The Barisan Nasional Government is suffering from one of the greatest credibility gap in Malaysian history

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Penang DAP State Leadership Training Course held at Komtar Conference Room, Penang on Sunday, 6.9.1987 at 10 a.m. in a paper on “1990s Movement-Objectives, Issues and Challenges”

The Barisan Nasional Government is suffering from one of the greatest credibility gap in Malaysian history
Yesterday, Finance Minister, Daim Zainuddin, blamed the fall in share prices over the past few days on two seminars which he said “highlighted our differences” and the burning of five mosques in Pahang.

The two seminars he was referring to were the Aliran Conference and the University of Malaya Law Faculty Conference on the Constitution 30 years after Merdeka, where there was proposals for the review of the Malaysian Constitution.

Everyone will agree that the share price drop is related to the burning of mosques in Pahang, but I believe that Daim Zainuddin will find himself in a minority of a handful of persons who believe that the two seminars he referred to could have caused the fall in share prices.

Very much more serious in generating widespread concern and lack of confidence in the Malaysian economy is the spate of highly divisive issues concern language, education and culture created by extremists and chauvinists, like the University of Malaya elective course issue, the Johore Seafood Festival Chinese signboard controversy, the other incidents in UKM and UTM, etc.

Daim’s statement showed how cut off he and his other Ministerial colleagues have become from the ground in the country, that they seem to be living in another country altogether.

In fact, the Barisan Nasional Government is now suffering from the most serious credibility gap in Malaysian history. What the Ministers say, the Malaysian rakyat has ceased to take seriously or even to listen. What the people feels deeply, the Barisan Nasional Ministers has stopped to care.

I will give an example. On the night of National Day, August 31, TV3 showed on its news bulletin its interview of some 20 Malaysians of all races, Malays, Chinese and Indians, and asked them what was the National Day Theme for the 30th Merdeka anniversary. Not a single one of them knew that the National Day Theme was “Setia Bersatu Berusaha Maju”. I am sure the TV 3 crew must have interviewed more than 20 people, and the fact that it could not produce a single person who knows the National Day Theme, despite the maximum publicity on Radio, Television, the Press, and Billboards, is an indication that the crisis of credibility of the government is so serious that whatever it says is not taken seriously by the people anymore!

Nonsensical statements by Ministers, like the one by Daim that the two seminars caused the recent fall in share prices, will only widen the government’s credibility gap. Daim Zainuddin has not helped either his own image or that of the government when he went on to quip: “I have not been following the share market. Why should I follow the share market”. I have no doubt that this statement by Daim will win the award as the Statement with the least public credibility of the year!

The effectiveness of the Barisan Nasional government, despite its four-fifth parliamentary majority, will come under question when its credibility gap is so serious.

In fact, the government’s delay in dealing firmly and effectively with the burning of the five mosque in Pahang is the cause for the fall in the share prices. The Deputy Home Minister, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayub, said on Friday that the burning of the five mosques was an isolated incident” which were not “ racial, religious or political in nature”.

Surely, the Police should have been able to establish that the mosques were not “racial, religious or political in nature” right from the beginning, instead of allowing five days where rumours took wings, with all sorts of alarming rumours and speculation causing a minor panic in the shares market.

I hope the government would have learnt a lesson from the burning of five mosques, as how to handle such incidents in future which could avoid panic in the stock market, or even more serious, damaging the inter-racial harmony in the country.

The government should seriously set about restoring its public credibility, inside and outside the nation. It must resist the temptation to be more high-handed, authoritarian and undemocratic to deal with the crisis of credibility, for this will worsen the situation.

The crisis of credibility can only be solved by wining back the confidence of the people. Claiming that the Barisan Nasional has four-fifth parliamentary majority, and ignoring the fact that only a minority of the electorate voted for the Barisan Nasional, cannot resolve the crisis of credibility either.

The only solution is that government must be more open, accountable and democratic. It must match its deeds and actions with its words and professions.

For instance, the Mahathir government must seriously search its soul to find out why the slogan which started its administration, ‘Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy’, has become a joke, that the government Ministers dare not use them again.

Malaysians are all concerned about the many complex problems piling up in the country, and the inability of the government to resolved them or even to perceive their seriousness.

This is the time when all Malaysian who love this country must come forward to make the voice of reason and sanity to be heard, to protect and preserve the democratic rights of the people.