Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Seremban Thousand-People Anniversary Dinner held in Seremban on Sunday, 15th July 1990 at 9 p.m.
Kit Siang accepts Mahathir’s challenge and DAP will immediately apply for KDNs to publish dailies and weeklies
Last Monday, I met the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, for over an hour to discuss the subject of the Commonwealth Observer Mission for the next general elections in Malaysia.
I had stressed that for the general elections to be ‘free, fair, clean and honest’, the Commonwealth Observer Mission cannot just confine itself to the voting process on polling day, but must observe the entire election process and in particular the election campaign to ensure that it is truly a meaningful democratic elections.
The most important essence of a democratic elections is not the casting of the vote – as Communist countries have also elections and casting of votes – but whether the people have the right and freedom to be fully informed about the programmes and policies of the competing parties and candidates.
In other words, if there is no freedom of speech and assembly during the elections period, where Opposition parties cannot get their views across to the electorate, the general elections cannot be considered ‘free, fair, clean and honest’ even if the voting on polling day is kept scrupulously honest.
Without free speech and assembly, the general elections would be pre-rigged
This is because the general elections would have been pre-rigged, to deny the voters the right-to-be informed of the policies and programmes of all the competing political parties and candidates before deciding who to vote for.
I told Dr. Mahathir that it was most unfair that he was making pre-election tours and in effect holding mass public rallies, while the Opposition was not allowed to hold public rallies.
I also mentioned the unfairness to the Opposition of radio, television and the Barisan Nasional-owned or controlled press, as they are one-sided and very biased in coverage of Opposition political news.
I said the DAP does not expect the UMNO-owned or controlled English and Bahasa Malaysia newspapers to give fair coverage of DAP speeches and statements, but when these newspapers publish reports or articles which are tendentious, distorted or downright untrue, they should respect the basic journalistic norms and ethics of giving the DAP the right to reply and to put the record straight.
Dr. Mahathir countered that the DAP could reply through the Rocket the DAP organ. I pointed out that the Rocket is a monthly, while the UMNO-owned or controlled English and Bahasa Malaysia publications are dailies, and it is most unfair and unreasonable to expect a monthly to be able to adequately reply to a daily newspaper.
At this, Dr. Mahathir said he was prepared to issued KDNs for the Rockets to be weekly or daily if the DAP applied for them.
I said this would not absolve the UMNO-owned or controlled newspapers from their basic journalistic duty to respect and uphold the right to reply. However, I told Dr. Mahathir that I would be taking up on his offer to give the DAP weekly and daily KDNs for Rocket.
I want to announce tonight that the DAP accepts the challenge of Dr. Mahathir and would immediately apply for weekly and daily KDNs for the Rocket.
As the whole idea of having daily Rocket newspapers is to ensure that there is fair play for the Opposition to reach out to the people with their viewpoints and policies, Dr. Mahathir should honour his promise and see to it that the daily KDNs for the Rocket are issued forthwith without any delay.
As the general elections are expected to be held either in August or September, it would serve no purpose whatsoever if Dr. Mahathir approves the KDNs after the general elections.
Furthermore, the DAP would need time to convert the monthly Rocket publications into dailies, as considerable planning and preparation would be needed in many fields, whether management, circulation, editorial or finance.
It would also serve no purpose whatsoever if Dr. Mahathir does not give the DAP adequate time to convert the monthly KDNs into daily KDNs, such as issuing the KDNs when everyone is in the thick of preparing for the general elections after the dissolution of Parliament. If this happened, then Dr. Mahathir’s offer to issue the daily KDNs for the Rocket would be totally meaningless.
DAP calls for the lifting of the ban on public rallies and equal air time on radio and television for Opposition
If the Barisan Nasional Government is sincere in wanting a ‘free, fair, clean and honest’ general elections, then it must be prepared to be scrupulously fair.
One action it must take is to immediately lift the ban on public rallies.
How can the authorities justify the ban on public rallies when the Prime Minister is holding public rallies almost every day in his numerous series of nation-wide tours?
These state-by-state visits of the Prime Minister are blatant political meetings to promote the Barisan Nasional, and his attacks on the Opposition are given the most extensive coverage on radio and television.
Will radio and television give the Opposition equal air time to reply to the Prime Minister’s daily attacks? If not, how can Dr. Mahathir claim that the general elections is going to be ‘free, fair, clean and honest’?
I therefore call on Dr. Mahathir to concede the democratic principle that radio and television, which belong to the people and not the Barisan Nasional, should give the Opposition equal air time to reply to the Prime Minister every time Dr. Mahathir’s attacks on the Opposition are aired over radio and television.