The crucial importance of the Kepayang by-election

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Kepayang by-election committee meeting held at Perak DAP H. Q. on Thursday, 30.9.1982

The crucial importance of the Kepayang by-election

The Kepayang by-election is of crucial importance, not only to the DAP and to the people of Kepayang, but also to democracy and the political future of Malaysia.

In the April general elections, the DAP suffered a severe setback in Peninsular Malaysia, with our 15 Parliamentary seats won in the 1978 general elections slashed to six seats.

On first glance, it would appear that the DAP had been decisively rejected by the people, and that the MCA had, as it subsequently claimed, scored a ‘major breakthrough’ and could claim to represent the five million Malaysian Chinese.

Detailed study of the general election results would show that in actual fact, the DAP had maintained its national electoral support in securing some 20% of the total votes cast in Peninsular Malaysia, as in the previous general elections. If Malaysia has a fair and just democratic system, then the DAP should have 20% of the Parliamentary seats in Peninsular Malaysian, which is 23 Parliamentary seats instead of the present six.

The real victors in the April general elections is the UMNO and nobody else. The MCA claimed to have scored a ‘major breakthrough’ which is not matched by any ‘major breakthrough’ in resolving the long-standing grievance of the Malaysian Chinese in the fields of politics, economics, education and culture.

Thus, the general elections have concentrated even more political power in the hands of UMNO. If the MCA had really achieved a ‘major breakthrough’, it should have been able to wrest back some of the political rights lost to UMNO in the past 25 years.

I would have thought that with the MCA’s claims of ‘major breakthrough’ for the Malaysian Chinese, Datuk Lee San Choon would be appointed as the Second Deputy Prime Minister, as demanded by the MCA Youth before the general elections. But Datuk Lee was unable even to regain the traditional MCA Cabinet posts of Finance Minister or Minister of Commerce and Industry. After 25 years of MCA ‘breakthrough’, the MCA had succeeded in regressing from the traditional MCA Cabinet posts of Finance Minister and Minister of Commerce and Industry to Deputy Ministerships for these two Ministries. And MCA continued to be excluded from the key Ministries of Education and Home Affairs.

It is significant that after the general elections, the Merdeka University struggle was ended in the Federal Court judgement, dashing the hopes and dreams of millions of Malaysian Chinese. This is the type of ‘major breakthrough’ the MCA has in mind!

Educationally, Malaysian students continued to be denied of their rights of higher education in their home country. The DAP had demanded the establishment of another two or three universities by the government, and the encouragement and approval for the establishment of private universities. All that the Government is talking about is the establishment of an Islamic University! This is again another example of the MCA’s ‘major breakthrough’.

In Johore, after the defeat of the sole DAP State Assemblyman in the April general elections, one UMNO Assemblyman demanded that non-Malays should put on songkok as formal attire for official functions, in complete disregard of the sensitivities of the other cultural and racial groups in the country. No UMNO Assemblyman dared to make such a suggestion from 1969 to 1982 because there was a DAP Assemblyman to oppose and condemn such a proposal. But now the MCA had scored a ‘major breakthrough’.

The MCA boast about restoring the full use of Chinese in Radio Malaysia song request programmes. What was ignored was that the restoration was effected not because Malaysian Chinese have a right to have Chinese language programmes over Radio and Television Malaysia, but because the way the ‘rojak’ changes were made would ‘pollute’ Bahasa Malaysia. It is because of the failure of the Barisan government to fully recognise the right of Malaysian Chinese or Malaysian Indians to have language programmes of their own over radio and television as a matter of right, and not as a matter of sufferance, that both Radio and Television Malaysia had neglected the Chinese and Tamil language programme over Radio and Television Malaysia.

I have received complaints recently, that Chinese news broadcasts over Radio Malaysia, each morning are followed by Koranic quotations and teachings. This is another ‘major breakthrough’ of the MCA!

At the UMNO General Assembly, the Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir announced that all university students would be required to study ‘Islamic civilisation’. Why not Chinese, Indian or Asian civilisation? Again, another ‘major breakthrough’ of MCA. Muslim students in schools are taught Islam, while non-Muslim students would be taught ‘moral education’. Why not teach non-Muslim students their own religion in the schools, in conformity with the Rukunegara principle of ‘belief in God’?

I understand that the government had issued a directive to all the stock-broking firms to comply with the New Economic Policy objective of 30 per cent bumiputra ownership, although these are partnerships whose success depends considerably on the ability of the partners to work together. Several share stock-broking firms had their licenses endorsed with the deadline for the compliance of 30% bumiputra ownership, failing which their licences would be withdrawn. This is another MCA ‘major breakthrough’.

UMNO has gained great confidence from the April general elections to carry out its policies and programmes to even greater lengths, for it regards the DAP as having suffered a severe setback.

For the sake of the rights and interests of Malaysians, the UMNO must be reminded that the DAP’s policies still command the support of substantial numbers of Malaysians, and that the UMNO has not been given a mandate to carry out its policies and programme to extreme lengths.

If the DAP can win back Kepayang seat decisively, then it would be a loud and clear reminder to UMNO that it must respect the views and wishes of Malaysians who don’t agree with UMNO. On the other hand, if the DAP loses Kepayang, then the UMNO national leadership will take this as another proof that it has the mandate to carry out more ‘major breakthrough’ adversely affecting the political, economic, educational, social and cultural rights of all Malaysians.

This is why the Kepayang by-election will have great bearing in deciding the future political direction of the country, and not just Perak.