Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Opening of the Johore State DAP State Convention held at Kluang DAP Branch premises on Sunday, March 17, 1985 at 10 a.m.
Call on DAP members to be more united and disciplined in the face of the new political offensive which had been launched by the Barisan Nasional as a run-up to next general elections
In the April 1982 General Elections, the Barisan Nasional won a landslide victory with the MCA sooring the greatest ‘political breakthrough for them Malaysian Chinese while the Gerakan, with infusion of certain Tung/Chiau Chung elements, won the most number of parliamentary seats in its history on the platform of ‘Attack into the BN to rectify the BN’.
But Malaysian Chinese who had hoped that the MCA’s ‘political breakthrough’ and the Gerakan’s ‘Attack into BN to rectify BN’ would improve their political, economic, educational, cultural and religious status, they have not only been disappointed. Even worse, the erosion of their rights was so drastic and wide-ranging that the last 35 months could be described as the ‘darkest period’ in Malaysian history.
Thus, this ‘dark age’ saw the official promulgation of the policy of One Language, One Culture; the accelerated implementation of the National Culture Policy of Assimilation; the very serious introduction and implementation of the process of Islamisation, in economics, education, administration, culture, and now even in law-making and constitution drafting; the redelineation of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies which aggravated the inequality of political power between Malays and non-Malays; the $2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance loans scandal in the midst of spreading corruption in the public sector; the Bukit China dispute; rejection of the Merdeka University proposal while approving the establishment of Islamic University using Arabic and English as medium of instruction; the controversy over the restriction of usage of mother-tongue in school assemblies and meetings in Chinese and Tamil primary schools; the long-standing hardships of the 300,000 red identity card holders while there is unchecked influx of illegal Indonesian immigrants leading to great increase of crimes like armed robbers, rapes and murders.
The ‘political breakthrough’ promised by MCA in April 1982 had resulted in the most serious political breakdown of the rights and status of the Malaysian Chinese, while the ‘Attack into the BN to rectify the BN’ promised by the Gerakan has turned out to be the most wholesale rectification of the Gerakan by UMNO policies and measures!
This was why the DAP, although we suffered our most severe electoral setback in the 1982 general elections, were able, through the perseverance, stamina and commitment of DAP leaders, members and supporters, to organized a political come-back. In the series of three by-elections in Kepayang, Raub and Seremban, the DAP were able to take the political offensive with the Barisan Nasional, in particular MCA and Gerakan on the defensive.
It is obvious to the Prime Minister and the UMNO strategists that this trend is not healthy for the Barisan Nasional in the next general elections, and must be checked especially as the present Parliament is not expected to serve it full five-year term till 1987.
Looking back, I am convinced that Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed took a policy decision at the end of last year to try to change the political situation by launching a political offensive in 1985 as a run-up to the next general elections to prepare the most conducive atmosphere for the Barisan Nasional in the next general elections.
This political offensive of Barisan Nasional, orchestrated by Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir, involved many elements with the common aim of undermining the DAP’s political offensive and to create a false hope and consciousness among the people so that they could be led to place their trust in the BN as they did in the 1982 general elections.
Such a Barisan Nasional political offensive of 1985 involved the following:
• A temporary pause of the 32 months of wide-ranging erosion of political, economic, educational, cultural and religious rights as signified by the One Language, One Culture Policy; the Nasional Culture Policy of Assimilation; the Islamisation Process – until after the next general elections;
• The Defusion or attempted defusion of issues and controversies which would erode further public support for Barisan Nasional, as Bukit China, Papan and BMF issues; and highly-published rounding-up of illegal Indonesian immigrants, although they can easily return;
• The strengthening of the component Barisan Nasional parties, as well as their collective image and influence, which explain the UMNO-forced settlement of the MCA power struggle between the Neo Yee Pan and Tan Koon Swan factions and the idea of a merger or ‘Grand Council’ of MCA and Gerakan;
• Playing the China card with the proposed visit to China by the Prime Minister at the second half of the year;
• A campaign of attack and smears against the DAP by Barisan Nasional leaders, such as the Prime Minister’s speeches attacking the DAP during his political trips to Perlis and Malacca, as well as a sustained campaign in the mass media to damage the image of the party and party leadership; and most seriously;
• The sowing discontent, division and dissension inside the DAP to create party splits and defections of elected representatives, to try to destroy the DAP from within.
I call on all DAP leaders and members to be more united and disciplined in the face of the new political offensive which had been launched by the Barisan Nasional as a run-up to the next general elections, and to ensure that we do not allow the Barisan Nasional strategists to undo our hard won gains in the last three years.
We must build on the momentum of our own political offensive not only to match the new political offensive of the Barisan Nasional, but to expose their hollow claim and empty slogans.
Two issues in the new year show that the Barisan Nasional government are not fully masters of their own strategy, for the momentum which their policies had set in motion had a force of their own.
The Mandarin oranges controversy is one example. Although MCA Ministers tried to explain the Mandarin oranges controversy as the result of the ‘deviation’ of the Ministry of Trade and Pernas officials, the Prime Minister had made it clear after the Chinese New Year that he blamed it on the ‘chauvinistic attitude’ of the Malaysian Chinese.
It is important to find out why the appeal of the government before the Chinese New Year for the Chinese to respect their cultural tradition to sell and buy Mandarin oranges was so ineffective.
The first reason is because the government could not convince the people that the Mandarin oranges controversy was the ‘deviation’ of a few officials – as proved right from the Prime Minister’s comments after the Chinese New Year. The second reason is that the government could not have picked a more unsuitable candidate to convey its message to the masses. It is no exaggeration to say that Datuk Dr. Tan Tiong Hong’s appearance and public role in the Mandarin oranges scandal served to harden, rather than soften, public antagonism on the issue.
The second issue is the recent announcement of the proposed increase of university fees of Malaysian students in Australian. On behalf of the DAP, I had send a telegram to the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, urging on the Australian Cabinet to reconsider its proposed decision to increase drastically the university fees of Malaysian students.
But the root problem lies in our own country and with our own government, which had refused to have a fair and liberal higher education policy permitting Malaysians to fulfil their higher education aspirations in their own homeland.
If the Malaysian Government establishes more universities, and allow private universities to be set up, then there would be no need for some 60,000 Malaysian students begging for university places abroad and causing Malaysia to lose foreign exchange exceeding $1,000 million a year!
MCA Gerakan ‘Merger’ or ‘Grand Council’ – An election gimmick directed against DAP
Malaysian Chinese have many weaknesses. One is the lack of sustaining power and stamina to fight for their rights – hence the phrase of ‘five minute heat’. Another is having a short memory.
The MCA and Gerakan leaders are banking on the ‘short memory’ of the Malaysian Chinese to try to foist on them the new election gimmick for the next polis – the ‘MCA Gerakan merger or grand council’!
MCA Gerakan and UMNO leaders hope that the Malaysian Chinese will forget about the broken promises of the MCA ‘political breakthrough’ and the Gerakan’s ‘Attack into the BN to rectify the BN’ in 1982, and to fall for the new slogans of MCA-Gerakan ‘Merger’ or ‘Grand Council’.
I cannot understand what is there for MCA and Gerakan to further co-operate on basic issues affecting Chinese rights and interests, when they are already represented in Cabinet with their different Ministers. If the MCA and Gerakan Ministers in Cabinet are only interested in preserving their individual and party positions vis-à-vis the UMNO rather than the people’s rights and interests, their ‘merger’ or ‘co-operation’ would only make them speak in one voice to support UMNO policies and proposals instead of two voices.
Or are the MCA and Gerakan leaders trying to say that if there had been a MCA and Gerakan ‘merger’ or ‘Grand Council’ last year, MCA and Gerakan Ministers and MPs would have opposed the unjust redelineation of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies, or would have stopped the promulgation in parliament in Oct. 1982 of a One Language, One Culture Policy, or the revocation of the Islamisation policy?