Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the 1986 Budget on Monday, 28.10.1985
Government taking the easy and irresponsible way to shore up its financial position by a 18.6% increase in petroleum production in complete abandonment of the National Depletion Policy on Petroleum Production
The Minister of Finance, Daim Zainuddin, has established a record of introducing a second painless budget at a time when the country’s economy is going through a most painful period.
The Minister of Finance has no choice but to introduce a painless budget for the general elections is expected to be held early next year, and no Finance Minister would introduce a painful budget under these circumstances.
This does not mean that the people of Malaysia would be spared their pain. It only means that their pain had been postponed for another period, and after the next General Elections, they would feel the full intensity of the twice-delayed pain in Daim Zainuddin’s two budgets.
The 1986 Budget is therefore a Budget of Delayed Pain for the coming general elections. Could the Minister of Finance on behalf of the Government promise the people that after the next general elections, it would not resort to painful measures for the people to deal with the grave economic and financial difficulties confronted by the country?
The statistics spell out the gloomy economic picture of the country. The deficit in the Balance of Payments current account is estimated at $5.3 billion this year compared with a deficit of $3.7 billion in 1984. Despite government pledges to bring down the Invisibles Account Deficit, the deficit in the services account of the balance of payments is expected not only to increase from $10,566 million in 1984 to $10.973 million I 1985, for next year in 1986, it will reach an all-time high of $11,599 million.
The national debt is expected to reach a level of $72,917 million compared with $66,822 million; while the debt service charges of the Federal Government debt has risen from $4,430 million in 1984 to $5,486 million, and in 1986, it will touch $5,925million.
On the commodities front, Malaysia’s position as the world’s largest producer and exporter of rubber and palm oil is being threatened, while suffering from low prices because of the slow-down of international economic activity and the deepening of the recession in 1986, which will also affect Malaysia’s manufactures.
With the bleak growth prospects in the economy for 1985 and 1986, the overall employment outlook is gloomy, with the government expecting a 7.6% rate of unemployment, or 427,000 unemployed, which is always a under-estimate.
As the 1986 Budget is an election budget, the government has taken the easy and irresponsible way out to shore up its financial position by a 18.6 per cent increase in crude petroleum production in complete abandonment of the National Oil Depletion Policy.
In accordance with the Government’s National Oil Depletion Policy, crude petroleum production under the Fourth Malaysia Plan was projected to increase from 280,000 bpd in 1980 to 362,900 bpd in 1985, or an increase of production of about five per cent per annum.
This National Depletion Policy production figures were abandoned in 1983 to generate revenue for the Government, when the Fourth Malaysia Plan ceiling for crude petroleum production was exceeded with 383,300 bpd production in 1983 and 446,800 bpd production in 1984.
At the end of December 1984, the Finance Minister, Daim Zainuddin, announced that as ‘s mark of solidarity’ with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Malaysia would reduce its crude oil production by 40,000 bpd, reducing the petroleum production from 440,000 bpd to 400,000bpd.
According to the Treasury Economic Report 1985/86, however, there would only be a decline of 3.8% to 430,000 bpd in 1985. And for next year, there would be a 18.6 per cent increase in crude petroleum production to reach an all-time high of 510,000 bpd – which is a 40 percent excess over the Fourth Malaysia Plan ceiling for petroleum production.
The government is acting recklessly in deciding to slog the oil wells to make up for its shortfall in revenue, I utter disregard of the welfare of future generations of Malaysians.
Until now, the government had clearly misled the people and Parliament about the 10% cut in petroleum production, which raises the question why the Government is shrouding the petroleum production figures in such secrecy.
The Malaysian public is entitled to ask whether it is in the national interest and that of future generations to increase production so steeply when the world oil market is facing a glut, with the average weighted price of Malaysian crude petroleum expected to decline to US$26 per barrel in 1986, compared to US $36.27 in 1982, US$29.34 in 1984 and US$27.50 in 1985.
As petroleum is the national resource of Malaysians, and not just a few Ministers, Parliament as the highest representative chamber of the people, has the right to expect a greater accountability from the Government and Petronas in the stewardship of the petroleum resources.
The government should not mortgage away the rights of future generation of Malaysians just to generate more funds and revenues to help the ruling parties fight the next general elections.
In the conclusion of his budget speech, the Finance Minister urged ‘each and every Malaysian to provide their whole-hearted support to the Government.’ He said that ‘Unity among the people must be strengthened. We cannot afford to be disunited not confront one another, especially at a time when the country is facing numerous challenges.’ He said that the government alone could not bring greater progress to the people, without the support and the co-operation of all.
The Finance Minister has touched on the secret of the success and greatness of any nation. The government must be more open, democratic and accountable, and take the people into their confidence, if it is to secure people’s support and investor confidence in the government’s economic policies.
If the people, and even investors, believe that important decisions are arbitrarily made by a few leaders, without the participation and agreement of the people at large as required in a working parliamentary democracy, then the government can only blame itself if its policies could not secure public support or investor confidence.
Recently, the government leaders, including the Finance Minister, had been criticising the private sector for its ‘discouraging ‘ response towards government measures aimed at helping it. The Finance Minister said last month that the doubted whether the private sector is more efficient or more aggressive than the public sector , as the various government actions like the reduction of the electricity tariff, the launching of the billion-dollar new investment fund, had not elicited much response.
Daim Zainuddin’s charging with the private sector’s lukewarm attitude is understandable when, according to his speech at the UMNO General Assembly, the government had injected $4.41 billion into the market without much noticeable effect, except for the speculative rise of a few stock market counters.
In May this year, the Prime Minister himself lamented that Malaysia may never enter the world of sophisticated manufacturing technology if Malaysian entrepreneurs could not emulate their counterparts in the NICs like Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea, in producing all kinds of high technology goods.
But the government leaders till now have failed to address the most crucial and critical question, which is now to secure public and investor confidence in government policies.
With the approach of 1990, the end of the 20-year perspective plan, of the New Economic Policy, the people are led to believe that the government would pursue a less division policy, and that the ‘bumiputra-isation’ policy of bumiputra percentages and quotas would come to an end, or would be given less prominence in policies of State.
But some recent developments indicate that after 1990, not only would the New Economic Policy based on the division of Malaysians into bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras be perpetuated, but such ‘bumiputra-isation’ would be taken to new lengths and extremes!
The Batu Pahat West District Council, for instance, recently announced its new property assessment rates, which proposed to increase property taxes as high as 1,000 per cent! But what is the most shocking part is the District Council’s introduction for the first time in the country of discriminatory assessment rates between what is practically ‘bumiputera properties’ and ‘non-bumiputera properties’ – where ‘bumiputera properties’ would be allowed ‘discounts of between 25 to 50 per cent of the increased rates.
The Johore MCA Assemblymen said that the classification of properties into ‘bumiputra’ and non-bumiputera’ properties was decided by the Johore State Government after the 1982 general elections.
The creation of the new division of ‘bumiputera properties’ and ‘non-bumiputera properties’ with different assessment rates is not only a violation of the Constitutional guarantee in Article prohibiting racial discrimination, but even more seriously, would further aggravate racial polarisation, which can only gravely undermine investor confidence in the economic future of the country.
I will give another example of such extremist government policies and measures which can undo all the ‘incentives’ and efforts of the Ministry and Finance to attract greater private sector commitment to invest in Malaysia.
During the weekend, the Malacca Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik, warn that criticism of the state government’s bumiputra quota policy for housing schemes would threaten the harmony of the people, and that this is ‘sensitive’ issue which could not be criticised or opposed.
State Government’s bumiputra quota policy for housing schemes should be suspended when there are more than 300 backlog of bumiputra lots not taken up
I understand that the Malacca State Government, under the Chief Minister has imposed the highest bumiputra quotas for housing schemes. After the 1982 general elections, the Malacca Chief Minister has imposed a bumiputra quota of 70% – 80% requiring housing developers to reserve 70 to 80 per cent of their house to bumiputras. There was even one case where the Chief Minister imposed a 100% bumiputra quota, which was reduced to 80% on appeal.
Such extremist ‘bumiputraisation’ policy had not only strangled the housing industry in Malacca, but dealt a great blow to general public and investor confidence in the country.
As a result of the Malacca Chief Minister’s extremist bumiputraisation policy, there is hardly any new housing activity in Malacca, for no developer would carry out housing projects requiring such a high bumiputrra quota, nor would banks be willing to give bridging finance for such a dubious housing scheme.
According to one study in Malacca between 1970 to 1980, out of 1,500 bumiputra lots, only 431 units were taken up. One housing industry source estimates that there are now at least 2,000 bumiputra lots which could not be sold in Malacca.
The Federal Government should direct all State Governments to suspend the bumiputra quota policy for housing schemes if there are more than 300 unsold bumiputra units in the State, so that the housing programme – which is one of the greatest failures of the Barisan Nasional government – would not suffer.
But even more serious than the damage such ‘bumiputraisation policy’ is causing to the housing programme is the harm it does to undermine public and investor confidence that they are at any time subject to the mercies of extremist elaboration of the ‘bumiputraisation’ policy.
After 15 years of the NEP, the people are not convinced that the Batu Pahat West District Council’s classification of ‘bumiputra properties’ and ‘non-bumiputera properties’ and the Malacca State Government’s bumiputra quotas for housing schemes ranging from 70% to even 100% in one case, are aberrations or deviations from the NEP.
Public views are reinforced when even the Prime Minister himself, in his speech to the Barisan Nasional Youth work-camp at Lubok Antu in Sarawak ten days before the National Day celebration with the theme ‘Nationalism is the Basis of National Unity’, referred to non-Malay Malaysians as ‘immigrant’ races.
I hazard to guess that remarks and speeches of this nature by the Prime Minister has the capacity of destroying all the efforts made by the Finance Minister in his budget speech calling on the people to unite and support government’s development efforts and to create public and investor confidence.
To create the conditions whereby there Could be a national effort to face the economic crisis confronting the country, the Prime Minister should apologise for his highly offensive reference to non-Malay Malaysians as ‘immigrants’, for firstly, it is in-correct, as the overwhelming majority of non-MALAY Malaysians are born in the country and will die in the country and they are as ‘indigenous’ as anybody else. Secondly, such a categorisation, taking the ‘bumiputra/non-bumiputra’ classification to greater lengths, is highly divisive and disruptive of the nation-building process.
On 12th October 1985, 27 Malaysian Chinese Guilds and Associations released a Joint Declaration for a fundamentally new solution to the nation’s problems, and for building a truly united, harmonious and prosperous nation for Malaysian citizens of all ethnic communities.
As a first step, I call on the Government to announce its acceptance in principle of the Joint Declaration by the Chinese Guilds and Associations of Malaysia 1985, which will lay the essential basis for the national effort necessary to face Malaysia’s economic crisis.
The Preamble of the Joint Declaration reads:
“The Chinese Guilds and Association of Malaysia have unanimously moved to issue this Joint Declaration at this juncture for the following reasons:
- The Chinese Malaysian community is alarmed at the seriousness of the problem of racial polarisation, which is our opinion, is caused mainly by government policies which constantly emphasize that ‘bumiputra interest must come first’, as well as by administrative measures which have eroded and deprived the other Malaysian communities of their fundamental liberties to equality in the political, economic, social, cultural, linguistic and educational spheres.
- The Chinese Malaysian community is not only concerned that there is increasing polarisation between rich and poor in general, but also disturbed at the fact that the Government’s Malays-centrism has neglected the problem of poverty in other communities and led to anomalies in the economic sphere.
- The Chinese Malaysian community is also concerned at the transgression of freedom and democracy in our country and we believe that the violation of human rights; economic, political and cultural oppression; social injustice, are the root causes of discrimination and communal tension.
- We have also observed with disappointment that the Barisan Nasional Government and the various political parties in the country have thus far failed to bring about the resolution of the above-mentioned grievances.
In issuing this Declaration, we recall the safeguards and guarantees of the fundamental liberties of equality and democracy in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, the Rukunegara as well as the United Nations’ Declaration and Conventions.”
I hope the MCA and Gerakan MPs would declare their unequivocal stand on this Declaration which gives an important reason why the government has failed to elicit public support and investor confidence in its economic policies.
The Gerakan MP for Tanjong, Dr. Koh Tsu Koon, said outside the House that he supported the Joint Declaration of the Chinese Guilds and Associations of Malaysia 1985, and that the Gerakan’s opposition to the government’s policy of diving Malaysians into bumiputras and non-bumiputras is very clear-cut.
I hope Dr. Koh would not speak with different tongues inside and outside the House, and that he would take up my proposal to him to move a motion in the present budget meeting to ask the government to adopt the Joint Declaration of the Chinese Guilds and Associations, and for the abolition of the Classification of Malaysians into bumiputras and non-bumiputras.
I will now discuss some of the budget proposals and economic problems faced by the country.
In his budget speech, the Finance Minister called on the people to make sacrifices. Pensions by MPs and Assemblymen, members of the Federal or State Governments, will now be taxed until the retirement age of 55 expect on health grounds. Daim Zainuddin said this is to place the political service at par with the civil service with respect to taxation on pension.
The Finance Minister should take the matter a step further by equalising the pension entitlement between MPs and the civil service. The 1980 provision allowing MPs and Assemblymen to receive pensions after three years of service should be abolished, and the old provision of pension entitlement after nine years of service restored.
The politicians as MPs and Assemblymen should set a good public example to reduce public expenditure. At the present period of economic austerity, there is also a case for the reduction in the allowances of MPs and Assemblymen, and the cut in the salaries of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries – and in particular their travelling and entertainment allowances.
DAP calls for legislation to require firms to give three-month early warning before they could issue notices of retrenchment
One of the biggest problems Malaysians will face in the coming years will be the spectre of unemployment, which the Ministry conservatively estimates to be at 7.6% in 1986 involving 427,000 people.
The unemployment problem is compounded by the problem of massive retrenchments, the return of some 100,000 workers from abroad, and the million or so illegal foreign nationals, in particular the illegal Indonesian immigrants.
Although retrenched workers are entitled to retrenchments benefits, this provision is meant for normal economic conditions where retrenchments are few and isolated instances, and not at present, where massive retrenchments in the textile and electronic industries have reached epidemic proportions.
The DAP calls for legislation to require firms to give three-month early warning notice to the government and the employees before they could issue notices of retrenchment. This will give both the government and the workers adequate time to consider whether the retrenchment is justified, or only an excuse to cut cost, and to make alternative provisions.
The Ministry of Labour has so far been quite indifferent to the plight of the retrenched workers, and those who had returned from abroad because of retrenchment overseas.
The Government should set up a high-level committee to find alternative employment for the workers retrenched locally, as well as those retrenched in other countries.
It is most ironical that when the spectre of unemployment is rearing its ugly head, Malaysia should be host to some million illegal foreign nationals, depriving Malaysians of their rice-bowls.
The illegal Indonesian Immigrants pose not only socio-economic problems for Malaysia, they are also a threat to the law and order in the country. Further, they also create long-term political and nation-building problems for Malaysia.
The Federal government had closed its eyes to the influx of illegal Indonesian immigrants since the late 1970s, and syndicates involving local UMNO leaders are responsible for bringing in the illegal Indonesian immigrants, housing, harbouring and assisting their illegal entry.
This is now admitted by the Treasury Report, when it said: “Over the past few years, the problem of labour shortages (in the plantation sector) has been lessened by the deployment of foreign workers, who were mostly Indonesians.”(p.128)
The Malaysia-Indonesia Agreement to Supply Workers was signed only in May last year, and although the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, said at the time that the Agreement would regulate the flow of Indonesian workers into Malaysia and head off growing local resentment of influx of illegal Indonesian immigrants, the Agreement is a useless scrap of paper.
The Agreement had not only failed to check the influx of Indonesian immigrants, Indonesians legally brought in under the Agreement preferred to abandon their jobs an join the rank of the illegal.
Although Datuk Musa had announced the expansion of the scope of Task Force VII to include all illegal foreign nationals, and there has been daily publicity of the number of illegal being arrested, the public is still not convinced that the Government is serious in wanting to effectively resolve the problem of illegal Indonesian immigrants, in the way the governments dealt with the problem of Vietnamese refugees in 1979.
It is not difficult for the government to break the back of the problem of illegal Indonesian immigrants. All that is needed is for the government to enact legislation to make it a custodial offence for anyone in Malaysia to aid, abet, harbour, house, or employ illegal Indonesian immigrants. Malaysians who make money from the illegal influx of Indonesian immigrants must be regarded as anti-national elements who have committed a grave offence, bringing in their chain complex short-term, medium-term and long-term political, economic , law and order, and nation-building problems for the country.
In previous budgets, the Finance Minister had invariably spoken of the need to reduce the Invisibles Accounts Deficit which has caused the deficit in the current account of Balance of Payments. But this is of no avail because of the high external debt of the country.
As a proportion to GNP, Malaysian’s external debt level is one of the highest in the world. The Federal Government’s external debt jumped from $4.8 billion in 1980 to $21.3 billion in 1985.
All the three components of the foreign debt, namely (a) the federal government’s debt; (b) debt guaranteed by the federal government, mainly to finance ‘Off-Budget Agencies’; and (c) private-sector debt, had risen rapidly between 1981 to 1985.
Thus, between 1981 to 1985, the federal government debt increased by 157% from $8.3 billion to $21.3 billion; government guaranteed debt by 196.5% from $3.1 billion to 9.1 billion; and private sector debt by 150% from $4 billion to $10 billion.
The total foreign debt therefore increased by 162% from $15.4 billion to $40.4 billion in 1985.
Federal external debt as a ratio of GNP rose from 10% in 1980 to 29% in 1984. The ratio of total public-sector debt (including that of OBAs) to GNP rose from 21% in 1981 to 39% in 1984. The country’s overall external debt – GNP ratio jumped from 28% in 1981 to 52% at the end of 1984.
According to a recent study, Malaysia’s external debt-to-GNP ratio is far above the average for developing countries as a whole, and even higher than some countries now facing severe repayment problems. In 1983, Malaysia’s total external debt was 49% of GN, compared to Brazil and Philippines (40%), South Korea (31%), Thailand (25%) and the average for developing countries (36%).
As a result of the rising external debt, debt servicing is also increasing every year.
The total Federal Government debt is expected to increase by 7% from $56,927 million in 1984 to $60,912 million in 1985, made up of $39,591 million or 65% domestic debt and $21,321 million or 35% of external debt.
The debt service charges of the Federal Government will rise to $5,925 million, or 27% of the operating expenditure for 1986.
The rapid accumulation of the external debts will make it very difficult for Malaysia to reduce the Services Account deficit to manageable proportions. There is an urgent need for stricter check on governmental and OBA expenditures, to cancel all prestigious projects and lavish expenditures, including the frequent overseas trips by Ministers and Mentri-Mentri Besar and Chief Ministers.
Government departments and OBAs should put a stop to their competition to put up multi-storey office complexes and shopping complexes like the $600 million Komtar project in Penang, the $313 million Dayabumi in Kuala Lumpur, and the recently completed PNB and Tabong Haji buildings. A survey carried out by Bank Negara in early 1985 indicated an increase of about 124% in new office space available for rental in Kuala Lumpur in 1985, as a result of completion of about 8.3 million square feet of net rental area during the year, compared with only 3.7 million square feet in 1984. As a result there is a glut of office space and gross under-utilisation of the expensive buildings.
In August the Minister of Public Enterprises, Datin Paduka Rafidah Aziz, said the Urban Development Authority had drawn up plans to promote the Dayabumi complex into a dynamic commercial centre, which include the lowering of rentals to attract more businessmen.
What Datin Paduka Rafidah meant was that Dayabumi was a white elephant which would have been a gigantic disaster if government departments or OBAs had not taken up most of the office space.
The Minister had, in reply to my question, said in April that UDA would take 27 years based on the rentals to recover the building costs of Dayabumi. With the further reduction of lower rentals, to make it a ‘dynamic commercial centre’, it would easily add another 10 years to the 27-year recovery period of the building costs – lengthening the burden on the people!
Another major item in the Invisibles Account Deficit is the over a billion dollars a year which Malaysian parents spend to educate their children in foreign universities and colleges.
It is unacceptable that the majority of the Malaysian students in colleges and universities are overseas. To save on foreign exchange and to lessen the financial burden on the parents, the Government should adopt as a new policy the provision of places for 80% of Malaysian students pursuing higher studies inside the country.
The government should allow the establishment of private universities, and should aim at the establishment of at least one university in each of the status in Malaysia by 1990, whether public or private.
According to one study, only five per cent of youth in Malaysia, between 20 and 24, are in institutions of higher education compared to 30 per cent in Japan, 55 per cent in US, 20 per cent in Britain. Malaysia’s per capita public expenditure on education is only US$90, as against US$341 in Japan, US$394 in Britain and US$623 in the US.
The government should therefore give greater incentive to the promotion of higher education, and the higher education costs incurred by Malaysians should be deductible for purpose of income tax. In this way, there will be a higher percentage of Malaysians who acquire knowledge and skills which would enable Malaysia to compete with the world.
In this connection, I wish to urge the Education Minister to again take up with the Australian government the question of the exorbitant fees increase for Malaysian students studying in Australia. Malaysian students affected by the Australian fee increase expect sympathy and support intervene on their behalf.
Before I leave the subject of higher education, I would want to know why the Education Minister, Datuk Abdullah Badawi, is silent on the USM controversy and the University crisis of confidence.
Datuk Abdullah Badawi was very quick to respond to the UKM ban on the ceramah on hadith by former PSRM Chairman, Kassim Ahmad, and rightly so. I commend Datuk Abdullah Badawi for intervening to ensure a more open a freer campus atmosphere, although I do not know whether this has anything to do with rumours that Kassim Ahmad would be joining UMNO and would even be an UMNO candidate in the next general elections.
However, on the USM controversy and the general University crisis of confidence among academic staff, which is very important and critical to our universities programme, the Education Minister seemed to be completely indifferent.
I am very concerned that the USM authorities have given show-cause letters to Hashim Yaacob and Rohanna Ariffin, the president and vice president respectively of the USM Administrative and Academic Staff Association for their statements in their official capacity.
The USM authorities is acting in a very petty and punitive manner to the legitimate complaints by the USM academicians about the university administration, and the Education Minister should intervene to get the USM authorities to withdraw the two shoe-cause letters.
The Minister should personally investigate into the USM controversy, especially the departure of the two USM Deputy Vice Chancellors, Professor Sharom Ahmed (Research and Development) and Professor Kamal Salih (Academic) because of their frustration at the absence of meaningful consultations in the running of the University administration.
Very serious allegations have been made about the USM administration, e.g. the allegation that the centralisation of power in the Vice Chancellor has led to a patronage system whereby promotions are not based on academic excellence but favouritism; that extremely junior staff members had been appointed to positions of academic and administrative leadership, although they have not distinguished themselves in any way, by-passing more senior members who are of better established academic excellence; administrative interference with curriculum matters; pressure on lecturers considered too strict in their grading of examination papers; attempts to reduce school boards and the University senate to ineffectual bodies; and the general slide towards the replacement of consultative processes with governance by administrative fiat.
These allegations cannot be resolved by invoking the Universities and University Colleges Act to silence the officials of the Academic Staff Associations. If in our universities, academicians through their representative organisation cannot even complain about university administration matters, what universities are we building in Malaysia? Do we want all university students and lectures to be intellectual eunuchs?
There is a general Crisis of Confidence among academicians in our Universities. I call on the Education Minister to take heed of the call by representatives of academic staff associations of the various universities for an Independent Universities Commission appointed by and answerable to Parliament to ensure academic excellence and meaningful social contribution by the Universities.
The task of the Universities Commission are:
- To coordinate the development of higher education to meet the needs of the country in a planned manner;
- To safeguard university autonomy and ensure academic excellence and meaningful contribution by the university to society;
- To channel financial allocations to the university; and
- To act as the highest appellate body for all universities, and academic staff members, provided that the existing functions and powers of the council for each university remain intact.
The Ministry of Education’s integrated primary school proposal has created considerable doubts and distrust among the people about its effect on the continued preservation of Chinese nd Tamil primary schools.
The Ministry of Education seems bent on implementing the integrated primary school proposal, in disregard of the reservations of the parents, teachers and educational groups.
The DAP calls on the Ministry to defer acceptance of the integrated primary school idea until all parents, teachers and educational groups are satisfied that it will not be the thin end of the wedge to make the latest attempt to jeopardise the character of Chinese and Tamil primary schools.
The Education Ministry should realise the background as to why there is distrust and suspicion of the Ministry’s intentions, because ever since 1961, the Education Act had hung like a Damocles’ Sword over Chinese primary schools.
The refusal of the Barisan Nasional government, including MCA and Gerakan Ministers and MPs to repeal clause 21(2) of the Act which empowers the Education Minister to convert Chinese and Tamil primary schools into national primary schools if he deems fit, only reinforce public reservations and fears about the Barisan Nasional government’s ultimate intentions.
The Education Ministry should suspend all plans to implement the integrated primary school proposal, and hold meetings and discussions with parents, teacher and educational groups on the proposal first.
Recently , the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, said that the government was considering a new development plan for the country’s 460 new villages and 1.5 million inhabitants.
I hope that this is not a election gimmick to win votes, to be forgotten after the general elections.
I am very disappointed that in the 1986 Budget, there was not only no references by the Finance Minister about the new plan to uplift New Village economy, there is also no special allocation to bring the 1.5 new villages into the main strain of Malaysia’s socio-economic development.
In 1971, the DAP called for a New deal for the New Villages, which had been neglected in socio-economic development since their establishment in the early Fifties, the establishment of a Ministry of New Villages, and the drawing up of a Master Plan to develop the new villages.
As a result of the DAP pressure, a Ministry of New Villages was set up, but in retrospect, apart from individuals who become Ministers of New Villages, like Dr. Lim Keng Yaik, now Gerakan President, Datuk Lee San Choon, Datuk Michael Chen and Dr. Datuk Neo Yee Pan, the new villagers did not materially benefit in any way.
The DAP now calls for the re-establishment of a Ministry of New Villages with a annual allocation of at least $300 million for the upliftment of new villages socio-economic conditions, including planning out a strategy to expand the new village boundaries to keep in step with the doubling or even trebling of the population.
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, is making an official visit to China next month. It is now 11 years since Tun RAzak establishment diplomatic relations with China and visited China.
There should be a full normalisation of relations between Malaysia and China, and I hope the Prime Minister’s visit to China will pave the way for such a development. All restrictions for travel to China should be lifted, and the requirement for APs to import goods from China should be cancelled.
The ban on Malaysians from visiting China except for certain categories is based on a false premise, which insults the Malaysian Chinese community by doubting their loyalty to Asia. I believe that if Malaysian Chinese are allowed free visits to China, they would return even more convinced Malaysians because of the wide disparity and difference in the two political and socio-economic systems.
In this connection, the DAP Parliamentary group had submitted an application to the government for approval for a DAP Parliamentary visit to China. We are still waiting for the government’s reply. Members of Parliament have been elected and entrusted by the people to be their representative to legislate and decide the future of the country. If MPs are denied visits to China, while businessmen and traders can do so, there is a very lop-sided sense of priorities. I hope that this matter will be seen from the national, and not from any party point of view.
BMF INQUIRY REPORT
Last week, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Datuk Sabaruddin Cik, inreply to the DAP MP for Kuching, Sim Kwang Yang, said that the Ahmed Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee Report would be made public if it does not contravene the secrecy sections of the Banking Act, On this basis, the entire Ahman Nordin BMF Inquiry Committee Report could be suppressed as infringing the Banking Act.
I am not sure whether the Government is going to use the Banking Act to go back on the Prime Minister’s promise when the Committee was first established that the Report would be made public. The people had been waiting impatiently for the Ahmad Nordin Inquiry Committee Report into the $2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance Scandal. The Inquiry Committee had told the people that the final report would be ready by September this year, but this month has come and gone without any report.
The people are entitled to know when the Ahmad Nordin Inquiry Committee would complete its final report, or first final report, and present it to the government. Or is the BMF Inquiry Report being ‘hushed up’ or suppressed until after the next general elections?