Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary – General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, on the National Language amendment bill on Thursday, 17.3.1983
National Language (Extension and Amendment) Bill enacted without consultations and consent of people of Sarawak and Sabah undermines the process of national integration, especially between East and West Malaysia.
For the last two days, Barisan MPs, both from Peninsular Malaysia as well as Sarawak and Sabah, including phoney Independents from Sabah, had been concentrating their fire on the DAP MPs from Kuching, Sdr. Sim Kwang Yang, DAP MP from Sibu, Ling Sie Ming and DAP from Sandakan, Sdr. Fang Ket Wing, for opposing the national Language (Extension and Amendment) Bill.
Many Barisan MPsx including the phoney Independents from Sabah made emotional speeches, painting the picture that the DAP is opposed to Bahasa Malaysia, and a few even went to the extent of questioning their loyalty to Malaysia.
I regret that so many Barisan MPs had taken such as irrational attitude, refusing to see the valid points which were made by the DAP MPs from Sabah and Sarawak.
They are firstly, this National Language (Extension and Amendment) Bill should not have been brought to Parliament for enactment without consultation and consent from the people of Malaysia.
Sarawak’s and Sabah’s entry into Malaysia in 1963 came about in a set of special circumstances, involving considerable opposition from the people in the two states, who feared that they would be dominated upon by Peninsular Malaysia. Even today, 20 years after Sarawak and Sabah’s entry into Malaysia, there is strong resentment against dominant Peninsular role in the two states.
National integration in Malaysia must involve not only the bringing together of the various races in the country, but also a territorial integration, in particular between East and West Malaysia.
Surely the process of national integration, in particular between Sarawak and Sabah on the one hand and Peninsulr Malaysia on the other hand would be better served in such a Bill, which so greatly affect the constitutional rights of Sarawakaians and Sabahans, are made after consultation and consent of the people of Sarawak and Sabah?
In the interests of national integration and unity, not only the letter, but also the spirit, of the Malaysian Constitution guaranteeing the special rights of Sarawak and Sabah should be respected.
Before I proceed further, I went to stress that the question of Malaysia as the official and national language throughout Malaysia is not in question. The question is for how long English in Sarawak and Sabah should continue to be allowed official status to ensure that the right and aspirations of the people of these two states at all levels can find expression and attention.
This is a question where the people of Sarawak and Sabah should be consulted first, and if the people of Sarawak and Sabah, for instance, feels that they need another ten years for instance, before they are fully conversant in Bahasa Malaysia, one must be prepared to receive such views with respect, and not to become extremist and irrational by labeling these persons as dis-loyal or anti-national.
Several MPs had virtually attacked the DAP MPs from Sibu Kuching and Sandakana as disloyal, for not agreeing to the full use of Bahasa Malaysia at all levels of national life. Are then they suggesting that all the Sarawak Assemblymen who allow English to continue to be used in the Sarawak State Assembly to be disloyal to Malaysia too?
If we want to follow the example of MPs who challenge the loyalties of those who disagree with them, then they are themselves the most disloyal Malaysians, for they are disloyal to the concept of Malaysia as a parliamentary democracy where there is freedom of diversity of views, they are disloyal to a Malaysia where Sabahans and Sarawakains can legitimately urge for extension of their special interests as in the extension of the use of English as official language, for they also disloyal to the Malaysian Constitution and therefore to the Malaysian nation which is founded on the Constitution which allows continued usage of English as official language in these two states.
I want to stress that the enactment of the National Language (Extension and Amendment) Bill without consultation and consent of people of Sarawak and Sabah undermines the process of national integration, especially between East and West Malaysia.
One Barisan MP had argued that they had the mandate of the people of Sarawak to introduce this Bill because of the victory of the Barisan Nasional in Sarawak during the last general elections.