Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary- General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the Penang DAP State Committee meeting held at Penang DAP Hqrs on Saturday, 7.9.1985 at 4pm
DAP formally applies for a DAP Parliamentary and State Assembly delegation to visit China at end of the year
Last week, I formally submitted a written application to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, Datuk Musa Hitam, for permission for a DAP Parliamentary and State Assembly delegation to make a two—week visit to China in December 1985/January 1986.
In my letter to Datuk Musa Hitam, I gave two reasons supporting the proposed DAP Parliamentary and State Assembly delegation to China:
Firstly, the promotion of Malaysia—China relations on the strict basis of mutual respect for each other’s national sovereignty, independence and non—interference in domestic affairs will be good for Malaysia from national security, economic and financial, as well as nation—building perspectives.
Secondly, a DAP Parliamentary and State Assembly visit to China to study the political, economic and social conditions can help in the Malaysian nation- building process by demonstrating the Malaysian- ness of Malaysians, regardless of race or political grouping.
In my meeting with Datuk Musa where I handed over the DAP’s letter of application, I contended that if Malaysians are freely allowed to visit China, the vast political and socio- economic differences between the two countries said systems would promote Malaysian nation—building process among the Malaysian people, in particular the Malaysian Chinese, instead of subverting such a process as feared by some quarters.
Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen are the people’s elected representatives to safeguard the national well—being. The government should not place any restraint on MPs, of whatever party affiliation, from visiting China which is not on the totally banned list for Malaysians, so that as elected representatives of the people, they have a greater knowledge, experience and understanding of national and international developments and events which are crucial if they are to decide Malaysia’s policies and future intelligently.
If traders and businessmen are allowed to visit China, but not Malaysian Members of Parliament and State Assemblymen, it would be a bad reflection on our national scale of values which place elected representatives on so inconsequential and insigificant a position.
DAP forms Foreign Affairs Committee headed by Gooi Hock Seng
The DAP has established a DAP Foreign Affairs Committee headed by the DAP International Secretary, Sdr. Gooi Hock Seng, (MP for Bukit Bendera), which will study in depth foreign affairs and make recommendations to the Party leadership on new foreign policy questions.
The membership of the DAP Foreign Affairs Committee comprises the following:
Chairman: Gooi Hock Seng, DAP International Secretary and MP for Bukit Bendera
Vice Chairman: Ahnad Ton, DAP Assistant Publicity Secretary; Sim Kwang Yang, DAP Director of Political Bureau and MP for Kuching.
Secretary: Dr. Kong Cheok Seng, DAP Perak State Deputy Chairman
Asst. Sec: Robert Ang
The Malaysian press and Bernama should not become ‘government gazettes’
Two international conferences on the press would be held in Malaysia in the next one week. The first one is the Second ASEAN Editors’ Conference to be held in Penang on Sept. 10 to 12, while the second one is the World Press Convention organised by the National Union of Journalists as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Confederation of ASEAN Journalists (CAJ) from Sept. 16 to Sept. 22 in Kuala Lumpur.
When the 2M government of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and Datuk Musa Hitam came to power in July 1981, they promised a more open and liberal government, which would tolerate greater press freedom and diversity of opinion.
However, most paradoxically, it is also during the 2M rule that the government has armed itself with the most frightening and wideranging powers to control the press, in the form of the Printing Press and Publications Act 1984 and the amendments to the Official Secrets Act 1972 making it the most stringent secrecy law in the entire Commonwealth!
Malaysia’s Official Secrets Act is based on the British Official Secrets Act 1911, but while Parliamentarians and political parties in the United Kingdom are trying to liberalise the Act, the Malaysian government has done the exact opposite of making it more draconian to the right to know of Malaysians.
I hope that the two international conferences on the press to be held in Malaysia would make meaningful contributions to create conditions for greater press freedom in Malaysia, for without press freedom, there can be no meaningful parliamentary democracy.
Some time ago, the Prime Minister had said there was nothing wrong for the newspapers in Malaysia to become like ‘government gazettes’. This is most shocking, for there is everything wrong for the Malaysian newspapers to end up like ‘government gazettes’ as the newspapers would have then become the instruments of propaganda of the ruling government. Newspapers have a independent role to play in promoting a. meaningful parliamentary democracy by being a vehicle t transmit the people’s views to the government. If newspapers become mere ‘mouth—pieces’ of the government of the day, then they ceased to be newspapers and are mere government gazettes and nobody regard government gazettes as newspapers.
The Penang’ meeting is basically a conference for the various national news agencies in the ASEAN region. in this connection, Bernama, the Malaysian news agency, should review its role and try to move away from its present position of being a ‘government news agency. As a national news agency, Bernama should not just report the government’s views to the people, but must also report the people’s views, including those made by Opposition parties, to the government.
Although ASEAN was formed 18 years ago in 1967, there is still very little knowledge by the people of ASEAN about conditions, developments and even personalities in other ASEAN countries.
ASEAN spirit, solidarity and future cannot be built merely on the conferences of ASEAN government leaders, but must be built on more solid footing by bringing ASEAN peoples close to each other. As a first step, the news agencies and newspapers must play their role in informing their readers about the conditions, developments and personalities in other ASEAN countries. So long as ASEAN people know more about events, developments, conditions, personalities in non—ASEAN countries than that of other ASEAN nations, so long have the various ASEAN national news agencies, information services and the newspapers failed in their role in disseminating the ASEAN spirit and solidarity.