Press Conference Statement by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in Malacca on Wednesday, 2.1.1985 at 11 am.
DAP calls for a national moratorium of actions and statements on the Bukit China issue to remove it as source of division in 1985.
Yesterday’s local press carried with great prominence the ‘final warning’ of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, that action would be taken against those whom he described as creating ‘racial issues’, and he mentioned as examples, the Bukit China, Papan radioactive waste dump, Penang ColIege-General and the MCA crisis.
Although the Prime Minister did not name names, I believe that the DAP is included in his ‘last warning’.
The DAP views the Prime Minister’s ‘last warning’ with seriousness and concern, especially his repetition for the second time within a week that UMNO could ‘counter violence with violence’.
I feel it my duty, not only to the DAP, but to the people and country, that I put the record straight, even if this should be misconstrued as breaching the Prime Minister’s last warning, resulting in the dire actions he had hinted.
Firstly, I would advise Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir to set a good leadership example and stop talking the language of violence. This is particularly sensitive in a multi-racial society like Malaysia, with the bitter experiences the country had undergone in the past. Furthermore, there is completely no justification or cause for the resort to the language of violence by UMNO leadership as in all the major issues which had cropped up in 1984, no one had ever advocated violence.
The use of the language of violence by political leaders will only engender an atmosphere of confrontation, tension, conflict and violence, with awful consequences for the nation as well as everyone concerned.
The DAP had never advocated violence or even confrontation, either with UMNO or the Government on the various controversial issues of 1984, what we sought to do was to draw the attention of the authorities to the rights and sensitivities of the people which should not be disregarded in any government decision-making.
I do not deny that the DAP had sought to arouse the consciousness of the people as to their democratic rights arising from these issues, but this was done completely within the framework of the Constitution and the laws, and not by advocating violence or the overthrow of the elected government by unconstitutional means.
The DAP had always believed that decision-making in a multi-racial society like Malaysia must be by way of consultation and consensus, and not by confrontation. This is why on the Bukit China issue, I was also prepared to meet the Chief Minister of Malacca, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Thamby Cik, although there had been no reply to my request for an appointment with the Malacca Chief Minister made over two weeks ago.
There had been peaceful demonstrations, which represent the desperate pleas of the people to get the attention of the government to their rights and sensitivities, but this cannot under any circumstances be inflated or exaggerated into a form of violence which justifies the language of violence, like UMNO’s preparedness to counter violence with violence.
Nobody suggests for instance, that the UMNO was resorting to ‘violence’ when it organised demonstrations and illegal public rallies • all over the country in 1983 during the Constitutional crisis.
I do not understand what Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir meant when he talked about Papan, Penang Staff-General College and MCA crisis being made into ‘racial issues’. Both Papan and Penang Staff-General College are strictly non-ethnic issues, just like the BMF loans scandal – although Malaysians who had pressed for the establishment of Royal Commission of Inquiry had been accused of wanting to destroy the Malay political leadership.
The Bukit China has the cultural and religious angle, although it is finally a national rather than a racial issue, for it involves the question of national cultural heritage.
The racial, cultural and religious sensitivites of Bukit China were aroused by the Malacca State Government’s insensitive disregard ‘I _ of these important sentiments which was conceded by no less a person than _ Bapa Malaysia, former Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, and the Malacca State Government’s high—handed tactics, like the $2 million quit rent demand, ~ one month ultimatum with the forfeiture threat, threat of acquisition of – . Bukit China, etc.
M If anyone is to be blamed for allowing the Bukit China issue to become a highly divisive factor of Malaysians in l984, then he is none other than the Malacca Chief Minister, This, however, is not in the nature Of Malaysian politics, and another scapegoat may have to be found.
On behalf of the DAP, I want to declare that we are very distressed that racial polarisation was aggravated in 1984 by the Bukit China issue, which shows that there is insufficient awareness of the vital importance to respect the various races, languages, cultures and religions in a multi~ i racial Malaysia.
We in the DAP are prepared to co-operate with the Prime Minister and the government to reduce racial polarisation, promote the forces of unity and mutual understanding, strengthen inter-racial, inter-cultural and inter-religious relations in the country. With this in mind, to ensure that l985 opens on a new start in the work of nation-building, the DAP proposes a national moratorium of all actions and statements on the Bukit China issue so as to remove it as a source of division in 1985.
This national moratorium must bring the Bukit China to the position before the start of the controversy, which must therefore incorporate the following elements:
1. Withdrawal of government‘s plan for forcible development of ‘ Bukit China; 2. Withdrawal of the government’s $2 million quit rent demand for Bukit China; and 3. Withdrawal of government notice to acquire Bukit China for road constructions.
As an indication of the DAP’s sincerity that we want the Bukit China issue removed in l985 as a source of division in 1985, we will forthwith suspend the DAP‘s One Person-One Dollar Protest Campaign against the $2 million Bukit China quit rent demand.
The DAP leaders are also prepared to meet the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to discuss the overall question of deteriorating racial polarisation in the country. This problem could only be solved by the efforts and goodwill of all Malaysians, including all political parties whether in government or opposition. If any party takes a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, then such a party is not seeking to solve, but to aggravate, the national problems.