DAP warns against ‘tyranny of the Majority’ and calls on Malaysian people to help provide checks and balances to defend parliamentary democracy

Speech (Part 2) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, when winding up the debate on his motion for a Parliamentary Select Committee on 25 years of Parliamentary Democracy in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday, 16.7.1985

DAP warns against ‘tyranny of the Majority’ and calls on Malaysian people to help provide checks and balances to defend parliamentary democracy.

The Deputy Health Minister, Datuk K. Pathmanaban, alleged in the debate that we from the DAP are asking for absolute democracy and freedoms. This is utter nonsense as nobody is asking for absolute or perfect democracy or freedoms.

There is however a great difference between those in the Barisan Nasional, like Dr. Goh Cheng Teik, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, Alias Ali, and other MPs who spoke who believed that there are adequate freedoms to fulfill our ideal of parliamentary democracy and Malay other Malaysians, not just the DAP, who are seriously concerned by the constant erosion of parliamentary democracy, both in principle and practice in Kuala Lumpur.

Only last Sunday, some 15 organisations gathered in Kuala Lumpur at the Dialogue of Concern III organised by ALIRAN to express concern about the erosion of Parliamentary Democracy. These organisations are not all political parties as they include not only ALIRAN, but bodies like MTUC, CUEPACS, Selangor Graduates Society, Human Development Office, Consumers associations, etc. The Deputy Health Minister said that there is no basis for the motion to express concern at the erosion of parliamentary democracy and that the DAP merely wanted to get ‘political capital’ and to ‘fish for votes’. Are the organizations like ALIRAN, MTUC, CUEPACS, SELANGOR GRADUATES SOCIETY, HUMAN DEVELOPMENT OFFICE and others who expressed concern about erosion of parliamentary democracy also looking for ‘political capital’, ‘fishing for votes’, or are they without a mind of their own?

MPs should give this question the serious attention it deserves, as it is more important than party politics, more important than Barisan Nasional or DAP or any party, as it affects the future of the nation and the generations to come.

During these two days’ debate, Barisan MPs exploited the motion to secure political mileage by attacking the DAP and myself, claiming that we are not democratic and are not qualified to talk about parliamentary democracy. I dare say here that the DAP is anytime more democratic than the component parties of Barisan Nasional.

Is it because there are reports about disciplinary actions being taken in the DAP that the DAP is undemocratic? The DAP, as an opposition party, had been the target of internal subversion by Barisan Nasional agents who seek to suborn the loyalty of DAP leaders with monetary or material offers. This is an open knowledge in the last 18 years. The Barisan Nasional leaders are unhappy because we do not give their agents a free run and license to do their utmost to destroy the DAP. We do not apologise for always ensuring that there is discipline in the party, and for expelling those who are prepared to serve outside interests such as those of the Barisan Nasional to break up the DAP.

I have said that when compared to the Barisan Nasional component parties, the DAP is at any time very much more democratic. Take the MCA for instance. The former MCA President, Datuk Lee San Choon, once expelled 61 members in one ‘massacre’ by machine-gun! Is this the democracy of Barisan Nasional? In the DAP, no one person could expel or take disciplinary action against any member, as only the Disciplinary Committee has such power.
But in MCA, one person has the power to decide the expulsion of hundreds of leaders and members, which is why there is now the Neo Yee Pan-Tan Koon Swan MCA power struggle.

Is this democracy? Or take UMNO. Is there no expulsion in UMNO? The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, was himself expelled from UMNO once. Dare UMNO MPs declare that there are no expulsions or disciplinary actions in UMNO as provided by its party constitution? What about MIC- no expulsions? As for the Gerakan, it is so ‘democratic’ that hundreds and thousands of members had been forced to resign from the party in protest against the hypocrisy and unprincipled stand of Gerakan leaders.

Or let us take Barisan Nasional – is there democracy in Barisan Nasional between the parties. In December, the Deputy UMNO President, Datuk Musa Hitam, gave notice to MCA to leave Barisan Nasional if its two factions could not resolve their power struggles. Now, there are signs that such eviction notice will again be given. Is this democracy in Barisan Nasional?

Can the MCA give notice to UMNO to leave Barisan Nasional if there is power struggle in UMNO? Can the MCA ask the UMNO President to resign as Prime Minister to allow the MCA President to take over if there is power struggle in UMNO?

This is the type of democracy the Barisan Nasional component parties can boast of Longkang Parliament


I am very shocked by the political philosophy of the Gerakan Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Datuk Dr. Goh Cheng Teik, who spoke on the motion yesterday. He welcomed the Opposition to make hard-hitting criticisms if the drains are clogged, if the garbage are not collected, or if power supply breaks down, but he does not want major issues of the nation and people like basic human rights, poverty, injustice, corruption like the BMF scandal to be raised as they would be ‘emotionalised’ and therefore bad for parliamentary democracy.

We reject totally such political concept that our Parliament should be a Parliament for – drains, garbage and power supply, for we think Parliament must play the important role of determining Malaysia’s shape and future, whether more democratic, open and less subject to all sorts of restrictions,

Barisan Nasional MPs criticised the DAP for often raising the BMF loans scandal in Parliament, and other issues which they claim as ‘old issues’. Until the BMP scandal and other unjust issues are satisfactorily resolved, they remain outstanding problems and we will continue to bring them up although this will displease the government of the day.

A few Barisan MPs attacked me for challenging the views of Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib, who said the the Malaysian government had no jurisdiction to try BM culprits for offences committed abroad in connection with the BMF loans scandal. These MPs declare that the Attorney-General is right as there is nothing in the Malaysian Constitution or the laws to allow the courts to try crimes committed abroad.

This only shows the ignorance and shallowness of the Barisan MPs who spoke. For instance, there is a provision in the Prevention of Corruption Act which allows for offences committed abroad to be tried in the country. And even if there are inadequacies in our law to enable the authorities to take action on the BMF scandal, then Parliament is duty-bound to act immediate to consider a necessary legislation so that the BMF culprits do not go scotfree.

I regret that major issues of the people and nation like the BMF scandal and others are disregarded in Parliament, which tries to sweep them under the carpet. Parliament has fallen very low from its high status.


Several Barisan Nasional MPs, in particular the Gerakan MP for Tanjong, Dr, Koh Tsu Koon, had accused the Opposition in the House of exploiting what he called ‘sensitive issues’, what are these sensitive issues?

I presume to them, questions about drains, garbage and electric supply are not ‘sensitive’. But how we can unite a multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious people is very sensitive.

Let us realise that unless we can transcend the racial identities to forge a Malaysian identity, we will fail in our Malaysian nation-building process. Thus when the government or the administrators take any action or measure which hurts the feelings and rights of the different communities, cultures or religions, they would definitely be creating ‘sensitive’ issues. But these issues, like culture and signboards, are ‘sensitive’ not because they are made so by the DAP, but because they are created by the insensitive actions of the Government and its officials. If we cannot bring these issues to Parliament so that the Government can know the feelings of the people, on the ground that they are ‘sensitive’, then Parliament its important function and would lose relevance and meaning.

In my motion, I had called on Malaysians to make a commitment to the system of parliamentary democracy, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon in his speech said there was no need for the people to make such a commitment, as the people are already fully committed to democracy. He used the voting turn-out in
the previous general elections of l974, l978 and l982 where over 70% of the electorate cast their votes, to justify his argument. If this is the criteria of commitment to democracy, then the Soviet Union must be even more democratic than Malaysia, and the Russians more committed to democracy than Malaysians. This is because in the elections held in Soviet Union, the voting turn-out is as high as 98% or 99% or even 100%.

I have called for a national commitment to parliamentary democracy because the people are the final bulwark against forces out to destroy it. The defence of the system of parliamentary democracy depends not only on the ruling parties and the Opposition, but even more important, on the people’s commitment to a democratic society and system.

I reject the argument of the MP for Pasir Puteh, Wan Najib, that because the ruling coalition has a parliamentary majority, it need not listen to the minority, for what it does would be for the good for the people; and that what is good for the ruling parties would be good for the people because of the people’s mandate.

This equation, that what is good for the ruling parties with the majority is good for the people and country, is most dangerous and must be rejected. We need only look at the Watergate scandal in the United States, when Richard Nixon had just been re-elected to a second term as US President with the biggest electoral-majority in history. By Wan Najib’s argument, then what Nixon did in Watergate should be good for the Republican Party, and therefore good for the American people and nation.

History has shown the dangers of the ‘tyranny of majority’. Who is to provide the checks and balances? This must be done not only by opposition parties, but also by civic organisations and the ordinary citizens themselves. This is why in my motion, I also urge for the people to make a commitment to the system of parliamentary democracy, as it is only through instilling consciousness among the people that they have a important role to play in defending parliamentary-democracy that we can ensure democracy’s future
in Malaysia.

The Minister of Education is present in the House, and I would urge him to consider reviewing school curriculum to see how democratic ideas could be promoted in schools, so that we can cultivate the democratic spirit among Malaysians and so create the democratic conditions for the strengthening
of the democratic ideal in Malaysia.