Appointment of UMNO leader as Chairman of a MCA committee to decide on internal party matters the most serious ‘political breakthrough’ in Malaysian Chinese politics since Merdeka

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General a nd MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Thousand-People DAP anniversary dinner jointly organised by the Batu Pahat, Pantei and Bandar Panggaram Branches held at Cheng Siew Chinese Primary School Hall, Batu Pahat, on Saturday, 11.5.l985 at 9 pm.

Appointment of UMNO leader as Chairman of a MCA committee to decide on internal party matters the most serious ‘political breakthrough’ in Malaysian Chinese politics since Merdeka!

In the April l982 general elections, when the DAP suffered the most serious electoral defeat in party history, and the MCA scored unprecedented Parliamentary and State Assembly success, the MCA promised that it would deliver the goods of its election promise of a ‘political breakthrough’ for the Malaysian Chinese.

According to the dictionary, ‘breakthrough’ means ‘an act of breaking
through obstacle etc, major advance. ‘Political breakthrough’
as promised by the MCA must therefore mean political advances and gains
for the Malaysian Chinese.

What has the MCA in the last three years since the 1982 general
elections to show for its promise of a ‘political breakthrough’ for the
Malaysian Chinese? Its record is an unending series of retreats!

Before the 1982 general elections, the MCA Youth under Datuk
Lee Kim Sai, made an issue about the MCA President being appointed as Deputy
Prime Minister. lf the MCA had succeeded after the 1982 general elections
to get a Deputy Prime Ministerial appointment for the MCA President, then
this could be considered a ‘political breakthrough’.

But after the 1982 general elections, the MCA and its Youth wing
quietly buried the issues on the question of meaningful representation
in the Cabinet, the MCA was not only unable to achieve any breakthrough or
major advance, as in the Deputy Prime Minister issue, it could not even
regain for the MCA the previous Finance and Commerce and Industry portforlios
previously held by MCA leaders, or to get MCA leaders appointed to the senior
portforlios like Home Affairs, Education, Defence which had
never been held by any MCA leader!

One important reason why the Malaysian Chinese have been denied
their equal rights to determine Malaysia’s destiny is the undemocratic and
unfair delineation of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies, to
the extent that the principle of ‘one man, one vote’ had been violated
resulting in the inequitable distribution of political power in the country.

With the MCA promise of a ‘political breakthrough’ tor the
Malaysian Chinese after its 1982 general elections success, the people
have the right to expect that in the redelineation of constituencies conducted
in 1984, such political inequalities and imbalances would be rectified.

The reverse, of greater political inequalities and imbalances, actually took place!

In every nation-building sphere, the MCA had not only failed to deliver
the goods of its 1982 promise of a ‘political breakthrough’,
it had been a full party to the unprecedented erosion of the people’s rights,
as evidenced by the One Language, One Culture Policy; the National Culture
Policy of Assimilation; the process of Islamisation; the unchecked influx
of illegal Indonesian immigrants; injustices in the government’s education
policy whether it be higher education opportunities in the country or
mother-tongue education; and the NEP excesses, abuses and deviations.

Yesterday, the most serious ‘political breakthrough’ in
Malaysian Chinese politics since Merdeka in l957 took place – with the
appointment of UMNO Vice President, Ghaffar Baba, as chairman of a MCA
ad hoc committee to deal with internal MCA matters – the party membership

It would appear that when the MCA promised a ‘political breakthrough’
for the Malaysian Chinese in the l982 general elections, it does not mean
major political gains or advances, but unthinkable political retreats and

I do not want to get involved in the year-long power struggle
between the Neo Yee Pan and Tan Koon Swan factions in the MCA, but the people
are entitled to consider the political implications affecting their rights
and their future from MCA power struggle developments.

Gaffar Baba’s appointment as chairman of the MCA ad hoc committee
on MCA membership list is the most ‘serious political breakthrough’ in Malaysian
Chinese politics since Merdeka in l957, because:

Firstly, it publicly demonstrated that although it claims to be the
sole Champion of the political rights of the five million
Malaysian Chinese, it is unable to run its own internal party
affairs without interference, direction and pressure from
UMNO. It is completely unthinkable that any MCA leader would
have been appointed as Chairman of an UMNO committee to resolve
internal UMNO disputes even though in the name of Barisan

Secondly, the MCA, as it acts in the name of the five million
Malaysian Chinese, has not only given up its autonomy and
independence in internal party affairs, it has forfeited
dignity and self-respect as well. The Tan Koon Swan faction,
in particular Lee Kim Sai, had made great play of the need
for the Malaysian Chinese to ‘restore our racial dignity’!
What type of ‘restoration of our racial dignity’
is this, when a MCA Extraordinary General Meeting is being
summoned specifically to endorse the appointment of UMNO
Vice President, Ghaffar Baba, as chairman of the MCA
ad hoc committee on membership list? I have no doubt that
if UMNO had to call an EGM to endorse the appointment of
Datuk Neo Yee Pan or Tan Koon Swan to be chairman of a national
UMNO Committee to supervise UMNO elections, it would be taken
as a unforgivable affront to the ‘dignity of UMNO and Malay
face’! Why should it be different in the case of MCA?

Thirdly; and most important of all, if the MCA lacks the autonomy
and authority to determine its own internal affairs,
and have to bow down to the dictates of UMNO leaders, what
say could MCA leaders have in Cabinet or State Governments
to influence national policies? In fact, the new leadership
that would emerge from the UMNO-superivsed MCA elections
would be even more beholden to the UMNO leadership, and
less able to take a stand different and separate from UMNO
wishes. The Tan Koon Swan MCA faction’s stand on the Bukit China issue
last year should be a real eye-opener of the possible things to come.

I am really flabbergasted as to how a non-MCA member, i.e.,
Ghaffar Baba, could become Chairman of a national MCA committee to
supervise MCA elections. It is clearly against the MCA Party Constitution
and unlawful, and could be challenged by any disaffected MCA member.

In fact, I do not think that the so-called seven-point out of
court settlement of the two MCA factions have any greater legal force or effect
than the January 30 agreement, which Mr. Justice Harun had commented was without
legal force. The two MCA factions cannot reach an agreement which is against the MCA
constitution, in this case, in appointing a non-MCA member to head a MCA ad hoc
committee. I am also intrigued by the Neo Yee Pan faction‘s
recognition of the EGM2 tomorrow, for then the entire Neo leadership should attend the
EGM2 or would be failing in their leadership duties. In any event, Neo camp’s recognition of the
EGM2’s validity does not make it valid in law, for this could only be determined
by the courts after a full hearing, which has not been done!