Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and Mp for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Dinner held at Kuala Sipatang, Taiping, on Saturday, 20th August 1983 at 8p.m.
DAP calls on all Malaysians to make an open commitment to support the culture policy of integration and to oppose any assimilation approach or policy
Malaysia has entered a very important political era after the April 1982 General Elections, with far-reaching political, economic, education, cultural and nation-building repercussions.
Thus, for the first time in the history of Malaysian Parliament, the Barisan Nasional Government announced at the Parliamentary official opening on Oct.11,1982 that the government was committed to a’ one language, one culture’ nation building policy in the 1980s;
Again, in Parliament on July 29 and August 12, 1983, for the first time in the history of Malaysian Parliament, a Cabinet Minister clearly stated that the cultural policy of the government is one of ‘assimilation’, and that the Culture Memorandum of the 15 Chinese national organisation and Tung/ Chiau Chung are detrimental to the national unity in the country.
This is the time for all Malaysians, who cherish a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-religious nation, to make clear their commitment to a cultural policy of integration and opposition to the policy of assimilation.
We are now struggling for the soul of Malaysia-whether our vision of a future Malaysia is a Malaysian nation born out of the diverse cultures to create a multi-cultural Malaysia and identity, or whether it is a future state based, as propounded by the 1971 National Cultural Congress, based on the Malay culture and identity.
I have been following closely the reactions and developments to the clear-cut announcements by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Anwar Ibrahim, on the Malaysian culture and the government’s rejection of the policy proposals of the Culture Memorandum of the 15 Chinese national Organisations and Tung/Chiau Chung, and I must confess that the reactions fill one with dismay, and as the Chinese saying put in ‘Supporters’ Grieve, Foes Rejoice.
The MCA’s reactions have been topically dishonest. For instance, the MCA Youth Leader and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Lee Kim Sai, said in Ipoh on June August 16 said that he is arranging for a dialogue between representatives of the 15 Chinese national organizations and Tung/Chiau Chung who are signatories to the Cultural Memorandum adopted in Penang on March 27, 1983;while the MCA Youth Secretary-General, Chew Hock Thye, said in Bahau on August 17, that he hoped that the Government would reconsider its policy of cultural assimilation.
How long are MCA Ministers and leaders going to mislead the people of Malaysia, and in particular the five million Malaysian Chinese?
What is the use of arranging a dialogue between the representatives of the 15 Chinese national organisation and Tung/Chiau Chung who are signatories to the Cultural Memorandum with Anwar Ibrahim, when Anwar Ibrahim’s cultural policy statement in Parliament represented not himself, but the entire Barisan Nasional Cabinet and Government, including that of the MCA, Gerakan, SUPP Ministers and MPs?
If Datuk Lee Kim Sai is really sincere in wanting to seek to bring about changes in the policy of cultural assimilation of the Barisan Nasional Cabinet and Government, then it is the MCA Ministers and MPs who must first be prepared to speak publicly, as well as in Cabinet and Parliament, that Anwar Ibrahim cultural policy.
Clearly, as a first step, Datuk Lee Kim Sai should be arranging a dialogue between the representatives of the 15 Chinese national organisations and Tung/Chiau Chung who are signatories to the Cultural Memorandum on one hand, and MCA Ministers Deputy Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries to secure from the MCA Cabinet Members and MPs a commitment and pledge to oppose the policy of cultural assimilation, and the government’s rejection of the Cultural Memorandum.
Chew Hock Thye should not talk about hoping that the Government would reconsider the cultural policy of assimilation, when MCA Ministers and MPs would not reconsider their support for the cultural policy as declared by Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament.
I find the Gerakan’s reaction equally disheartening. The first Gerakan leader to comment, Koh Tsu Koon, MP for Tanjong, and subsequently the Gerakan Central Publicity Bureau, made the same MCA point that they are not in agreement with Anwar Ibrahim, cleverly ignoring the fact that Anwar’s cultural policy pronouncement represented that of the Gerakan in Cabinet and Parliament!
This is just like the MCA national leaders encouraging its MCA branches to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of Clause 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act which empowers the Education Minister to convert Chinese primary schools into national primary schools, while in Cabinet and Parliament, the MCA Ministers and MPs strongly oppose such repeal!
But what is most shocking is the policy approach enunciated byDr.Koh, which probably reflects the Gerakan’s policy approach, that cultural problems could not be resolved by confrontation methods; that in premature periods, to question challengingly would only force both sides to harden and adopt uncompromising positions causing a stalemate; and that is could get publicity results but could, under the present circumstances, only wors on the already unfavourable position of Chinese and Indian cultural situation.
I am indeed astounded by Koh Tsu Koon’s political philosophy, which I take to be the Gerakan’s political philosophy too, for even the MCA had not dared to sugar-coat its repeated compromises in this manner.
What Koh Tsu Koon is in fact suggesting is that people can wrong us, but we should not antagonize people; and that if we are presented with fait accompli, like the announcement of rejection of the Cultural Memorandum, we must not be excited, angry or unhappy, but must take things in the stride so that we would not be accused of being confrontationist and be an excuse for people to be even more inflexible and uncompromising! I am indeed shocked, for it would appear that to Koh Tsu Koon, the summary rejection of the Cultural Memorandum of the 15 Chinese national organisations and Tung/Chiau Chung does not appear to be ‘uncompromising’ enough!
I am also most intrigued by the statement by the so-called Gerakan Central Publicity Bureau of 18th August, expressing disagreement with the policy of cultural assimilation as declared by Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament.
The question that comes to mind is why is this statement made in the name of the Central Publicity Bureau and not Central Executive Committee of the Gerakan? Does it represent the view of the Gerakan Ministers and State Executive Councillors, especially bearing in mind that the Federal and State Government are carrying out the National Cultural Policy as spelled out by Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament.
Is the stand taken by the Gerakan Central Publicity Bureau meant for the Chinese newspapers only, or is it the party position of the Gerakan which would be pursued by Gerakan Ministers in Cabinet and State Exco Members in State Governments?
In Taiping, the local authority has prohibited the public sale of roast pork requiring them to be covered up. By Koh Tsu Koon’s and Gerakan’s political philosophy, we should not be over-excited so as not to provoke even more uncompromising position and situations.
In the April 1982 General Election, there was a lot of talk about ‘triple unity’. The time has come for the people to know whether this concept of ‘triple unity’ means a unity to acquiesce in a policy of ‘cultural assimilation’ which rejects the Cultural Memorandum of the 15 Chinese national organisations and Tung/Chiau Chung, or whether it means a triple unity to take a clear-cut stand against a policy of cultural assimilation and rejection of the Penang Cultural Memorandum, even if it means losing Ministerships and other perks of government.
Apart from reactions from political parties, I am equally disappointed by reactions from the Chinese organisation, associations and societies at large.
There appears to be two types of thinking, explaining for the lack of clear-cut public position to rally the people to stand up for a policy of cultural integration.
Firstly, there is the view that Incik Anwar Ibrahim should not be criticized or attacked, as he might one day be the future Prime Minister. If this is going to be the criteria for political action, then I can only feel sad for the future Malaysia. Regardless of a person’s political eminence and future potential, for the sake of ourselves and future generations, we must be prepared to take a stand on policy issues, even if it means antagonising the Prime Minister of today, let alone the Prime Minister of the 1990s.
Secondly, there is the attitude that we should not take the lead, and that we should wait and see what other associations or organisation do. If every association, society or organisation take this attitude to see what others do first, we must end up with everyone watching each other as well as watching our basic rights being taken away with no one lifting a finger or saying a thing.
Malaysian Chinese must learn the lesson of the Vietnamese refugees if they are not to become ‘boat people’, ‘to make a dash to the angry seas’ or ‘escape to a new future’: and that is, if we want Malaysia to give us our basic political, economic, educational and cultural right as is our due as citizens of this country, we must be prepared to make a commitment and fight for our right, including making sacrifices for such a cause.
If we are not prepared to pay a price for our basic right by defending and promoting them, then we have only ourselves to blame if one day, we wake up to find ourselves in the shoes of the Vietnamese refugees.