinese characters to be used on a arch donated by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in honour of the birthday of the Sultan of Selangor has again raised doubts about the place and position of Chinese language in multi-racial Malaysia.
In fact, incidents like those in Klang show that it is government officials who do not have a rounded Malaysian approach and multi-racial values, who keep creating incidents which agitate the Malaysian Chinese community, who seemed to be placed in a position where their rights with regard to Chinese education, language and culture in Malaysia are subject to perpetual erosion and harassment.
The DAP calls on the Government to conduct a campaign where all government leaders and officials are sufficiently imbued with Malaysia’s multi-racial values and perceptions, and avoid trampling on each other’s sensitivities. Government officials should be aware that they must set the example to all Malaysians that they think.and act as Malaysians, and not as Malays, Chinese or Indians, for more than anything else, it is from the people’s relationship with the government that influence their view whether we have a government for all Malaysians, or otherwise.
Let me also advise political leaders to stop doubting the loyalties of non-Malay communities in Malaysia, and even more important, to stop using words which segregate them apart, like ‘orang asing’ or kaum pendatang’, for such attempt to perpetuate separateness not only run counter to the process of national integration and Malaysianisation, but actively promotes division and alienation.
Malaysia belongs to all Malaysians, regardless of their ancestral origin, and if we want a united Malaysia, then government leaders should stop highlighting their separateness, like being Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans, or bumiputras and non-bumiputras, but as Malaysians.