Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Tuesday, 28th August 1984 at 10.30 a.m.
DAP deplores the Bukit China stand of the Gerakan Chief Minister, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, which tantamounts to encouraging the Malacca Chief Minister to disregard the views of Chinese organisations and individuals outside Malacca
I have called this press conference to specially express the DAP’s shock and anger at the stand taken by the Penang Gerakan Chief Minister, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, on the Bukit China issue.
At the Penang DAP State Convention on August 12, I announced that the Penang DAP State Save Bukit China Committee Chairman, Sdr. Chian Heng Kai, would be asking for an appointment with the Penang Gerakan Chief Minister, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, to ask him to sign the 200,000 ‘Save Bukit China’ mass signature memorandum which had been launched by the DAP to preserve Bukit China, which symbolises the first Sino-Malay co-operation and friendship, the cultural roots of the Malaysian Chinese, the symbol of Chinese contribution to Malaysian nation building of the last 500 years, our religious rights and citizenship status.
Sdr. Chian Heng Kai wrote to Dr. Lim for an appointment, and Dr. Lim in a letter dated 22nd August but received yesterday, not only refused to sign the 200,000 ‘Save Bukit China’ Mass Signature Petition, but expressed the Bukit China stand of the Penang Gerakan Government and Parti Gerakan which is highly destructive to the nation-wide campaign to Save Bukit China.
Dr. Lim in his reply said:
“Oleh kerana tuan tidak melampirkan Memorandum berkenaan, maka saya tidak tahu manahu apakah Memorandum DAP yang sebenarnya. (The 200,000 Save Bukit China Mass Signature Memorandum was published in full by the Penang Papers, and Dr. Lim is another of those political leaders who don’t read newspapers).
“Namun demikian, saya telah menyatakan bahawa isu tentang pembangunan kawasan Bukit China adalah pade asalnya merupakan satu masalah tanah yang melibatkan Kerajaan Negeri Melaka dan penduduk Negeri Melaka. Ianya hanya akan dapat diselesaikan dengan baiknya melalui perbincangan-perbincangan diantara Kerajaan Negeri Melaka dan penduduk Melaka.
“Oleh demikian, saya menganggap bahawa usaha-usaha DAP untuk mendapatkan sokongan dari luar Melaka bagi satu isu yang pada asalnya melibatkan negeri Melaka sahaja adalah tidak betul. Percubaan yang tidak betul ini tidak akan dapat mencapau penyelesaian yang baik dan munasabah. Sebaliknya dengan menjadikan isu tersebut sebagai satu hal politik akan hanya melahirkan perasaan yang lebih sensitif dan dengan demikian akan menyebabkan lebih kerumitan.
“Saya mencadangkan kapada pemimpin-pemimpin DAP bahawa mereka menumpukan usaha-usaha mereka dalam negeri Melaka. Maka menerusi penduduk negeri Melaka, kerajaan Negri Melaka bolehlah mengadakan satu plan pembangunan yang menyeluruh bagi Negeri tersebut dan bagi bandar Negeri Melaka khususnya, yang boleh mengabungkan kawasan Bukit China dengan mengambil kira perspektif-perspektif pembangunan dan bersejarahnya yang sewajar.”
The DAP deplores the Bukit China stand of the Gerakan Chief Minister and his party, for it tantamouts to encouraging the Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Abdul Rahim Thamby Cik, to disregard the views and demands of Chinese organisations and individuals outside Malacca with regard to the future of Bukit China.
Although Dr. Lim’s letter is a short one, it contained four dangerous doctrines which if unchallenged, and extended to other aspects of our national life, would completely undermine out political, economic, educational, cultural, religious and citizenship rights.
Dangerous Doctrine No.1: That Bukit China is basically a land issue
Dr. Lim’s first dangerous doctrine is that the Bukit China issue is a basically land issue. Nothing could be more wrong. The Bukit China issue is first and foremost a political issue, which affects not just the question of how 104 acres of the ancient cemetery hill is to be developed, but the historic rights, cultural roots, religious freedom and citizenship status of the people, and in particular the Chinese community.
Ever since Merdeka in 1957, UMNO and MCA leaders had been dreaming the ‘Bukit China dream’ for they regard it as a ‘golden hill’ which they could make fortunes if given the right to level and develop the 104 acres in the heart of the Malacca town.
Apart from a suggestion in 1977 from Malacca UMNO that Bukit China should be levelled, and the 12,500 graves resited, to give way to a commercial centre, there had been no serious attempts by the Malacca State Government to level Bukit China. So why now?
The reason is because until 1982, the Malacca UMNO had no political ground or justification to demand the levelling of Bukit China, for the DAP was fully supported by the people of Malacca town. But in the 1982 general elections, as part of the nation-wide electoral disaster of the DAP caused by the appeal of MCA for a ‘political breakthrough’ and the promise of Tung/Chiau Chung elements who joined the Gerakan for ‘assaulting the BN to rectify the BN’, the DAP in Malacca also lost ground, losing two of the four State Assembly seats it had held since 1969.
Although the MCA claimed a great ‘political breakthrough’ in its electoral success and the Gerakan and its Tung/Chiau Chung elements rejoiced in their success of ‘attack into BN to rectify BN’ slogan, the UMNO Federal and State leadership knew that this was really a UMNO victory, which gave them a mandate and justification to carry out policies and take decisions which they had otherwise hesitated or refrained from doing.
At the national level, for instance, there was the promulgation of the ‘One language, One Culture’ Policy at the official opening of Parliament on Oct. 11, 1982, the assertion of the cultural policy of assimilation, the introduction of the policy of Islamisation, the acceleration in the implementation of the New Economic Policy as in the Kota Bahru Supermarket issue and the demand for the extension of NEP till after 1990, and recently the 70 million population policy and the legalisation of illegal Indonesia immigrants, as well as the redelineation of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies which would consolidate UMNO political power and gravely after political power structure in the country.
At the Malacca State level, the most serious post-April 1982 general elections consequence is the opportunity it provided the new Malacca Chief Minister to realise the ‘Bukit China drean’ of so many previous UMNO and MCA leaders.
More important than the ‘land’ aspect, the Bukit China issue also involve the following fundamental questions:
(a) history and Chinese contribution to Malaysian nation-building:
Bukit China symbolised the first Sino-Malay co-operation and friendship dating back to 500 years, and the contribution, the sweat, tears, blood and sacrifice generations of Chinese have made in making the Malaysia today.
China, Korea, and South East Asian nations protested when the Japanese tried to re-write history to gloss over their atrocities and aggressions during the Japanese Occupation. Similarly, we cannot allow anyone to re-write history, whether about the contribution of Yap Ah Loy in the development of Kuala Lumpur, or to wipe out Bukit China to destroy the oldest historic symbol and record of Chinese contribution to Malaysian nation building.
(b) cultural roots of the Chinese: Bukit China also represents the cultural roots of the Chinese in Malaysia. If the cultural roots are chopped, then the soul of a people would also be destroyed.
(c) religious rights of the Chinese: Bukit China had been handed down for centuries by our ancestors for the purpose of religious worship. Any forcible government levelling of the ancient cemetry hill would constitute a violation of the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.
(d) citizenship status of the Chinese: If the Chinese cannot protect the community trust property handed down from the ancestors, then how could they safeguard the future rights and status of their children and children’s children? As citizens of Malaysia, the Chinese have a right to expect government respect for their rights and sensitivities. Thus, the Chinese do not demand that Malay reserved land should be developed, failing which the Chinese would for them. Similarly, the Chinese have a right to expect that their community reserved land, like Bukit China in Malacca, should be left completely to the Chinese alone to decide as to its future.
The ‘land’ aspect of the Bukit China issue, is therefore, the most minor and in consequential. Ordinary Malaysians know that the Bukit China issue is not so much a land question, as one involving far-reaching consequences for our political, historic, cultural, religious and citizenship rights. Why is it that Dr. Lim Chong Eu, who is credited to be the most astute and seasoned Chinese government leader, unaware of the bigger significance and implications of the Bukit China issue? Is it real ignorance or pretended ignorance?
Dangerous Doctrine No.2: Bukit China is a Malacca issue, and of no concern to others
Dr. Lim’s second dangerous doctrine in his Bukit China letter is that the issue concerns Malaccans only, and outsiders should not be involved. He even advised DAP leaders to concentrate our ‘Save Bukit China’ efforts in Malacca and not to take the campaign outside Malacca.
This is a most objectionable theory, for Dr. Lim is providing the Malacca Chief Minister a justification to disregard the views of Chinese organisations and individuals outside Malacca as being irrelevant.
By Dr. Lim’s Bukit China stand, Chinese organisations like the Negri Sembilan and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, and the various Chinese guilds, associations, organisations and individuals from outside Malacca who had sent memorandum to Cheng Hoon Teng Temple expressing their opposition to government plan to level Bukit China into a housing and commercial centre are all in the wrong.
By Dr. Lim’s doctrine, then the DAP in 1968 should not have launched a nation-wide signature campaign to save the 13 condemned who were convicted of consorting with the Indonesians during the Confrontation period from the gallows, and just left the matter to the Johore and Perak people as they would be hanged in these two states.
Then Papan radioactive waste dump issue is no concern of the people outside Perak or outside Papan, and organisations like Consumers Association of Penang and other bodies outside Perak are all in the wrong in giving support to the people of Papan to demand the removal of the radioactive waste dump.
Again, by Dr. Lim’s doctrine, when several years back, a 14-year old boy was convicted of having a pistol and sentenced to death, it would have been no business of the people elsewhere in Malaysia to concern themselves, for it happened in Penang.
I am shocked that Dr. Lim could so publicly enunciated this new version of ‘Just Sweep the Front’ Door’s Snow’, which if followed by the people, would result in the people, and in particular the Chinese, losing even more of their political, economic, educational, cultural and religious rights.
Dangerous Doctrine No. 3: That a national ‘Save Bukit China’ campaign would ‘arouse sensitivities’
The third dangerous doctrine of Dr. Lim Chong Eu is his contention that a National ‘Save Bukit China’ campaign would raise greater sensitivities.
This is not the first time that Dr. Lim Chong Eu or other Gerakan leaders have been saying this. Two weeks ago, Dr. Lim Chong Eu accused the DAP of using the Bukit China issue to rouse the sensitivities of the public by playing on emotion rather than carefully and rationally assessing the facts involved.
On 12th August, Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, the Gerakan President, criticised the 200,000 ‘Save Bukit China’ mass signature campaign as only capable of ‘arousing racial sensitivities’.
Two days ago, he again returned to the attack on the DAP for launching the Save Bukit China Mass Signature Campaign, and even the ‘Walk or Jog to Save Bukit China’ events, for creating ‘racial sensitivities’.
Dr. Lim Chong Eu, Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, and the Gerakan leaders are very ‘brave and outspoken’ leaders who do not hesitate to criticise the DAP leaders, but their ‘courage and outspokenness’ disappear when the persons they should really criticise are UMNO leaders. For instance, in the Bukit China issue, the person who is responsible for raising sensitive issues, trampling on the legitimate and sensitive rights of the Malaysian Chinese, is none other than the Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Abdul Rahim Thamby Cik, but the Gerakan leaders dare not criticise him, but direct their attack on the DAP which is merely seeking to protect the Chinese community rights over Bukit China.
I would advise Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik to abandon their ‘robber’s logic.’ When a robber puts a knife to the neck of his victim and warns him not to shout or resist so as not to create a ‘sensitive and delicate situation’, by the ‘robber’s logic’, the trouble-makers are the victims trying to shout or resist the robbery. If these victims had agreed to be robbed, there would be no trouble. This is the robber’s logic.
In the Bukit China case, when the religious, historic, cultural, political and citizenship rights of the Chinese community is being threatened by the unilateral and arbitrary action of the Malacca State Government in wanting to deprive them of the 500-year-old community trust property, there are those like the Gerakan leaders who put the blame on the DAP who resist such encroachment, and not on the State Government for creating the sensitive issue in the first place.
The Chinese community must reject this ‘robber’s logic’, for otherwise, it is the victim and not the robber who is always in the wrong.
Dangerous Doctrine No. 4: That the Malacca State Government is entitled to decide on the development of Bukit China
The fourth dangerous doctrine expounded by Dr. Lim in his letter is that the Malacca State Government is entitled to decide on the development of Bukit China by levelling it and turning it into a housing and commercial centre.
Dr. Lim Keng Yaik uses the word ‘creative development of Bukit China’ to express the Gerakan’s support for the government of Malacca’s plan to retain part of the cemetry hill for its historic interest, while the rest of the hill would be developed into a commercial centre.
In fact, the Gerakan had been the most open in its support for the Malacca Chief Minister’s plan to level and develop 80 per cent of Bukit China into a housing and commercial centre.
On 23rd July 1984, the Malacca Chief Minister gave his optionless ‘three proposals’ for the development of 80 per cent of Bukit China into a housing and commercial centre:
(i) Development of the hill solely by the Chinese community;
(ii) Joint Development of the hill by the Government and the Chinese community; and
(iii) Development of the hill by the Government.
The sole Gerakan Assemblyman in Johore, Khoo Che Wat, (Kulai) who is now the Johore Gerakan State Chairman, immediately told the press at the Johore State Assembly which was in session the very next day that he supported the second proposal – the levelling of 80 per cent of Bukit China and development into a housing and commercial centre by joint government-Chinese community efforts.
Even Chan Teck Chan, the leader of the Tan Koon Swan MCA Malacca faction which is openly campaigning for Chinese community support for the Malacca Chief Minister’s plan to level and develop Bukit China had not dared to go beyond the first proposal, but the Gerakan was prepared to go on record publicly as favouring the second proposal!
This fourth doctrine of Dr. Lim Chong Eu and the Gerakan is not very different from the argument of the Tan Koon Swan MCA faction that the Chinese community do not have ‘development rights’ over Bukit China, but merely ‘ownership right’ to use the hill for burial purposes.
The Chinese community must reject this doctrine completely ad maintain that the ownership rights, which includes every other right such as development right, over Bukit China had been in the hands of the Chinese community for centuries, and that this right is non-negotiable and that the Government have no right whatsoever to decide on the development of Bukit China. This right to determine the future of Bukit China must remain exclusively in the hands of the Chinese community.
Call on Gerakan delegates at the national Gerakan Conference to reject Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik’s Bukit China stand
Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik are taking a stand which run against the mainstream of Chinese community opinion on Bukit China. I ask the two Dr. Lims in the Gerakan to justify the four dangerous doctrines propounded by Dr. Lim Chong Eu in his letter to the DAP on Bukit China. In the interest of the Malaysian nation and the Chinese community, I call on the Gerakan delegates at the national Gerakan Conference next month to reject Dr. Lim Chong Eu and Dr. Lim Keng Yaik’s Bukit China stand, for only the Malacca Chief Minister and the Tan Koon Swan MCA faction could be pleased by it.