Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at a DAP Ceramah in Sungei Siput, Perak on Tuesday, July 17, 1990 at 8 pm:
Liew Ah Kim will submit the applications for weekly and daily KDNs for the Rocket publications once he returns from the Sabah state general elections
The DAP National Publicity Secretary and MP for Seputeh, Sdr. Liew Ah Kim, will submit the applications for weekly and daily KDNs for the Rocket publications, once he returns from the Sabah state general elections in a day or two.
The Prime Minister and Home Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, promised to approve weekly and daily KDNs for the DAP’s Rocket publications when I met him at the Prime Minister’s Office last Monday on 9th July to discuss the Commonwealth Observer Mission for Malaysia’s next general elections.
After my meeting with Dr. Mahathir, the Prime Minister had been asserting in his pre-election public rallies that the DAP Rocket is a house publications meant for party members only, but was being unlawfully sold to the public. The Prime Minister said the government could take action under the law, but the government would not do so.
Either the Prime Minister had been misinformed or he is deliberately distorting the truth, although I am amazed how Dr. Mahathir could be so misinformed as he was the person who issued the KDN for the Rocket.
Furthermore, as an early contributor to the Rocket when I was the Editor in the 1960s, Dr. Mahathir cannot be unware that the Rocket had always been a monthly publications with licence to sell to the public.
The DAP Rocket had never been an in-house publications with circulation limited to members. The government has no power whatsoever to take action against the Rocket for selling to the public at news-stands and bookshops, for we have the printing permit to do so.
Next general elections cannot be ‘free, fair, clean and honest’ if there is no press freedom
When I met the Prime Minister last Monday, I had raised the issue of the lack of press freedom in the country because of the ownership and control of newspapers by Barisan Nasional component parties.
I had told Dr. Mahathir that without press freedom, giving all political parties the chance to present their programmes and policies to the voters, the general elections cannot be ‘free, fair, clean and honest’.
Dr. Mahathir defended the right of the UMNO-owned and controlled newspapers to refuse to give the DAP fair play, claiming that the DAP could publish its reply and version in the Rocket.
I pointed out that the Rocket is a monthly, while the UMNO-owned and controlled newspapers in Bahasa Malaysia and English languages are daily newspapers, and it was clearly unfair and unreasonable to expect a monthly to be able to respond adequately to a daily newspapers.
It is at this point that Dr. Mahathir offered to approve weekly or daily KDNs for the Rocket publications.
Malaysians have the right to demand for greater freedom and democracy in the 1990s
All over the world, there is a movement for greater freedom and democracy. In the Soviet Union, for instance, President Mihkail Gorbachev had just ended the Soviet Communist Party’s control of state-run broadcasting and television networks.
Pledging to work towards greater pluralism, Gorbachev will allow independent parties and groups to open their own stations.
As a result, Malaysia is likely to be behind the Soviet Union in press freedom – and this will indeed be the greatest irony of all.
Democracy and freedom are on the move all over the world except in Malaysia. In Malaysia, democracy and freedom have never been more limited and conscribed.
Every day, Malaysians see and hear over the television and broadcasting networks the one-sided attacks of Dr. Mahathir on the Opposition, while the Opposition are completely shut out and could not reply.
Peoples in countries ruled by communist regimes for the past forty to seventy years have now realised that such one-party control of the television and broadcasting networks is wrong, undemocratic and an abuse of power. But in Malaysia, the Barisan Nasional government is still defending such media control as right, democratic and legitimate.
DAP calls for greater democratisation of the mass media in Malaysia. The Barisan Nasional government cannot convince the Commonwealth Observer Mission that the next general elections will be ‘free, fair, clean and honest’ unless press freedom is restored in Malaysia.