Press Conference Statement by parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 28th January 1984 at 11.30a.m.
DAP calls on MCA and Gerakan to take a firm stand, in Cabinet, Parliament and outside, to oppose 1984 constituency delineations which aggravate instead of redressing political imbalance in 1980s and 1990s.
Ever since the publication by the Elections Commission on Jan.4, 1984, of its proposed recommendations on the new 132 parliamentary and 151 State Assembly constituencies in the states of Malaya, the Dap had been studying the delineations and following the public reactions to the proposals.
While the DAP welcomes the greater interest being shown this time by the various Chinese Assembly Halls, associations and other organizations as compared to the exercise to redelineate electoral constituencies in 1974, all the comments, views and memoranda on the constituency changes seemed to have missed the most vital point namely that the redelineation of constituencies is the political decision of the ruling parties to consolidate its political power and that the Elections Commission is merely the instrument of the ruling parties to achieve this end.
In the final analysis, if the people want to see the genuine application of the democratic principle of ‘one man, one vote’, and the redressal rather than the aggravation of the political imbalances in the 1980s and 1990s, then the target of public pressure and opinion must be the component Barisan Nasional ruling parties, and not the Election Commission.
This is because the Elections Commission is only making recommendations about the new constituency delineations at both parliamentary and State Assembly levels, and it is Parliament which must finally decide whether to accept or to amend the proposed recommendations to be forwarded to it by Elections Commissions on the new constituency delineations for the next eight years, seriously affecting the political future of all Malaysians in the rest of the 1980s and the 1990s.
The original Merdeka Constitution envisaged an independent Elections Commission which would redelineate electoral constituencies without fear or favour of the ruling parties in accordance with the guidelines laid down in the constitution. Unfortunately, when the first Elections Commission sought to exercise its functions to redelineate electoral constituencies in accordance with the constitutional principles without regard to the party political interests of those in power in 1960 the ruling parties, and in particular UMNO, fully supported by MCA and MIC, used their two-thirds parliamentary majority in 1962 to effect the most far-reaching constitutional amendment which stripped the Elections Commission of its independence, impartiality and free role as its decision was construed as a thread to UMNO political supremacy and whose decision would be final and binding.
Since then, the Elections Commission is nothing more than a political creature of the ruling parties, although the pretences of independence and impartiality are still maintained. It is open secret, whether in 1974 or for the current 1984 exercise, that the Election Commission carried out its redelineation exercise according to UMNO dictates, knowing fully well that such recommendations had to be adopted by Parliament before they could come into effect.
This was why the 1962 Constitution Amendment Act which removed the constitutional independence and impartiality of the Elections Commission and made it subservient to the ruling parties, drew the following perceptive criticism by a legal scholar at the time:
“It is apparent that the (1962) amendments as to elections have converted a formerly independent Elect ions Commission, whose decisions became law and whose members enjoyed permanent tenure, into an advisory body of men of no certain tenure whose term of office, except remuneration, are subject to the whims of Parliament. The vital power of determining the size of constituencies as well as their boundaries is now taken from the commission, which the Constitution-makers had apparently wished, by tenure and status, to make independent and disinterested, and has been made completely political by giving this power to a transient majority of Parliament, whose temptations to gerrymander districts and manipulate the varying numerical possibilities between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ constituencies for political advantage is manifest. It is, perhaps, not unworthy of comment that the constitution does not offer any criteria for the determination of what is ‘rural’ and what is’ urban’.
The 1983 Electoral Constituency Redelineation exercise is therefore only the latest in a series of political since the 1960s, and stepped up since 1970s with the launching of the New Economic Policy to consolidate the political power of the real political rulers in the government.
The major political gerrymanderings to consolidate the political power of these in government, highly detrimental to the democratic rights of the ordinary Malaysians, haven been:
1) The abolition of Municipal, local and the district council elections to destroy grass-roots democracy, for the ruling parties fear that the opposition, and in particular, the Democratic Action Party, would secure control of the majority of the local governments if there are local elections.
2) Disenfranchisement of the people of Kuala Lumpur from participation in the election process of Selangor, by the creation of a Federal Territory in 1973, so that Selangor State could be firmly entrenched in UMNO hards.
3) The redelineation of the electoral constituencies in 1974to aggravate the political imbalances whereby Malay political power is increased at non-Malay expense, which not only disregards the democratic principle of ‘one man, one vote’ but flouts the basic principle of restructuring Malaysian society espoused by the government to ensure that there is no identification of any function, location or occupation with any one racial group, which must include the political function.
4) The present 1984 electoral constituency redelineation which would further aggravate, rather than redress, the gross political imbalance between the Malays and non-Malays as well as further undermine the democratic principle of ‘one man, one vote’, with grave political, economic, educational and cultural consequences in the 1980s and 1990s.
The 1984 electoral Constituency redelineations have attracted a lot of discussion about how undemocratic and unfair they are, in perpetuating ‘urban-rural’ disparity and undermining the principle of ‘one man, one vote’ whereby in certain areas, parliamentary and state assemble constituencies are concentrated to the extent of three times the electorate as rural constituencies, or whereby in order to effect such demarcations, the same administrative or traditional area have been divided up into different constituencies, without proper need to the two principles of constituency delineations in Clause 2 of the Thirteen Schedule of the Malaysian Constitution that:
• The number of electors within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal except that, having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and the other for area ought to be given to such constituencies; and
• Regard ought to be had to the inconveniences attendant on alterations of constituencies, and to the maintenance of local ties.
The DAP has instructed its various State and branch organizations to lodge objections with one hundred electors support on these grounds, and it is not my intention here to go into specific constituencies or states with regard to these administrative , local or ‘one man, one vote’ arguments, or how, for instance, traditional DAP parliamentary seats like Seremban or Kota Melaka are being adverse altered by removing the traditional urban electorates while roping in rural electorates which had never been associated with these town constituencies; or how Assembly seats are similarly gerrymandered to undercut non-Malay political power for the benefits for of Malay political supremacy. These particulars had been dealt with separately by DAP lenders in the various states, or would be highlighted in the next few days, but the main burden of my statement today is to emphasis that these are just mechanics of how to consolidate political power.
Since these are just the mechanics of row counsel date political power, the people at large should be more concerned to put political pressure on the power that be to relinquish the objective of consolidating such political power, and to accede to the process of a genuine democratic polity where there is equality of votes free and equality of political power which is not identified with any one racial or social group.
I note that the Penang Gerakan had lamenced the fact that although the Penang Island had 252,088 voters or 54.3 percent of the state electorate, it is allocated 5 parliamentary and 15 states assembly seats while the Penang mainland with 211,940 voters or 49.7 percent of the Penang states electorate is having six parliamentary and 18 state assembly seats, when the reverse should be the case.
But the Penang Gerakan could not be so short of memory that the principle whereby the voters of the Penang island were robbed of their political rights with the shifting of the gravity of political powers from the Penang island to the Penang mainland although the Penang island had more electorate took place in 1974 redelineation with the full consent and support of the Gerakan, which thought at that time that this was the only way to secure a second term of state power-by depending on UMNO’s votes on the Penang Mainland.
Is the Penang Gerakan prepared now to undo its great political since of 1974 and restore to the people on the island of Penang their rightful share of political power in the Penang States?
If the various Chinese Assembly Hall, Association and other organization do not understand the real political nature of the Constituency redelineation, and just concentrate on submitting representation to the Election Commission, then there would be dissipating and misdirecting their and the people’s energies.
Under section nine of the thirteen schedule of the Malaysian Constitution, it is clear that the Election Commission’s recommendation would have to be submitted to parliament which would have by solution to decide to accept or reject the recommendation.
Malaysian and all organization who want to see the adherence to the principle of ‘one man, one vote’ in out constituency delineation and electoral process, as well as the redressal of the political imbalance these last two decades, must put their pressure on the component parties in the Barisan Nasional, and particular on MCA, Gerakan, to take a firm stand , including inside Cabinet and Parliament, not to be a party to any constituency delineation which aggravate instead of redressing political imbalance with awful consequences for the 1980s and 1990s.
The DAP is prepared to work with the MCA, the Gerakan and any other component Barisan Nasional to oppose such constituency delineation proposal as in parliament.
I suggest a parliamentary group of MPs from parties which are concerned and unprepared to take a firm stand to oppose constituency delineation proposals which aggravate political imbalance and to work out a strategic to highlight and mobilize public support for this position, regaredless of wherether her they are from DAP, MCA, Gerakan, MIC or even UMNO. We cannot wait until the Election Commission, Report is represented to parliament, because from past experience, parlianment would have 1 or 2 days notice before a debate would to be hold to adopt the reporter.
I proposed writing to every MP to ask whether they would be prepare to join such as parliamentary group, which could be hence by any MP from a party other than DAP, for we are not interested in credit but only in mobilizing national support against the endless and encroachment of the political rights of the non-Malays in Malaysia.