Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Penang State DAP Dinner held in Penang on Saturday, August 11, 1984 at 8 p.m.
DAP gravely concerned that the tighter control of political gatherings is motivated by the possibility of early general elections to curb Opposition views from reaching the public
The extension of the restrictions on ceramahs and closed door political meeting from Kedah and Perlis to Kelantan and Terengganu, and the threat by the Deputy Ministry for the Home Affairs, Encik Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, of its extension to all the others states, is a highly ominous development and the latest onslaught on the limited democratic freedoms in the country.
Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Musa Hitam, said the government’s restrictions on ceramahs was a temporary measure aimed solely at checking the provocative situation which had arisen in the states concerned.
If the government’s record is anything to go by, all drastic measures announced initially as ‘temporary in nature’ ends as a permanent feature of the country’s laws and regulations.
Thus in 1965, local council elections was suspended ‘temporarily’ because of the Indonesian Confrontation, though the then Prime Minister promised that local council elections would be held as soon as ‘peace and quietness’ had returned, the abolition of local council elections had become a permanent feature of Malaysian democracy.
Again, in July 1978 on the eve of the general elections held a month later, the then Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Haniff Omar, announced a ban on public rallies on the ground that there might be violent incidents on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Communist Party of Malaya.
The ban on public rallies, which was meant to be temporary to deal with a specific situation, remained even up to this day. It was clear to everyone at that time that the ban on public rallies was politically-motivated and general elections-directed, to serve the interests of the ruling parties to the detriment of Opposition parties.
Now, with the possibility of early general elections to be held time from Sept. 1985 – April 1986, the government has announced another ‘temporary’ curb on democratic rights in the ban of political gatherings in four States. The authorities could not blame the people if the government’s action is regarded as politically- motivated and general elections-directed, just like the public rallies ban on the eve of the 1978 general elections.
General elections are held fulfil, and not to undermine, democracy. The government should not abuse its powers to prevent Opposition views from reaching the people, and manipulating public opinion by ensuring that they hear only the voice and views of the ruling parties through government monopoly of the mass media, namely television, radio and the newspapers!
When Dr. Mahathir and Datuk Musa came to power in July 1981, they promised a ‘open, democratic and liberal’ government and society, but recent developments seem to indicate that they regard themselves more as autocrats than as democrats.
Having settled down and consolidated their political and power positions, are Dr. Mahathir and Datuk Musa now prepared to remove their velvet glove and abandon their professions of a ‘liberal, open and democratic’ commitment, and move in a major way to trample on democratic rights and fundamental liberties, as in the growing restriction on political activities of opposition parties?
I hope that these forebodings of many Malaysians that we are entering a new phase of the 2M government where there would be greater intolerance of dissent and opposition views, and a more high-handed treatment of government criticis and oppositionists, are unfounded, for otherwise, we would verily be setting on the road towards a one-party state.
DAP to test Musa’s invitation to apply for public rallies from the Police by organising three public rallies in Penang, Ipoh and Malacca in September
The definition of ceramah given by Datuk Musa Hitam, as being confined to closed doors and to members of the political party is to completely cut off opposition parties from getting its views across to the people in a direct face-to-face method.
Datuk Musa said that if political parties are interested in holding public rallies then they should approach the police for permission. The DAP takes up this invitation of Datuk Musa Hitam and would apply to the Police for permits for three public rallies to be held in Penang, Ipoh and Malacca in September.
The DAP calls on Datuk Musa to call off curbs on the political opposition from carrying out its legitimate political activities.
DAP proposed an all party-police round table conference to establish the non-partisan role of the Police in the political party arena
Datuk Musa has said that in PAS ceramahs, police controlling the crowd had been challenged to arrest the PAS speakers. I do not know the actual facts about the PAS Ceramahs, but I strongly feel that there is an urgent need for the Police to establish beyond a shadow of doubt its non- partisan role in the political party arena.
Although many Police Officers have maintained a professional non-partisan attitude and role, we cannot ignore the fact that there are also police personnel who operate more as security arms of the ruling parties than as upholders of the law and order who have no party political loyalties.
Recently, when the DAP put up posters as part of our nation-wide ‘Save Bukit China’ campaign, we have instances in some areas where the police were mobilised to tear down these posters. Is this the job of the Police. Can the Police blame the opposition parties for regarding them as puppets and pawns of the ruling parties? If Datuk Musa want to know in which towns the police have done this, I am prepared to furnish him with the particulars.
The open defiance of the law by the UMNO in conducting illegal public rallies throughout the country during the Constitutional Crisis last year, where the police instead of banning these illegal public rallies, became the sentry for them, have also undermined public confidence in the political neutrality of the Police.
The DAP wants the Police to establish its non-partisan role in the political arena, so that all political parties, including those in the Opposition could help and co-operate with the Police in ensuring law and order. But this presuppose the confidence of the Opposition parties in the political neutrality of the Police.
The DAP proposes an All-Party and Police round-table conference to enable the Police to establish its non-partisan role, so that no political party in the Opposition need to regard the Police as merely a strong-armed squad of the ruling parties, but a impartial and independent guardian of law and order beholden to no political party, be it the ruling party of the day.