Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung. Lim Kit Siang, at the forum on “Minority Rights in Malaysia” organized by the University of Malaya Tamil Language Society held at Institut Pelajaran Tinggi, University of Malaya on Friday, 11.9.1987 at 8 p.m.
The rights of minorities in Malaysia must be protected, not merely for the sake of the minority communities, but for the well-being of the entire Malaysian nation
The most important point I wish to make tonight is that in a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious society like Malaysia, the rights of all minority communities must be fully respected and protected. This is not just for the sake of the minority communities, but for the well-being of the entire Malaysian nation and people.
Any attempt to deny and trample on the rights and sensitivities of any minority community in Malaysia, whether in the political, economic, educational, cultural or religious sphere, is not just an attempt to harm the interest of minority communities but to damage the welfare of the Malaysian nation itself.
All Malaysian, and in particular political leaders, must understand that protection of the legitimate rights of the various communities in Malaysia is inseparable from the advancement of the interests of the nation, or we may embark on self-defeating and counter-productive efforts which will not only worsen ethnic relations in the country but in the end destroy programmes at nation building and economic recovery.
The recent Johore Seafood Festival furore is a good illustration. In its effort to earn revenue and foreign exchange, the Federal and State Governments are going all out to promote tourism, organising all sorts of tourist attractions like Food Festivals and Carnivals.
The Johore Government was the first State Government to get off the mark by organising a Seafood Festival early last month. Unfortunately it was marred by the incident where the Chinese language characters of the signboards of participating restaurants were ‘wiped out’ on the official opening, on the ground that this was not in accord with the Government official policy on the National Language.
As a result, a nation-wide furore was created, and temperatures rose and tempers flared at the trampling of the rights and sensitivities of the other languages in Malaysia, in utter disregard of the constitutional guarantees given to Chinese and Tamil languages. People stayed away from the Johore Seafood Festival, which was a great failure.
There seems to be another attempt to repeat the fiasco of the Johore Seafood Festival, UMNO Youth, for instance, has objected to the 9-day Malaysia Fest ’87 beginning in Kuala Lumpur on Sept.25, because of its poster theme:”Visit Malaysia Fest 1987 to celebrate Many Cultures, Races and Heritage.” UMNO Youth wants the emphasis to be on “One Language, One Culture and Varied Heritage.”
Aggravation of racial and religious polarisation in Malaysia
Malaysia has celebrated our 30th National Day, but it coincides with an aggravation of racial and religious polarisation, which has caused general concern.
University campuses have become hot-beds of racial polarisation; issues of language, education, religion and culture are being exploited by aspiring politicians in a hurry to catapult themselves to posiyions of power in the ruling parties; while non-ethnic issues of public integrity and corruption are being deliberately given a racial twist. There are ample reasons for Malaysians to fear for the future, and this is why voices of reason and sanity must speak up and make themselves heard to prevent further deterioration in ethnic relations in the country.