Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary – General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Tanjong Anniversary Dinner held in Penang on Saturday, 6th August 1983 at 8 p.m.
DAP calls on the 15 Chinese National Organisations and Tung/ Chiau Chung to convene another national Cultural Congress following the rejection of their Cultural Memorandum adopted in Penang in March 1983, and to decide on steps to oppose a ‘one language, one culture’ policy.
In March this year, the Malaysian Chinese Cultural Congress was held in Penang which adopted a Cultural Memorandum endorsed by 15 Chinese National Organisations and Tung/ Chiau Chung to urge the Barisan Nasional Government to adopt a multi- cultural policy based on the integration of the various cultures in the country, and for the rejection of the policy of the assimilation of other cultures as advocated by the 1971 National Cultural Congress.
The Penang Cultural Memorandum raised great expectations and high hopes among the Malaysian Chinese that there is now the beginning of cultural awareness and that the cultural policy of the government would accord full recognition to the various cultures in the country, accepting them as full integral part of the Malaysian cultural heritage and future.
Unfortunately, without even being considered by the Cabinet, the Cultural Memorandum of the Malaysi an Chinese Cultural Congress why was rejected outright by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Encik Anwar Ibrahim, as being contrary to the government’s National Culture Policy based on the 1971 Cultural Congress Resolution.
When DAP Members of Parliament queried him on this subject in Parliament, Encik Anwar made it very clear that the Barisan Nasional Government would not compromise on its National Culture Policy, fully accepting the 1971 National Cultural Congress Resolution, and that the government’s National Culture Policy had the support of all the component parties in the Barisan Nasional.
What is even more disconcerting, there is now an attempt to elevate the National Culture Policy of the Barisan Nasional to the status of National Language and Official Religion, so that they could not be questioned or challenged, escept with regard to details of implementation.
The uncompromising stand of the Barisan Nasional Government on its National Culture Policy as reflected by Encik Anwar’s statement in Parliament, has highlighted three perennial problems faced by the Malaysian Chinese in their struggle for legitimate political, economic, educational and cultural rights, seriously undermining their effectiveness and ability to influence policy changes and developments.
Firstly, there is the unwillingness to face up to unpleasant reality or truth, or to admit what the government’s policy really stand for. There is a continuous attempt to equivocate, to delude oneself into believing that certain policy positions do not reflect the real intent of the authorities concerned. Thus, there have been those who believe, and what is worse want others to believe, that the Barisan Nasional government’s National Culture Policy of the government is for proclaiming but not for implementation. If Malaysians seriously read and study the speeches and statements made seriously by UMNO leaders on national culture, then there should be no reason for such self- deception or attempt to device the others.
In this connection, I am surprised that Encik Anwar’s replies to the DAP on the National Chinese Organisations’ for from Encik Anwar’s replies the people can see for themselves the policy and future directions of the government.
To ensure that Malaysians understand what the Government thinks about national culture, I reproduce below the verbatim replies of Encik Anwar to DAP MPs’ questions in Parliament:
The replies by Encik Anwar to DAP questions in Parliament on national culture should be carefully studied by all Malaysians, for they are the fullest statement in Parliament after the 1982 general elections on the government’s cultural policy, which indicate that there had been no compromises on the question of national culture, but further hardening of position. The Barisan Nasional Government would not brook any questioning or challenging to the basic national culture policy, but would consider merely proposals on how better to implement the policy based on the 1971 National Cultural Congress Resolution that Malaysian Culture shall be based on three principles, namely (i) that national culture be based on the indigenous culture; (ii) elements of other cultures which are suitable and appropriate could be accept into the national culture; and (iii) Islam should be an important element.
The second problem afflicting Malaysian Chinese is the ease with which they could be led to believe that although national government policies, like the National Culture Policy, had been promulgated, they had not been agreed y the other component Barisan Nasional parties, like MCA, Gerakan, and the SUPP for instance.
Ever since the 1971 National Culture Congress, MCA Gerakan and SUPP Minister, MPs, and other leaders had given the people the impression that they had not given their agreement to the three principles constituting Malaysian culture, although as Encik Anwar pointed out in Parliament, this policy was the policy of all component Barisan parties and could not now be questioned. Surely UMNO leaders would be encouraged to take a hard and inflexible stand on National Culture over the years, when the other component parties such a policy all along. Furthermore, when the present MCA Ministers, like Datuk Dr. Neo Yee Pan, Datuk Mak Hon Kam and Datuk Chin Hong Ngian, had served as Deputy Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports before their Ministerial promotion, proclaiming the 1971 National Cultural Congress as the basic of national culture, it is now impossible for them to open their mouth in Cabinet that they had never agreed to such a policy.
The third problem afflicting the Malaysian Chinese is the ease with which they could be led to believe that the answer to their aspirations is to support those who campaign on the slogan, ‘Attack into the BN to rectify the BN, Attack into the Cabinet to rectify the BN’, as most vividly illustrated in the April 1982 general elections. The result of the voters’ confusion in the April 1982 general elections, leading to the great BN electoral victory, is not the ‘rectification’ of either the BN or the Cabinet, but the ‘hardening of the BN and the hardening of the Cabinet.’ This could be seen by the fact that immediately after the April 1982 general elections ‘victory’ of the BN, it was announced at the Official Opening of Parliament that the government’s nation- building policy in the 1980s is the objective of ‘one language, one culture’.
However, despite the clear, unequivocal announcement of ‘one language, one culture’ nation building policy in Parliament, which evoked no objection from any MP from the MCA, Gerakan or SUPP, and which could only be included in the policy statement in Parliament with the agreement of ‘one language, one culture’ nation building policy in Parliament, which evoked no objection from any MP from the MCA, Gerakan or SUPP Ministers, there were still many who hoped that there would be a ‘cultural breakthrough’ with regard to the government’s national cultural policy. This explained the national interest and high hopes surrounding the Malaysian Chinese Cultural Congress in Penang in March, in complete disregard of political realities and force which have become even more unfavourable as compared before the April 1982 general elections.
These three weaknesses of the Malaysian Chinese have undermined their ability to recognize the real problems facing them, dissipated their attention and energies with ‘diversionary issues’, and undermined their ability to respond with the necessary concerted unity strength, and effectiveness to meet their crisis of identity in Malaysia.
The Malaysian Chinese’s struggle for their rightful and legitimate political, economic, educational and cultural rights can only bear fruit if the three weaknesses I mentioned are overcome, that is, recognition of the actual policy of the Barisan Nasional government, awareness that such a policy was made possible because of the support in Cabinet and Parliament of the other component parties of Barisan Nasional, like the MCA, Gerakan and SUPP; and the realization that slogans like ‘Attack into the BN to rectify BN, and Attack into the Cabinet to rectify the Cabinet’ without prior commitment to policy changes by UMNO could only lead to hardening of BN and Cabinet policies.
It is in this light that I would call on the fifteen Chinese National Organisations and Tung/ Chiau Chung to convene another/ Cultural/ national congress to discuss the rejection of their Cultural Memorandum by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, even without a Cabinet discussion, and the steps that must be taken to oppose a ‘ONE language, one culture’ policy.
It would be most unfortunate if their lack of response to the rejection of their Cultural Memorandum by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports is taken as acquiescene to the 1971 National Cultural Congress Policy on Malaysian culture.