The next three years will be the last opportunity for Malaysians to make clear their opposition to a ‘One Language, One Culture’ Policy

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP Leadership Conference held at Shah’s Village Motel, Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 19th Feb. 1984 at 10 a.m.

The next three years will be the last opportunity for Malaysians to make clear their opposition to a ‘One Language, One Culture’ Policy

The last few days saw an exchange of statements between the Chairman of the United Chinese School Associations of Management,
Mr. Lim Fong Seng, and the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sports, Anwar Ibrahim, over Anwar’s declaration two weeks ago at the UMNO Youth Seminar on Culture that debate on the National Culture Policy is closed and that the Government would not tolerate any questioning or criticism of the National Culture Policy. Incik Anwar said the Government would welcome views and discussions, however, on implementation of the National Culture Policy.

Incik Anwar said he had made to appear as if he was practising an autocratic policy, and he stressed that it was a big mistake to think that outcries and utterances by Chinese organisation leaders could shake the government’s ‘confidence in the national culture policy which has been accepted and needs to be implemented with commitment and without any compromise.

I find Incik Anwar’s statement most significant in two aspects, and all Malaysians who want a change in the national cultural policy must understand these two aspects or their efforts would be completely futile and irrelevant.

Firstly, Incik Anwar’s statement that his stand on the National Cultural Policy is not his personal autocratic policy, representing his own view. In fact, it would have been easier to compel a modification in the national culture policy if it had been the personal autocratic policy of Anwar himself, for all that is needed is to direct public opinion on Anwar himself alone.

Secondly, Incik Anwar’s confidence and even arrogance that whatever the Chinese associations and critics might say the government was going ahead uncompromisingly to implement the National Cultural Policy. This probably explains why the Chinese Organisations’ Memorandum on Culture of 26.3.1983 was dismissed by Anwar Ibrahim as a ‘small matter’ and not given any serious consideration.

If we are to make any headway to change the National Culture Policy, then we must always keep in the foremost part of our mind that the National Culture Policy is not the policy of one man, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, or of one Party, UMNO, but of all the component parties in the Barisan Nasional, including MCA, Gerakan, MIC, SUPP, Berjaya, SNAP, etc.

By the principle of collective responsibility of Ministers, when Incik Anwar spoke in Parliament or outside about the National Culture Policy, he speaks with the full mandate and authority of all Barisan Nasional parties in government.

Secondly, we must ask ourselves why Incik Anwar was so confident that no amount of outcries or utterances by Chinese associations and critics would affect the government’s commitment to implement without compromise the National Culture policy?

This is because Incik Anwar and the Umno leadership could point to the Barisan Nasional’s landslide general elections victory in April 1982 as an authoritative popular mandate for the National Culture Policy.

It is indeed most tragic that this Barisan Nasional landslide general elections victory in April 1982 was primarily caused by the participation of certain Tung/Chiau Chung leaders in Barisan Nasional, and the campaign of other Tung/Chiau Chung leaders, including Mr. Lim Fong Seng, who had not openly joined the Barisan Nasional.

This is the bitter fruit of Tung/Chiau Chung’s participation in the Barisan Nasional in the April 1982 general elections.

In fact, it is as a result of the Tung/Chiau Chung-assisted Barisan Nasional general elections landslide victory in 1982 that the Barisan Nasional government was embolden to declare for the first time in parliamentary history its policy of ‘One Language, One Culture’ in Oct. 1982.

If we want to make an impression on the Barisan Nasional, and in particular, the UMNO leaders, that the National Culture Policy does not have the support of the people, then such opposition must be made manifest during the elections.

How can the UMNO be convinced that the people oppose the National Culture Policy when the Tung/Chiau Chung leaders like Mr.Lim Fong Seng rallied the voters in the April 1982 general elections behind the Barisan Nasional, and in the December 1983 Sarawak State General Elections, other Tung/Chiau Chung leaders in Gerakan like Ker Kim Tee openly campaigned against the DAP’s effort to mobilize the Sarawak people to make a clear stand to oppose the ‘One Language, One Culture’ Policy?

In the UMNO’s thirty-year relationship with MCA, it had seen such dual role often enough, where MCA leaders give support to UMNO policies in Cabinet and government while expressing criticism, sometimes rather fiercesome ones too, outside Cabinet and government!

DAP leaders had been most discouraged when Tung/Chiau Chung leaders in Gerakan undermined and wrecked the DAP’s Sarawak General Elections campaign to oppose the ‘One Language, One Culture’ policy; yet in Peninsular Malaysia, other Tung/Chiau Chung leaders continue to issue statements expressing criticism of the National Culture Policy.

The DAP feels that the Tung/Chiau Chung leaders, whether in Gerakan or not, should make clear in whether they have political principles or not, or whether they are no different from the MCA leaders, as to how strong they feel about the entire National Culture Policy.

The DAP feels that the time has come for Malaysians who oppose the ‘One Language, One Culture’ Policy, to make clear their opposition without any more delay, for the next three years will be the last opportunity for Malaysian to demonstrate their opposition. If Malaysians fail to make use of this last opportunity in the next three years to make clear their opposition to a ‘One Language, One Culture’ Policy, then it would be an inflexible and immovable policy for the future affecting the coming generations of Malaysians.

The National Culture Policy is only one instance where crafty political leaders had succeeded in deluding the people about the root cause of the political, social, economic, educational and cultural problems, so that they would not concentrate and focus their attention and efforts to deal with these root causes. The people are instead distracted to deal with peripheral and secondary matters.

Thus, the recent controversy over the redrawing of electoral constituencies which will lead to a further shift of political power to UMNO and the Malays, at the expense of the non-Malays, was presented by the MCA, Gerakan and their and their sympathisers in Chinese organisations and associations as a decision of the Elections Commission, when in fact, this is a political decision which would be eventually taken by the UMNO, MCA, Gerakan and other Barisan Nasional component parties in the Dewan Rakyat. The main fire of public dissatisfaction must therefore be directed on the MCA, Gerakan Ministers and MPs, but the MCA and Gerakan had deftly and craftily created a public distraction to by giving the impression that they are not in any way responsible.

The same applies to the perennial controversies over the Lion Dance performance, especially at every Chinese New Year,; the signboards issue, and even the various Master Plans for the various towns. These are finally the decisions of the Barisan Nasional government, including MCA and Gerakan, but so far, both these parties had succeeded in misleading and confusing the public as to where the real responsibility lie.

In the next three years, the DAP must conduct a campaign to make all Malaysians understand the real root cause of their political, economic, educational, cultural problems for it is only then that these problems could be dealt with at source. Otherwise, we will continue to be made to go round in circles while such policies inimical to national harmony and unity are pursued without effective check.