Malaysia could not realise her potential to be the first among developing countries because of failure of government policies to harness Malaysia’s wealthy human and natural resources and giving Malaysians a common sense of purpose

Speech (Part II) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the Penang DAP Ceramah to welcome into DAP the 27 Chinese educationists and civil rights activists held at Penang Chinese Town hall on Friday, 7th September 1990 at 8 p.m.

Malaysia could not realise her potential to be the first among developing countries because of failure of government policies to harness Malaysia’s wealthy human and natural resources and giving Malaysians a common sense of purpose

When he visited Kangar during his country-wide pre-election tour last month, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed said that Malaysia now occupies the fifth place among developing countries, and could almost compete with the other four newly industrialised countries (NICs) like South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.

He also dismissed Thailand’s claim to be the fifth NIC, as Malaysia’s per capita income is A$2,000 compared to Thailand’s A$700.

Dr. Mahathir said that Malaysia can be proud as her achievements had outdistanced other more well-known developing countries like Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Kenya, India and Pakistan.

I do not agree that Malaysia should be proud our economic development and achievements, for in terms of our rich and vast human and natural resources, we could have achieved far more than we have actually done.

When Malaysia achieved her independence 33 years ago in 1957, we were the most developed nation in Asia next to Japan – well ahead of the four NICs today.

What is there for Malaysia to be proud for being more developed than India, Pakistan or Kenya? And is Malaysia more developed than Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela?

When we achieved independence, out standard of living was higher than both India and Pakistan. According to one estimate, Malaya’s per capita income was three to four times higher than India and Pakistan in 1957. so what is there for Dr. Mahathir to boast about Malaysia being more developed than India, which has also to grapple with a 820-million population.

Kenya had always been a poor country. According to a World Bank estimate, in 1967, Kenya
s per capita income was A$120 as compared to Malaysia’s A$290. Kenya’s economic development and per capita income still lag behind Malaysia’s, but why do we choose the very poor and low-income country to compare ourselves with?

Or let us take the three South American countries, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. According to the latest World Bank’s 1990 World Development Report, all these countries have a higher per capita income than Malaysia. In fact, it is Brazil which had outdistanced Malaysia in economic development, and not the other way round. In 1967, Brazil trailed behind Malaysia in per capita income, but she has now overtaken Malaysia.

If Mahathir wants to compare Malaysia’s economic development, it should be with the other Asian countries, in particular with the four NICs.

With the rich human and natural resources at her disposal, Malaysia should have been the first of the NICs, and be the first of the developing countries. Even way back in 1967, Malaysia (per capita income A$290) was still well ahead of Taiwan (per capita income A250) and South Korea (per capita income A$160)

However, 21 years later, Malaysia had trailed far behind the four NICs as shown by the following GNP per capita for 1988 given by the World Bank:

Japan A$21,020
Hong Kong A 9,220
Singapore A 9,070
South Korea A 3,600
Malaysia A 1,940

Ahead of Malaysia in terms of per capita income are at least half a dozen other developing countries.

If Malaysia had been able to fully harness and mobilise out rich and vast natural and human resources, and instilled among the people a common sense of national unity and purpose, we could have achieved even greater economic development and progress. And if we had kept ahead of the four NICs by maximising to the full our natural and human resources which they lack, our economic development would have been four or five times its present level.

The question is why Malaysia had not been able to achieve the optimum economic progress and growth we are capable of. The answer must be found in the failure of government leadership to mobilise to the full the rich and vast natural and human resources in Malaysia, and in particular, in creating national unity and giving all Malaysians a common sense of purpose and destiny.

Instead of claiming credit for bringing Malaysia to the fifth rank of the developing nations after the four NICs, Dr. Mahathir must bear responsibility for allowing Malaysia to trail behind the other developing nations when it could have taken her first place in the developing world.

We must not behave lie a student, who have all the qualities and favourable conditions to be the first in class, but who boasts that he is better than those who are at the bottom of the class because he could only end up in a middling position instead.

A DAP Penang State Government would make regular grants to independent Chinese secondary schools in Penang in accordance with the spirit of article 152(1)(b) of the Constitution.

I am surprised to readin a local press the allegation by the Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Lim Chong Eu, saying that if the DAP is given the power to rule, many Chinese schools will close down.

Dr. Lim made this startling statement at the Jit Sin High School in Bukit Mertajam last week.

Although Dr. Lim is a political veteran, he is not immune from the election fever which has made many Barisan Nasional leaders, right from the Prime Minister downwards, to say a lot of wild and unbelievable things recently.

Dr. Lim’s statement about the future of Chinese schools in Malaysia is surprising as he had been silent on the issue for the past two decades – having shown no interest or concern whatsoever to their existence, growth and development.

This is one good sign of the emergence of the two-coalition system, that it could make political leaders to take interest in issues and matters which they had washed their hands for over twenty years.

It is unfortunate that as Penang Chief Minister, Dr. Lim Chong Eu had not shown the way for other Barisan Nasional State Government to support independent Chinese secondary schools.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, and some Barisan Nasional State Mentri Besar or Chief Minister have visited Chinese independent secondary schools to give financial grants, but this has been ignore by the Gerakan Penang State Government, although DAP Assemblymen had repeatedly made this call in the Penang State Assembly.

Although the motive of the Prime Minister and the Mentri Besar or Chief Minister of other states was to fish for votes in giving such grants to Chinese Independent Secondary schools, it is time that this be removed from the sphere of electioneering and given a permanent government basis.

A DAP Penang State Government would make financial grants to the Chinese independent secondary schools in Penang in accordance with the spirit and letter of Article 152(1)(b) of the Constitution, which empowers a State Government to do so, so that such grants would not be given just to get votes when the general elections approaches.

Is the Penang Gerakan State Government prepared to follow suit now, to be emulated by other Barisan Nasional stat governments which have Chinese independent secondary schools within their state?