DAP launches ‘1990 Movement’ to mobilize Malaysian in the next three years to commit themselves to save Malaysia from the triple dangers of class, racial and religious polarization

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General, MP for Tanjong and Assemblyman for Kampong Kolam, Lim Kit Siang, at the three-day DAP National Leadership Summit Conference March 6 – 8, 1987 held at Cameron Highlands on Friday, March 6, 1987 at 7 p.m.

DAP launches ‘1990 Movement’ to mobilize Malaysian in the next three years to commit themselves to save Malaysia from the triple dangers of class, racial and religious polarization

Malaysia celebrates her 30th anniversary of nationhood in six months’ time. Three decades of nationhood is not a long time in the life of a nation, but it is long enough for an assessment as to whether we are heading in the right direction in nation-building, with centripetal forces gaining strength to weld the diverse Malaysian groups into one cohesive society, or whether centrifugal forces are having a upper hand to undermine the growth of a national identity and consciousness.

The 1986 General Elections speaks loud and clear of the growing divides in the nation, whether between the communities or the regions. Although the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, claimed a great landslide victory for the Barisan Nasional, the results showed indisputably that after three decades of governance, the ruling coalition had failed in its single most important task – nation-building.

The 1986 General Elections highlighted the great divide between Urban Malaysia and Rural Malaysia. The Barisan Nasional has virtually lost all urban support, as seen by the fact that the DAP’s total votes polled amounting to 968,009 exceeded the combined votes of MCA, Gerakan and MIC. Even in Rural Malaysia, UMNO’s position is not as solid as reflected by parliamentary seats, for despite winning one parliamentary seats, PAS secured about 720,000 votes compared to 1,474,000 votes polled by UMNO.

This is probably why a foreign journal, in a recent survey of the instability riskiness of 50 developing countries, gave Malaysia four out of a total of nine points on the assessment on ‘legitimacy of regime’, where the higher the point count, the greater the risk. Add this was only a matter of months after the August 1986 general elections.

The prolonged crisis of confidence Dr. Mahathir wanted to end by calling early general elections last August has not abated. The events of the past seven months since the general elections had deepened the crisis, and the Barisan Nasional’s hold on 70 per cent of Malay and 25 per cent of non-Malay vote last August would have slipped further by now.

The most important reason for the continuing crisis of confidence is the refusal of the Barisan Nasional, or to be more exact, the UMNO Government to come to terms with the electoral verdict of the people in the last general elections, and to make policy reappraisals and changes so that the Government can command the majority support of the people and the various communities in Malaysia.

What is worse, the events during this period had further disenchanted and alienated Malaysians in the government of the day.

Instead of regaining greater national confidence and credibility, the government has allowed opportunists and selfish politicians within its ranks to pander to the basest of emotions by making extremist and provocative speeches and demands.

A good example was the speech by the former Deputy Minister and now UMNO MP for Kok Lanas, Datuk Abdullah Ahmad, in Singapore warning that the Malaysian Chinese would be ‘playing with fire’ if they do not accept the present political system in Malaysia in seeking greater political equality and democracy; and that after 1990, there must be a ‘mechanism of preservation, protection and expansion’ of Malay dominance in the political system; and about the union with Indonesia preferred by some Malays. Recently, Datuk Abdullah Ahmad urged Malays to have more children to increase their share of population to 90 per cent.

Another example is the call for an Islamic State and greater Islamisation in utter disregard of the sensitivities and rights of the non-Muslim Malaysians, as in the demand by former Information Minister, Datuk Mohamat Rahmat, for the extension of Shariah law to non-Muslims for taking alcohol and other offences. If Mohamad Rahmat and others are really sincere, they should be putting pressure or even censuring the Finance Minister and the Government for allowing alcohol and even collecting considerable revenue from the sale of alcohol, instead of trying to court cheap popularity in demanding the application of Shariah law to non-Muslim Malaysians.

We see here the politics of race and the politics of religion being exploited recklessly by unscrupulous politicians in the party in power to climb or return to high office, in utter disregard to the irreparable damage they are doing to the process of nation building.

Rampant Corruption and Breakdown of public intergrity and accountability

A fourth factor for the deepening crisis of confidence is the rampant corruption and breakdown of the concepts of public integrity and accountability in public life.

Tunku Abdul Rahman made the pregnant comment last month that Malaysia has reached the stage where “everybody seems to be corrupt”. The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, has lamented several times in public that it is difficult to get people of honesty and integrity in public life, as many in positions of trust had become cheats and robbers and betrayed the people’s trust in them.

This is the greatest irony, for Dr. Mahathir started his premiership six years ago in 1981 with the slogan of ABC – ‘berseh, cekap and beramanah’ – and yet his administration is the one marked by the greatest lack of trust and integrity when compared to the previous administrations of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn.

What has gone wrong? Is it the problem of individuals, or is the blame to be traced to a higher level, even to the system of government today?

Clearly, the system of government cannot absolve itself from responsibility where there is rampant corruption and serious breakdown of the concepts of public intergrity and accountability.

Scandals rocked the government and nation, like the $ 2.5 billion Bumiputra Malaysia Finance scandal, implicating Ministers, but the Prime Minister is not prepared to have a full-scale Royal Commission of Inquiry to get to the bottom of the greatest financial and banking scandal in the country.

Ministers get involved in conflict-of-interest situations, as in the purchase and subsequent sale to Petronas of the UMBC by shares by the Finance Minister, Daim Zainuddin, and yet a Prime Minister who boasts of a commitment to the concept of a clean trustworthy government is not prepared to ensure that there is the fullest accountability of these share transactions.

Following public pressure against involvement of Ministers and Deputy Ministers in share and business transactions, Dr. Mahathir announced in September last year that Ministers and Deputy Ministers had been given three months to divest all there shareholdings.

Three months have come and gone, and there is no indication as to whether the Ministers and Deputy Ministers have complied with this directive, and how they had been complied with.

Malaysians read instead of a Deputy Minister being used by several banks for amounts expeeding $ 70 million, and even about the Finance Minister flying overseas to intercede with the creditor banks, which would clearly compromise the interests of the government and nation. Was the trip by Daim Zainuddin to Singapore to plead on behalf of Alex Lee with the Singapore banks done with authorization or knowledge of the Prime Minister and Cabinet?

It has also become the daily reading diet for Malaysians about political leaders of the Barisan Nasional, including a Deputy Minister, arraigned for criminal breach of trust charges. The going on leave of the Deputy Minister concerned, Wang Choon Wing, also raises important questions as to whether the Government and Ministers are serious about public integrity and trust.

Although I agree that Wang Choon Wing is innocent until proved guilty in a trial, the Cabinet Ministers must have confidence in the Attorney-General and Public Prosecutor that he has good reason for giving consent to the prosecution of Wang Choon Wing.

Under these circumstances, Wang Choon Wing should honourably resign or be made to resign his Deputy Ministerial post, returning to his position should he be found innocent. If Wang Choon Wing is allowed to go on leave, this would be tantamount to the Cabinet or the Prime Minister having doubts about the proper exercise of his discretionary powers by the Attorney-General in consenting to the prosecution, in which case the Attorney-General, Tan Sri Abu Talib Othman, should be replaced.

Can a government servant, for instance, who is charged in court for misappropriation of funds go ‘on leave’ during the period of his trial?

It is because of the government’s ambivalent attitude to the various breach of trust or conflict of interest cases involving Ministers and Deputy Ministers, and the refusal to probe fully for public accountability the various great scandals, the Maminco tin-buying scandal, the EPF-Makuwasa shares purchase scandal, the UMBC scandal, the $ 1.6 billion Co-operatives Scandal, the Co-operative Central Bank Scandal – that nobody takes seriously anymore the calls by the Prime Minister or the other Ministers about the need for high standards of public trust and integrity.

Malaysians can still remember that during the first days of the Mahathir Government in 1981, there was great fanfare about the government’s commitment to the principle of public accountability. Today, public accountability has also become another abandoned slogan.

The $21 million Sports Toto Scandal

The recent Official Secrets Act amendment, tightening the screws on official information and providing for minimum mandatory one-year jail sentence for any offence under the Act, is meant to provide the basis to deny public accountability for government actions.

One result of the OSA Amendment Act is that government officials and Ministers become more contemptuous of public inquiries demanding explanation for government actions, as they could now hide under the OSA for protection.

The $ 21 million Sports Toto scandal is one good example. The Sports Toto was set up and owned by the Finance Ministry in 1969 to raise funds to promote sports in Malaysia. It made an after-tax accumulated profit of over $ 30 million from 1970 to 1984, but it had only donated $ 9.5 million to Malaysian Sports during this period. What has happened to the balance of the $ 21 million?

In 1985, it was chosen as the first government agency to be privatized. The privatization process was conducted in such secrecy that even the Chairman of the Sports Toto at the time did not know about it.

Last year, Sports Toto gave 10 per cent of its net profit to the National Sports Council, which means the privatized Sports Toto made a net profit of $ 8 million in its first year of operation.

Although the Ministry of Finance still holds 30 per cents stake in the Sports Toto, the entire privatization process smacks of giving money away, and the Malaysian public are entitled to know the terms of the privatization and why there was no open tender for it.

Crisis of Confidence impeded economic recovery

The continuing crisis of confidence has impeded economic recovery, compounding the economic hardships faced by Malaysians who for the third consecutive year in 1987 will have a lower and shrinking per capita income.

Unemployment will be topping the 600,000 mark with about 35,000 graduate unemployed, with Malaysia paying $ 8 billion to service the $ 48 billion external debt last year.

Although the government is doubling its efforts to attract foreign investment in its attempt to make the private sector the engine of growth, it has not been able to stop the outflow funds resulting from the crisis of confidence. From 1979 to 1985, for instance, there had been an estimated capital outflow of $ 20 billion.

Although there is a slight upturn in commodity prices, the decline and low level of prices is expected to continue into the foreseeable future and the economic future for Malaysia will remain difficult with our great dependence on commodity exports.

National unity and resilience is particularly imperative to Malaysia to pull through the economic hard times, but this is sadly lacking.

1990 Movement

Malaysians are increasingly concerned as to what the future has in store for them, especially with the looming of the year 1990, the cut-off point for the 20-year New Economic Policy, and the various statements by the Prime Minister and other UMNO leaders that the NEP will be pursued after 1990 until its targets are achieved.

The New Economic Policy was promulgated in 1970 as having as its overriding objective the achievement of national unity, and in this, it has clearly failed. The 17 years of the New Economic Policy has sowed bitter fruits, with greater inequality in the distribution of income and wealth, accompanied by highly aggravated racial polarization and the real threat of religion emerging as a new factor of disunity in Malaysia.

Malaysians should make use of the next three years to ensure that Malaysia in the 1990s will not repeat the mistakes of the seventies and eighties, and it is for this reason that the DAP proposes to launch a ‘1990 Movement’ to mobilize Malaysians in the nest three years to commit themselves to save Malaysia from the triple dangers of class, racial and religious polarization; and to create the national atmosphere where public trust and integrity will be honoured and democracy protected.

Instead of looking at the year 1990 with fear and foreboding, in that it would herald a second NEP, Malaysians should regard it as a challenge to start a national debate and movement to promote the politics of multi-racialism as that the 1990s will be less divisive and disruptive than the 1970s and 1980s.