DAP calls on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to invite Commonwealth missions to observe the conduct of a free,fair, clean and honest general elections in Malaysia

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at a ‘Towards Tanjung 2’ Dinner held in Penang on Friday, 25th May 1990 at 9 p.m.

DAP calls on the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to invite Commonwealth missions to observe the conduct of a free,fair, clean and honest general elections in Malaysia

During the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) held in Kuala Lumpur from October 18-24, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, was given the unique task of promoting democracy in all the Commonwealth countries.

This is because as host of the KL CHOGM, Malaysia was appointed to head a high-level group to conduct an appraisal of the Commonwealth’s present role and identify new aims and directions for it in the 1990s and beyond.

According to the Commonwealth Secretariat bulletin on the KL CHOGM, this group will also examine the possibility of the Commonwealth “strengthening the key ethic of democracy in member countries”.

The section in the Commonwealth Secretariat bulletin on the high-level group under the banner headline ‘Towards a democratic future for all’, states:

“The role of the Commonwealth and its institutions will come under scrutiny by a Committee of Heads of Government representing all the 10 countries which have hosted the modern Commonwealth’s summits”.

“It has already been given one specific job: to examine the possibility of sending observer missions into member countries, at their request, as a contribution to strengthening democratic institutions.”

“Heads of Government agreed with the Secretary-General’s proposal that one of the Commonwealth’s contributions to strengthening democracy might be in helping countries to ‘reinforce their election and other constitutional processes’ through such missions ‘and in responding to such requests in other relevant ways.’”

Dr. Mahathir is Chairman of Commonwealth Election Watch

With this wide-ranging brief given by the CHOGM, it means that Dr. Mahathir has been virtually made the Chairman of a Commonwealth body which is akin to a Commonwealth Election Watch, to bring and assure democracy to the people in the 49 Commonwealth countries.

However, before Dr. Mahathir could bring democracy to all the people in the 49 Commonwealth countries, he must be able to bring democracy to the 17 million Malaysian first.

This is why it is surprising that Dr. Mahathir is so vehemently opposed to the formation of a six-man Election Watch in Malaysia headed by former Lord President, Tun Mohamed Suffian, when Dr. Mahathir is himself heading a 10-man group whose duties are like a Commonwealth Election Watch.

As Chairman of this Commonwealth high-level group to ‘strengthen democratic institutions’, Dr. Mahathir should put Malaysia’s ‘house in order’ first, and repair the grave damage to Malaysia’s international image as a democratic country which respects human rights caused by the government’s repressive policies and actions particularly in the past four years.

Malaysia has a long list of undemocratic practices and violations of human rights, such as the Operation Lalang ,ass arrests of 106 Opposition leaders and government critics under the Internal Security Act in 1987; the sacking of the Lord president, Tun Salleh Abas and two Supreme Court judges; the amendments to the Internal Security Act, Official Secrets Act, the Police Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act to make them even more draconian; and the most recent attempt to undermine the independence of the Election Commission.

DAP wants GSP privileges to be maintained, but calls on Malaysian Government to reform its labour laws to respect the human rights of workers

It is because of such violations of human rights that Malaysia is facing a second petition in the second year in running to the United States Government to withdraw trade privileges accoded to Malaysia under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

It has been reported that the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO) and the Washington-based International Labour Rights Education and Research Fund (ILRERF) have announced that they would file separate petitions against the Malaysian Government to get its GSP privileged withdrawn on the following grounds:

• WORKERS in electronic companies did not have the right of association;

• ALTHOUGH workers could strike, the dispute was often referred to the Industrial Court “at the last minute”; and

• THE absence of a minimum wage for a large number of workers.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed said in Penang early this week that foreign workers would benefit at the expense of their local counterparts if Malaysia’s GSP benefits are withdrawn.

DAP wants the United States Government to maintain the GSP privileges for Malaysia for the good of the Malaysian economy and workers. However, the Malaysian Government cannot disregard the three complaints the two United States labour organisations are using to ground their petition for the withdrawal of GSP privileges for Malaysia.

DAP therefore calls on the Barisan Nasional Government to reform its labour laws to respect the human rights of the workers.

Harris Solid State case best example of denial of human right of workers to organise

The Harris Solid-State Workers’ Union case is the best example of the Government allowing the human rights of workers to be flouted by the employers with impunity, even where the workers have followed the Government’s guideline to form an in-house union.

The Human Resources Minister, Datuk Lim Ah Lek, has been completely helpless when the Harris Solid State employer harassed and victimised union officials, and avoided its responsibility to recognise the in-house union by forming a new company, Harris Advanced Technology, to re-employ all the workers.

As Chairman of the Commonwealth High-Level Group whose function is akin to Commonwealth Election Watch or Commonwealth Democracy Watch, Dr. Mahathir should set an example to all Commonwealth countries to strengthen democratic institutions in Malaysia.

DAP suggests two initiatives for Dr. Mahathir to start with:

Firstly, to invite Commonwealth observer missions to Malaysia to observe the conduct of free, fair, clean and honest general elections; and

Secondly, full government recognition and support to the six-man Election Watch to monitor the conduct of the next general elections, to ensure that there is a meaningful general elections, unlike what is happening in Myanmar now.