DAP calls on Malaysians to remind themselves on every Dec. 5 as the day they lost their fundamental right to the freedom of information and to renew their resolve to restore their lost rights

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP for Tanjung and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, at the 1986 DAP National Delegates Conference held at Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1986 at 10 a.m.

DAP calls on Malaysians to remind themselves on every Dec. 5 as the day they lost their fundamental right to the freedom of information and to renew their resolve to restore their lost rights

December 5, 1986 is a day of shame and infamy in the history of democracy and freedom in Malaysia – for on that day, despite widespread and deep-seated public opposition, the Barisan Nasional government used its four-fifth majority in Parliament to ram through the draconian and oppressive Official Secrets Act Amendment Bill.

Many Malaysians had phoned me yesterday expressing their great sadness and shock that a government which professes to be democratic could be so contemptuous of public opinion, and which refused to allow the various component parties and Barisan MPs the freedom to vote according to their conscience.

Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, denied during the debate on Friday that he had applied the whip to force all Barisan MPs into line, it is clear that his ‘whipless’ Whip was adequate to impose compulsion. Even the PBS MPs had also to vote for the Bill although a day earlier, PBS President, Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan, had declared that PBS would not support the OSA Bill without three charges, namely that the mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence is reduced to one day; the restoration of the discretionary powers of the courts on sentencing and classification of documents; and the deletion of the provision allowing Ministers to add to the Schedule of official secrets.

Barisan Nasional leaders were not surprised by the vote of the PBS MPs, for as one Barisan Nasional source told the press, the PBS would have been expelled from the coalition if it voted against it.

The DAP calls on Malaysians to mourn the great erosion of our democratic rights on every Dec.5, to remind them of their lost fundamental right to freedom of information, and on that day to renew their resolve to help restore their lost rights.

The DAP will mark the Dec. 5 of every year as Protest OSA Day, for Malaysians cannot and must not acquiesce in the erosion of their rights but must be determined to keep the fight to restore their right to freedom of information alive.

I also call on every Malaysian who feel strongly about democratic values and ideals, and the erosion of the right to freedom of information with the passage of OSA Amendment Bill, to make a resolution to confront Barisan Ministers, MPs and leaders with the OSA question whenever and wherever he meet them, whether for one year or five years or 10 years, until the draconian and oppressive features of the OSA are repealed.

No Barisan Minister or MP can really justify the need for the draconian provisions of the OSA Amendment Bill. During Friday’s debate, I had challenged the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, to name a country which professes parliamentary democracy which has an Official Secrets Act providing for mandatory minimum one-year jail sentence for any offence under the Act, and the Prime Minister admitted that he could not. His only answer is that Malaysia need not follow other countries. I agree, but Malaysia should not pioneer the world in extending the frontiers of freedom and democracy, and not lead the world in having the most repressive, draconian and undemocratic Official Secrets Act!

Concern that the UMNO party elections next year is likely to further destabilise the country and aggravate crisis of confidence
After the August 3 general elections, the country should have settled down to a stable course of politics and government, and helped restore public confidence in the country.

Unfortunately, this is not so, and one important reason is because of the upcoming UMNO party elections next year, as aspiring UMNO leaders for the various top party posts are already campaigning very hard, competing with each other in making the most extremist pronouncement or striking the most extremist positions.

In the last four months, after the general elections, UMNO leader’s exteremist speeches and actions had upset many Malaysians, making non-Malays wonder whether they should pull out capital in Malaysia to invest overseas – which they had not thought about despite the Barisan Nasional victory in the August 3 general elections.

The responsible Government leaders should ponder this deep and hard, for it should be a warning to UMNO leaders that in their competition for high party office in next year’s UMNO party elections, they should not be so reckless as to try to build up their election chances by pandering to the most extremist and chauvinist appeals, heedless of their harm to the very fabric of multi-racial Malaysia.

I understand that the UMNO General Assembly is likely to be advanced to April next year, and the country can ill afford another four months of the most unadulterated politics of race in a contest for high office by UMNO leaders.

The UMNO leaders would be guilty of the greatest irresponsibility of, as the main party in government, it allowed the UMNO party elections to destroy all government efforts to resolve the grave crisis of confidence in the country.

Thinking Malaysians are rightly concerned that next year’s UMNO party elections, and these few months leading up to them, are likely to further destabilise the country and aggravate the crisis of confidence in the country.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, is making a new tour of the country state-by-state. Is this tour motivated more by the upcoming UMNO party elections, or by the country’s crisis of confidemce?

MCA Ministers has failed in its own post-election objective to get the government to change its policies to ensure a fair balance between the communities

The poor , dismal and even shameful performance of MCA Ministers and MPs in the last two months’ of Parliament is a reflection of the overall dismal, poor and shameful record of MCA Ministers and leaders in the government in the past four months after the August general elections.

In Parliament, the MIC and even UMNO had to come to the defence of MCA and its leaders, for no MCA MP or Minister dare to stand up to defend the morality or integrity of their actions, like the case if the unsworn MP for Gopeng, Tan Koon Swan, or the $45 million loan taken by the Deputy MCA Minister for Youth, Culture and Sports, Wan Choon Wing, from the Co-operarative Central Bank.

The MCA Ministers and leaders had in fact failed their own post-election objective in government to change its policies to ensure greater fairness and justice among the various communities.

After the 1986 general elections, where the MCA managed to win only 17 Parliamentary seats as a result of UMNO votes, the MCA headquarters commissioned an analysis of the 1986 general elections results, which made the following conclusions and recommendations.

The MCA Headquarters study held that there was a strong anti-establishment mood among non-Malays in the general elections as a result of the Government’s “pro-Malay policies in all areas.”

It said that the failure of MCA was shared by all the Barisan non-Malay parties who would “face even greater erosion of their political support should the Government fail to adjust and change its policies to ensure a fair balance.”

It stressed that there was “an even greater need now” for non-Malay representation at state and federal levels to help “moderate the feelings of the non-Malays and win their support back to the Barisan.”

Finally, it recommended that the MCA leaders at all levels should be ‘disciplined enough not to blame party factionalism or personality conflicts as the main course of the Party’s failure” and that there should be “a consistent and loud call from the Chinese leaders that it is perceived discrimination that is the root of the failure and that if this is now corrected the situation can only get worse.”

What was the MCA Ministers and leaders to show on this line of action recommended by the MCA headquarters after the general elections? The answer again is a total blank!

Otherwise, the 588,000 depositors of the 24 co-operatives would not have been left in a lunch, and the government would have extended to the 588,000 co-operative depositors the same help it extended to the co@operative Bank Rakyat ten years ago.

Would MCA Ministers and leaders deny that if the majority of the 24 co-operatives in trouble had been run by UMNO leaders and comprise UMNO members, the Government would have come out with $600 million to bail them out?

I made this assertion in Parliament recently, and no MCA Minster and MP dare to contradict me!

Again, why had the MCA Ministers dishonoured their general elections pledge about amendment to Section 21(2) of the 1961 Education Act in the first parliamentary meeting after the general elections?

As a third example, several MCA Deputy Education Minister had been telling University of Malaya students that there would be no problem in the revival of the University of Malaya Chinese Language Society. Why is it one MCA Deputy Education Minister after another could not fulfil this promise to approve the establishment of the University of Malaya Chinese Language Society? Again, there is no doubt that if this was issue which concern UMNO Deputy Ministers, it would have been resolved long ago. Why must MCA Ministers and Deputy Minister forever accept second or third-class treatment in its own Government?

There seems to be only one issue where the MCA has been able to put up some resistance to UMNO pressure, i.e. with regard to the question of Tan Koon Swan’s Gopeng parliamentary seat. However, I do not think the MCA’s resistance to UMNO’s demand that Tan Koon Swan should resign as Gopeng MP is in the interest of the honour, dignity and self-respect of MCA itself, or the Chinese community which it claims to represent, or even the nation as a whole!