Ten Basis for National Unity

The 2M Government’s call for an efficient and competent administrator cannot succeed unless Parliament, as well as Ministers and Deputy Ministers, set an example of efficiency and competence.

I am concerned that Ministry and Deputy Ministers are becoming slipshod in their work, showing lack of grasp and sometimes total ignorance of their Ministerial responsibility, and when they do this in Parliament, they are not only doing their Ministerial posts a disservice, they are also showing Parliament no respect.

A good instance of this happened on 1st November 1982 when the Deputy Finance Minister, Dr. Ling Liong Sik, in a very sneaky fashion, tried to ram through four motions to increase the sales tax, the service tax and the exercise duties when Parliament had not completed the 1983 budget debate or approved the 1983 budget.

When I questioned the Deputy Finance Minister about this, and told him that all the four motions were irregular and improper, and an insult to Parliament by the Executive, the Deputy Finance Minister was unable to explain in Parliament. Nonetheless, he made use of the overwhelming majority of the Barisan in Parliament, who need not require any explanation to put up their hands or to shout approval for anything being asked by the Government front-benches, to ram through the four motions.

After four motions where passed, Dr. Lin left the Chamber, and presumably after a briefing by his Treasury officials, called a press conference to explain that the motion to confirm the increase in the sales tax from 5% to 10% had to be confirmed within ten days after the order was tabled in the House, or the order would lapse.

It is most shocking that the Deputy Finance Minister does not know this and could not explain in the House, and had to explain it outside the House after a briefing from the Treasury officials.

This explanation, however, does not apply with regard to the other three motions, as the service tax increase or exercise duties increase would not lapse if not confirmed within 10 days of their orders being placed before the House.

What then is the reason for such cavalier treatment, and even contempt, of the House, in approving revenue proposals when the House was still debating them?

I understand that the Treasury Officials themselves did not know that the sales tax increase had to be confirmed within 10 days of the order being tabled in Parliament, but was found out at the last minute inadvertently by one Treasury official. So much for competence and efficiency in the 2M Government!


In any event, there is no justification for the approval of the sales tax increase in the mid-course of Parliamentary debate on the 1983 budget, and I hope that Finance Minister would look into this matter to ensure that there would be no repetition of such grossly irregular motions to approve revenue proposals when they are still being considered in the Budget debate proper.

Ministers and Deputy Ministers must show better grasp of their Ministerial portfolio and duties or they cannot fulfill the motto of their ‘clean, efficient and trustworthy’ government being sloganised by the 2M leadership.

Ministers are also guilty of gross incompetence in not providing MPs with answers to parliamentary questions promptly and efficiently. In the present meeting, MPs were provided with Written Answers to Parliamentary Questions asked in the Parliamentary meetings of April and June 1981. What about the questions asked in the October-December 1981 meeting, the March 1982 meeting?

Parliamentary questions, whether oral or written, must be answered in the very parliamentary meeting they were made, and not two or three years later, when MPs concerned are no more around! If Ministers cannot even furnish the answers to parliamentary question in the same parliamentary meeting that they are asked, what right have the Ministers to go round talking about efficiency and competence?

I call on the Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to issue an immediate directive to all Ministers and Deputy Ministers to buck up, set an example of efficiency and competence, and require all Ministers to provide answers to Parliamentary questions within the same parliamentary meeting itself, and not two or three years later.

Parliament must be more efficient and competent. I have spoken before of the woefully incompetent Public Accounts Committee, which, instead of being an effective watchdog to complement the work of the Auditor-General to oversee financial expenditures, had become a ‘drag’ instead by its delays and procrastinations.

The same applies to other Parliamentary Committees. In the last Parliamentary session, I had reported to Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Datuk Lee Boon Ping, to the Committee of Privileges for a gross breach of privilege in violating the confidentiality of PAC proceedings before the PAC had submitted its Report to the House, I was assured by the late Speaker, Tan Sri Syed Nasir Ismail, that the Privileges Committee would deal sternly with all breaches of privilege, regardless of status, but nothing had been heard of this matter up to the dissolution of Parliament.

For all I know, the Privileges Committee had never met on Datuk Lee Boon Ping’s breach of privilege in the six to eight months that I had lodged the complain before Parliamentary dissolution.


The Malaysian Parliament must move abreast with Commonwealth Parliamentary developments, which have been carrying out on-going parliamentary reforms to provide a more meaningful Parliamentary process. Parliament must not merely be a rubber stamp for the Executive to provide legitimacy to what had already been decided, but should participate actively in every phase of policy formulation.

This is why many Commonwealth Parliaments have established Specialist Parliamentary Committees to oversee various government departments and Ministries, which would lead to MPs being more informed and specialized about particular areas of national policy, but also tune in MPs into various phases of policy formulation in the country.

I would urge the Prime Minister to give serious thought to the question of parliamentary reforms in Malaysia, and to agree to the establishment of an all-party Parliamentary Committee to study all aspects of possible parliamentary reforms in Malaysia to make the Malaysian Parliament a more effective and efficient body. The Prime Minister should also be innovative enough to agree to the establishment of Parliamentary Specialist Select Committees to oversee the work of the various Ministries.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when replying to my Budget speech, said that the government would not relax its drive to penalize those involved in corruption, regardless of whether they were strong party supporters or small fry. As example, he said that since Merdeka, not less than three Mentries Besar and a Federal Minister involved in corruption had been thrown out.

There is nothing assuring in this statement to Malaysians who want to see a government which is really uncompromising in its war against the corrupt in high political places. For were there only three Mentris Besar who were corrupt from 1957 to 1976? Or do they represent a very small percentage of those who should have been prosecuted for corruption?

And from 1976 to 1982, were there no Mentris Besar and Chief Ministers who should have been prosecuted, if the government was really sincere in wanting to fight corruption among those who hold high political office?

Even after 2M government had come to power, were heads of state governments, whether Mentri Besar or Chief Minister, who are corrupt prosecuted?


I challenge the Minister concerned to put these questions in a questionnaire form to the Malaysian people to answer, and he should know better than anyone else what answers would be submitted if identities need not be revealed.

In the last few months, I have been told of a new and very serious form of corruption under the 2M government, i.e. successful applicants for multi-million-dollar projects, whether it be a gigantic housing scheme or mammoth turn-key contract running into hundreds of millions of dollars are required to make substantial contribution to the UMNO, in particular the UMNO Building Fund, which are in terms of millions of dollars.

If this is true, it is the bribery of UMNO, which is no different a corruption as bribery of individuals. I hope that the Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, would be able to make a clear-cut public statement on the matter and clear the air in the country.


I want to ask the Prime Minister, whether it is right and proper for Datuk Mochtar Hashim to continue as Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports during his trial for murder of the former Negri Sembilan Speaker, Datuk Mohamed Taha Talib.

I do not want to discuss the murder trial, or to prejudge Datuk Mochtar Hashim. This is for the courts to come to a judgement. But clearly the principle of Ministerial responsibility requires that Datuk Mochtar Hashim should not continue as Minister, until he had been cleared of the murder charge. If he is found innocent he can be restored to his former Ministerial position.


Malaysians are very concerned at the growing Islamisation of the country, and we must stress that the government must not lose sight of the constitutional fact and guarantee that Malaysia is a secular state, and not an Islamic theocratic state.

While Islam is the official religion, all other religions are guarantee freedom under the Constitution, and not attempt should be made from any quarter to detract from such religious freedoms entrenched in the Constitution by administrative actions.

In this connection, the proposal to introduce an Islamic civilization course in all local universities, which will be compulsory to students of all faculties, run against the spirit, intent and letter of the Constitution which envisages Malaysia as a muli-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia.

The proposed Islamic civilization course in all local universities should be an optional subject, and not a compulsory one. If it is to be compulsory, then the course should be widened into one on Asian civilizations, so that non-Muslims would have a better understanding of Islamic civilization and reduce the apprehensions of non-Muslim to Islam; as well as enabling Muslims to have a better understanding of Chinese and Indian civilizations so that Muslim would reduce their apprehensions about other religious in the country, like Hinduism, Buddhism and even Christianity.

Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious society, and the government must be particularly sensitive to the feelings of the people, if national unity is not going to be undermined. Without national unity, then all the progress and development in Malaysia will finally come to nought.


This is why Malaysia needs urgently an institution which has as its central task the promotion of national unity of the various races and religions in the country. Such an institution must not be a political creature of the government of the day, but should be completely independent without having to be subservient to the policies of the government or dictates of the Ministers. It should be left alone to carry out research, inquiries, studies, and make recommendations in the various areas of national life as to how national unity could be promoted, or pinpoint policies which are undermining national unity and where such policies should be abandoned.

The Government has a National Unity Board, but all along, it has never been able to perform its function to promote national unity in the country. Up to now, it is more well-known for producing calendars and car-stickers, then in making any contribution to national unity

In fact, up to now the National Unity Board has been treated by the Barisan Nasional Government either as Political Refugee for Political Drop-outs, like the late Tun Sambathan after we was thrown out as MIC President, or as a Political Form school to deal with Barisan leaders who are a bit recalcitrant, like the new Chairman of the National Unity Board announced only a few days ago, Datuk Lee Kim Sai.

The question in everybody’s mind is whether Datuk Lee Kim Sai is a fit and suitable appointment if the National Unity Board is to be entrusted with the task of promoting national unity, instead of continuing to print calenders and car-stickers.

Datuk Lim Kim Sai is notorious for his ‘disuniting’ qualities. He was the one who chiefly responsible for hounding Datuk Micheal Chen from the MCA. He was the one who ‘disunite’ the Gerakan among other things.

Having been disappointed from being made a Minister or a Deputy Minister, Datuk Lee Kim Sai knows that his appointment as Chairman of the National Unity Board is virtually being put on ‘political parole’, or put in a political reform school and it is now up to him to show that he is not too recalcitrant. This will make sure that he will adhere slavishly to the Barisan National nation building policies, even though these policies are causing national disunity!

No wonder, immediately after his appointment as National Unity Board Chairman, one of his first acts was to speak in Parliament attacking the DAP for opposing and criticizing the ‘One Language One Culture’ policy of the Barisan Nasional.

If we expect the National Unity Board to rise up to the occasion to point the directions to the creation of national unity, I think Datuk Lee Kim Sai would b the last person to be considered. If Datuk Lee Kim Sai is to be put through a political reform school, then the National Unity Board is the first place to put him in!

The National Unity Board should move away from its past token activities of printing calenders and car-stickers, and deal with important contemporary issues which have a direct bearing on national unity.

I propose that the National Unity Board should in the next 12 months deal with the following issues and study them and make recommendations from the standpoints of their bearing on the vital matter of ‘national unity’:

1. The National Unity Board should commission a full-scale study as to how the policy ‘One Language, One Culture’ as announced by Barisan Nasional government at the official opening of Parliament would cause national disunity in a country whose only viable basis must be multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural;

2. The National Unity Board should study how the introduction of a compulsory subject in the local universities on Islamic civilization disregarding the sensitivities of non-Muslim Malaysians could retard national unity;

3. The National Unity Board should consider how the continued restriction on free cultural expressions, like the restrictions on the lion dance subject to police regulations, could retard national unity;

4. The National Unity Board should consider how efforts by various Municipal Councils, like Malacca Municipality to introduce new advertising and signboard by-laws requiring the Bahasa Malaysia language to be at least three times the size of Chinese and other languages and that of the Kota Star Municipal Council requiring Chinese characters on signboards to be of one-quarter the size of Bahasa Malaysia, could lead to national disunity in the country. If this is the result of the MCA ‘breakthrough’ in the general elections, then in the next MCA ‘breakthrough’ the Chinese characters would be so small that they would become illegible;

5. The National Unity Board should consider the Kepayang Declaration adopted by the people of Kepayang in The Kepayang by-election on October 16 could contribute to national unity, and propose formally to the government for adoption of the Kepayang Declaration by the government.

6. The National Unity Board should consider how the indifferent attitude of the Government to the problem of illegal Indonesian immigrants is undermining national unity. During the Kepayang by-election, Datuk Lee Kim Sai stage-managed a ‘publicity stand’, where the widow of a Malaysian killed by illegal Indonesian immigrants was told by the MCA to cut her fingers outside the MCA Headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to write her accusation with her blood. Has the poor widow’s ‘blood accusation’ brought about serious government attention to the problem of illegal Indonesia immigrants? The person who should cut his finger and write a ‘blood accusation’ is Datuk Lee San Choon in the Cabinet! In any event, now that Datuk Lee Kim Sai has been appointed Chairman of the National Unity Board, would he announce formally acceptance of the ‘blood accusation’ of the poor widow, and commission a full-scale study as to how the illegal Indonesian immigrants are undermining national unity?

7. The National Unity Board should commission a study as to how the failure of the government to implement the New Economic Policy in accordance with the guarantee that ‘no particular group experiences any loss or feels any sense of deprivation’ has caused national disunity in the last 12 years

8. The national Unity Board should study how the recently released Kuala Lumpur Master Plan has undermined national unity because the Malaysian Chinese and Indians are gravely concerned that the Kuala Lumpur Master Plan would slow down growth in existing non-Malay areas, like Jimjang/Kepong, Cheras, Old Klang Road, and Sungei Besi/ Chan Sow Lim, and with no incentive for growth, these areas are likely to become the poorest and most backward sectors of the future Kuala Lumpur. Another area should be studied is whether the Kuala Lumpur Master Plan to create entire Malay township is in keeping with the objective of creating a restructured Malaysia where there is no identification of race with vocation or location; and whether this advances or retards national unity;

9. The National Unity Board should study whether our universities are the crucibles of national unity, or the seed-beds of racial polarization, because of the fundamental importance of our future leaders being more united than divided. In this connection, the National Unity Board would do well to use as a guide in this study the statement issued by ALIRAN, which comprised many university academicians, on the 18th August 1982, entitled: “Ethic Polarisation in the Universities” and I quote the relevant parts:

“Airan is concerned about increasing ethnic polarization within student communities in institutions of higher learning in the country.

“The composition of tutorial group, voting in student elections, participation in student societies, seating patterns in lecture-halls and university canteens, attendance at university functions, student responses to public issues and other aspects of social intercourse in the campuses are manifestations of this trend.

“Ethnic polarization is due to a number of factors. First, ethnic policies in higher education related to quotas and scholarships. Second, the feeling among students that ethnicity will determine future employment prospects and mobility patterns. Third, a strong attachment to narrowly-defined communal rights and interests among a significant number of Malays and non-Malays.

“Fourth, a bigoted interpretation of Islam among some Muslim students which is beginning to produce counter-reactions among non-Muslim students. Fifth, the active manipulation of ethic fears and hopes by certain academic and administrators for their own selfish interests. Finally, the constant emphasis upon ethnicity in the larger Malaysia society which has also influence student thinking.

“If students are not weaned away from communal thinking immediate! There is a danger that they will become even more chauvinistic than the present elites, once they assume important positions in the public and private sectors. As ethnic consciousness backed by ethnic policies and ethnic institutions becomes more and me entrenched, it will be even mo difficult to break down ethnic barrier in future.”

10. The National Unity Board should study how the ‘Politics of Blackmail’ as most blatantly practiced by the Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Harris Salled and Parti Berjaya, and abuse of power, like the unjustifiable ban on Sdr. Lee Lam Thye and me from entering Sabah to pursue legitimate political activities undermine national unity.

The National Unity Board must be able to and be prepared to study these important issues from the standpoint of national unity, and make recommendations to the Government as well as making public these findings. If the National Unity Board could only print calenders and car-stickers, and dare not to deal with the fundamental issues of national unity, then the Nationa Unity Board might as well be abolished.


I understand that the National Unity Board has recommended that in future, no non-Muslim place of worship could be built unless there are at least 4,000 signatures from particular locality for a temple, church or chapel to be erected.

I am shocked that the National Unity Board could come out with such a recommendation which could only result in greater disunity. I do not know up to what stage this recommendation is being accepted and implemented by the Government, but I would call on the Government to abandon this proposal to restrict the construction of non-Muslim places of worship as it would constitute a violation of the Constitution guarantee of freedom of religion. This is because the requirement that there must be 4,000 petitioners before a place of non-Muslim worship could be erected would make it virtually impossible for such places of worship to be established in most localities.

In this connection, I also wish to raise the growing incidence of family break-ups, community tensions and increasing racial polarization arising from the propagation of Islam to non-Muslim minors in the face of strong parental objections.

Every Malaysian from every religion must be particularly conscious of the sensititives of a multi-religious society, and in this regard, I call on the Government to introduce an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit the propagation of Islam to non-Muslim minors below the age of 18 unless with express parental consent.

Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution on Freedom of Religion virtually prohibits the ‘propagation of any religious doctrine or belief among persons professing the religion of Islam’. I am not objecting to this provision, but an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit the propagation of Islam to non-Muslim minors unless with parental consent is also needed to preserve national unity in the country.

I believe that it is not the object of any religion to cause family break-ups and community tensions. If a non-Muslim, having reached the age of majority, wishes to embrace Islam, that is his or her right. However, where minors are concerned, we should prevent family break-ups where the parents have strong objection, as such family disruptions would also carry racial and religious overtones, which cannot be healthy for a multi-racial, multi-religious Malaysia.


The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Abdullah Badawi, in his reply to me, said that PERNAS, having acquired Hotel Jayapuri, was unable to pay the hotel staff during the period the hotel was being renovated as PJ HILTON.

I am not asking PERNAS to pay the hotel staff full pay during the period of hotel renovation. PERNAS, however, is being bad employer by terminating the services of the Jayapuri staff, for what PERNAS should do is to lay the workers off during the period of renovation and on re-opening of PJ HILTON the workers could continue their employment without any break of continuity of service.

During the lay-off period, the workers should be paid a lay-off allowance to meet the worker’s subsistence needs.

What PERNAS is doing is to terminate the services of the workers in Hotel Jayapuri, with the vague promise that they could apply for new employment with PJ HILTON, if their services are needed. Surely their services are needed, because there is no change of business. MCIS, the previous owner, has in fact still 20 per cent share in the hotel.

It is an established principle of industrial law that where there is a mere transfer of ownership where the same business or trading continues, the new owner assumes the employer responsibility for the employees without any break of continuity of service. Otherwise, all workers would have no security of employment as unscrupulous capitalist acquire ownership of public companies and then change name although the same business is continued, to sack all the existing workers.

Datuk Abdullah Badawi is the Minister responsible in the Prime Minister’s Department to get Malaysians to ‘Look East’. He should know that one of the reasons for the Japanese work ethics he wants Malaysians to emulate is the system of virtually life-long employment in Japanese companies. If the Japanese companies practice what Pernas is proposing to do with regard to the Hotel Jayapuri staff, I do not think Japan would be able to chalk up the economic progress it did. The Government or its agencies, like Pernas, then should set a good example to ‘Look East’. I therefore call on PERNAS to withdraw its letters of termination of service to all Hotel Jayapuri staff, and instead, lay them off during the period of renovation and resume their employment on the re-opening of Hotel PJ HILTEN without any break of continuity of service.

(Speech by Parliament Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang in Dewan Rakyat on the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department on November 9, 1982)