DAP apology to the voters of Kepayang for a by-election five months after the General Elections

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, to the Perak DAP State Interim Committee and Kinta Valley DAP Branch committee members in Ipoh on Sunday, 12th Sept. 1982 at 10 a.m.

DAP apology to the voters of Kepayang for a by-election five months after the General Elections

The Elections Commission has announced that Nomination Day for Kepayang by-election would be on Sept. 30 and polling on Oct. 16. First of all, the DAP wishes to apologise to the voters of Kepayang for the holding of a by-election five months after the April General Elections. The Party cannot justify Sdr. Lim Cho Hock’s resignation as Kepayang State Assemblyman causing a by-election.

In the upcoming Kepayang by-election, there will be those, especially in the Barisan Nasional, who will try to exploit and capitalise on the ‘Lim Cho Hock resignation’ to discredit the party. The reasons for Sdr. Lim Cho Hock’s resignation as Kepayang State Assemblyman involved internal party matters, which are being dealt with inside the party. The Party Central Executive Committee has set up a three-man inquiry into Sdr. Lim’s allegations with regard to poison-pen letters, and this committee would start work immediately after the by-election.

There will also be those who will try to make use of the Kepayang by-election to launch an orchestrated attack on the DAP leadership by claiming that the poison-pen letters are the result of the style of DAP leadership.

Poison-pen letters are despicable and those responsible for them are despicable characters. But we must see the poison-pen letters in perspective. This is not the first time in Malaysia’s political life that poison-pen letters had surfaced in any political party in the country.

Only last Thursday, poison-pen letters featured prominently in the UMNO Youth and UMNO Wanita elections. In fact, some press reports attributed Haji Suhaimi Kamarrudin’s defeat as UMNO Youth President to his emotional outbursts at the UMNO Youth Assembly to poison-pen attacks about his being a womaniser an liquor drinker.

The poison-pen letters that I had received about political leaders in Barisan component parties, whether UMNO, MCA or MIC, could fill a large volume. As recent as November last year, there was a five-page poison-pen letter on the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, circulated in Johore, which led Datuk Musa to comment in Kluang, as reported in Star on 23rd November 1981:

“The person who wrote this letter is angry, vindictive but also afraid…afraid that his accusations cannot be proved and that is why he dared not sign the letter. I have never cared about these sorts of anonymous letter. They do not irritate me. I forgive the person who wrote this. He is not only lying to me, to himself but he is also trying to bluff Allah.”

Even Dr. Mahathir Mohamed himself had been the subject of poison-pen letter attacks. Thus, when declaring open the joint UMNO Youth and UMNO Wanita Assemblies on 14th Sept. 1978, Dr. Mahathir in his opening speech, said:

“… as an election approaches, all manner of stories circulate about his or that candidate. When there was a possibility of my contesting for the post of Deputy President.

“Nothing was heard of that particular fairy tale. You will remember the stories about Encik Ghaffar in 1972 and the one about Tan Sri Kadir taking a second wife when Tan Sri Fatimah was standing for the post of Wanita president.

“Another popular type of tale is about involvement in activities UMNO members do not like. As usual, truth is not important. What is important is the effect such stories will have on the chances of a candidate.”

The difference of such poison-pen letters about Barisan leaders and DAP leaders is the attitude of certain newspapers which disregard such poison-pen letters involving Barisan leaders but play up those involving DAP leaders. Recently, one national daily even carried a front-page report of considerable length about one such poison-pen letter, reducing to the level of the authors of such poison-pen letters. But this newspaper, though giving currency to the lies and falsehoods in the poison-pen letter, omitted reference to the DAP leaders named in the poison-pen letter, in the hope of escaping legal liability for defamation.

It is most sad to see a national newspaper degenerating to the level of purveying poison-pen letters but these are the hurdles which DAP leaders, unlike Barisan leaders, have no face.

As I said, there will be those who will try to turn the Kepayang by-election into a forum on the ‘Lim Cho Hock resignation’, and even on an attack on the DAP leadership. But these are not the issues in the upcoming Kepayang by-election. The crucial issue in the Kepayang by-election is whether the people still want the DAP to be a strong political opposition force to represent their interests and rights.

Barisan leaders had exulted at the resignation of Sdr. Lim Cho Hock, with the Perak Mentri Besar declaring the DAP’s downfall in Perak. It is the people of Kepayang who will decide whether they want to see the downfall of DAP in Perak, or whether they want to see the DAP rebuild itself from the recent general elections defeat into an even greater political force in the state.

The Kepayang by-election will be a difficult contest for the DAP. I am aware that there are those who are betting that the DAP would lose in the by-election. Past election statistics show the formidable battle in front of the DAP. In the 1974 General Elections, Sdr. Cho Hock won Kepayang with a majority of 8,585 votes, securing 14,143 votes. In the 1978 general elections, Sdr. Cho Hock increased his majority to 10,434 securing 17,848 votes. In the 1982 general elections, Sdr. Cho Hock’s majority was 161, securing 13,614 votes.

In these three general elections, the Barisan Nasional increased its votes from 5,558 on 1974, to 7,414 in 1978 and to 13,453 in 1982.

Whether the DAP in the Perak can regain the confidence of the people in Kepayang will also depend on our ability to convince the people of our political seriousness, our ability to resolve internal party problems without washing dirty linen in public, a high degree of party commitment and discipline to subordinate personal or sectional interests to party interests. If the DAP in Perak cannot close ranks, and end the internal party feuding and bickering, then the DAP deserve to lose.

This will be tragedy for the DAP in Perak, as well as a state and national tragedy. This is particularly so as the recent general elections results giving the Barisan Nasional an even greater parliamentary and state assembly majorities called for a stronger DAP to check the excesses and abuses of governmental power.

At the UMNO General Assembly last Friday, the Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, hinted at the possibility of the government changing its ‘liberal’ policy. Whatever this means, it cannot be a herald for an more open and democratic system of government.

Various developments after the general elections are highly disturbing and indicate fundamental changes in the political ground rules in the country. It will be most tragic for Malaysia if we reach the stage where extremism and fanaticism become the new national norms of the day, while attacks and opposition on such extremism and fanaticism are regarded as ‘anti-national’ and disloyal.