First Portion of Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the first of a series of DAP-Semangat 46 National Ceramahs Dewan Sri Pinang on Saturday, February 17, 1990 at 8 p.m.
Mahathir’s two-thirds majority in Parliament is the real cause for the scandals, unaccountability, human rights violations and gross abuse of power for the last decade.
For Malaysia, the Decade of the Eighties is also the Decade of Mahathir, who became the country’s fourth Prime Minister in July 1981 and has since stamped his character on the governance of the country in the 1980s.
It is also a decade which is marked by innumerable government, financial and moral scandals, giving the lie to the early promise of the Mahathir Administration to be a ‘Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy’ Government. In fact, this ABC slogan of ‘Amanah, Berseh and Cekap’ has become a very bad joke, and no Minister in the Mahathir Cabinet could repeat it with a straight face, for its evocation is invariably met with skepticism and boredom by the people.
Never before in the history of Malaysia has a government been plagued by more scandals, unaccountability, human rights violations and gross abuses of power as the Mahathir Government.
The latest fad of the Mahathir Government is to get the Malaysia into the Guinness Book of Records. The Minister for Guinness Book of Records, Datuk Mohamad Rahmat, has however overlooked Malaysia’s feat of being a nation with the most and biggest scandals for our size. There is no doubt that despite the international promotion for Visit Malaysia Year by Sabarrudin Cik, Malaysia is still better known for her financial and recently the AG/Vijandran pornographic videotapes scandal than anything else.
For exposing the UMNO’s North-South Highway Scandal, and for trying to stop the award of the privatization contract to United Engineers Malaysia (UEM), Karpal Singh and I were detained under the Internal Security Act.
To protect the the government from the expose of too many financial scandals, the Official Secrets Act was amended to become the most repressive and draconian in the Commonwealth, providing for on-year mandatory jail sentence for any offender, regardless of however noble, honourable or self-less his motive.
The Internal Security Act was also amended whereby those who expose such scandals could be held indefinitely in detention without recourse to the Courts to review and halt such abuses of power.
If we examine the decade of the Mahathir administration, we will find that the scandals, unaccountability, the human rights violations and abuses of power have one common thread – to protect and further the economic interests of the ruling political elites. This necessitated a growing concentration of political power in the hands of the Executive and increasingly in the hands of the Prime Minister, at the expense of the fundamental constitutional principles of the Separation of Powers among the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law.
Under his political culture, the role of Law and Judges is not to ensure justice and protect human rights, but to protect the vested economic interests of the powers-that-be from expose and jeopardy.
Two-thirds parliamentary majority has become a blank cheque for abuses of power and human rights violations
But the reason why the Mahathir Government could get away with these scandals, unaccountability, human rights violations and gross abuses of power is because it commands a two-thirds Parliamentary majority, which allows it to amend the Constitution at its whim and fancy.
In this sense, it can be said that the cause of these unending scandals, unaccountability, human rights violations and gross abuses of power is Dr. Mahathir’s two-third parliamentary majority, which is treated as a blank cheque by the Malaysian electorate to him to do what he likes.
In the last decade, Dr. Mahathir has used the blank cheque of the two-third Parliamentary majority to subvert and destroy the most important institutions of Parliamentary Government, which are crucial to provide the necessary checks and balance to make parliamentary democracy meaningful.
For instance, Dr. Mahathir has reduced Parliament to a rubber-stamp. In 1988, MPs were given three minutes each to debate on the amendment to the Internal Security Act which started the process to deprive the Courts its traditional functions to review the Home Minister’s powers to detain persons without trial.
Dr. Mahathir has destroyed the independence and impartiality of the Courts, by the highly unjust and arbitrary sacking of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President and two Supreme Court Judges, Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman and Datuk George Seah.
He has destroyed the principle of collective Ministerial responsibility to Parliament by placing the Attorney-General above the laws, the Constitution and even Parliament, where the Attorney-General need not be called to account for his obstruction of justice in destroying the eleven Vijandran pornographic videotapes and four envelopes of 2,000 photographs.
He showed his utter contempt for human rights by his mass arrests of Opposition leaders and critics in Operation Lalang in October/November 1987. He has cowed and fettered press freedom in particular with the closure of four newspapers during Operation Lalang.
Malaysia condemned South Africa for her apartheid policies and violations of human rights. But Nelson Mandela, after his release after 27-years if incarceration, is allowed to address mammoth public rallies of 50,000 and even 100,000 people to continue his battle against apartheid and the end of white supremacist rule. In Malaysia, where the government claims moral superiority over the Pretoria regime on human rights, public rallies have been banned for the past 12 years on the ground of the Malayan Communist armed insurrection, although Peace Agreements had been signed in Haadyai for the ending of the armed struggle of the Communist Party of Malaya.
Dr. Mahathir has reduced the Election Commission to a mere appendage of UMNO, directing the Election Commission to conduct a snap 21-day voters’ registration campaign in March, primarily to register 300,000 to 500,000 UMNO members who have not registered as voters. Up till today, the Election Commission Chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Kadir, has not dared to publicly confirm or deny that there would be a snap voters’ registration exercise next month, while UMNO Baru Ministers and leaders have been announcing such an exercise for the past few weeks.
National Campaign by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikkhism for freedom of religion
The nation-building process has also suffered grave damage because of the policy of divide and rule through the politics of race, to an extent where polarization, both of race and religion, has reached its most serious stage in the country’s history – where the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikkhism has found it necessary to launch a nation-wide campaign to reassert the fundamental Constitutional right of non-Muslim Malaysians to freedom to religion.
Never before in the history of Malaysia has a Prime Minister concentrated more powers in his own hands with the unnumerable amendments to the Constitution, the Police Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Societies Act, the Internal Security Act and the Official Secrets Act.
The greatest political problem in Malaysia is the over-concentration of political power in the hands of the government.
The road to return to democracy, human rights and justice in Malaysia must begin with the removal of the two-thirds parliamentary majority of Dr. Mahathir in the next general elections.
In fact, only the removal of the two-third parliamentary majority of the government can unsure the end of the unending scandals, unaccountability, human rights violations and abuses of power which had become the trademark of the Mahathir Government and Mahathir decade.
All over the world, great political changes are afoot, in Eastern Europe, in Soviet Union and even in South Africa. Malaysians also want change so that we are not left behind in the universal quest for greater democracy, human rights and justice in all human societies.
Let the message go out from Dewan Sri Penang from this Joint Semangat 46-DAP Ceramah that we are embarking on this movement for change in Malaysia in the 1990s.
The DAP’s Tanjung II symbolizes this movement for change, not only in Penang, but also throughout Malaysia. It is to return to the people of Malaysia a greater say in their own political, economic, cultural, educational, social and religious future. It is to make every Malaysian, regardless of race, religion or culture, proud to be a Malaysian, because he or she can fully commit his or her talents, resources and potential in the great task of nation-building in Malaysia in the final decade of the 21st century.