Mahathir’s Vision 2020 is his attempt to win the support of the 48 per cent electorate who rejected the Barisan Nasional in the last general elections

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the 1991 DAP National Leadership Conference on ‘Party Reforms to Meet the Challenges of the Nineties’ held at Ming Court Hotel, Port Dickson on Saturday, 26th October 1991 at 10.30 a.m.

Mahathir’s Vision 2020 is his attempt to win the support of the 48 per cent electorate who rejected the Barisan Nasional in the last general elections

The last October general elections was the first time when Malaysia came closest to bring about a change of government at the national level in the 33-year history of the country.

The Gagasan Rakyat and its manifesto to save democracy, restore human rights, establish socio-economic justice, eliminate corruption, build a united Malaysian nation and lay the basis for a two-coalition system captured the imagination of the people.

As explained during the general elections, what was impossible and unthinkable for the last 33 years to bring about meaningful political change, whether in depriving the Barisan Nasional government of its two-thirds parliamentary majority or even to change the government, had become possible, thinkable and was within the reach of the voters.

Change was palpably in the air during the general elections campaign until the UMNO Baru leadership panicked the Malay voters predisposed to vote for Semangat 46 and Gagasan Rakyat and stampeded them back to the UMNO Baru fold by mobilising the printed and electronic media under its monopoly in the final three days of the campaign to saturate the Malay mind and electorate with the lies that the Kadazan tengolok issue was proof that Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had sold out the Malay race and betrayed the Islamic religion.

Although the UMNO and Barisan Nasional cheated the voters of their hope for change by resorting to the triple politics of money, fear and lies, the Barisan Nasional just managed to secure its two-thirds majority in Parliament, winning 127 out of 180 seats.

Firstly, the Barisan Nasional would definitely have been deprived of its two-thirds majority in Parliament, with all the consequences this entails in compelling the Government to be more democratic, responsible and accountable to the people.

Secondly, there was also a distinct possibility of a change of government at the national level. Semangat 46 won eight Parliamentary seats although it polled 835,000 votes or 14.9 per cent of the total votes cast as compared to UMNO Baru, which won 71 seats (nine times the parliamentary representation of Semangat 46) although it secured slightly over twice the total votes cast, i.e. 1.7 million votes or 31.9 per cent. (In fact, Semangat 46 and DAP cobined polled 1.795 million votes or 32.1 per cent of the total votes cast, which is more than UMNO’s 30.4 per cent. But UMNO has 71 MPs while Semangat 46 and DAP combined have only 28 MPs highlighting the undemocratic feature of the Malaysian electoral system).

If the general elections campaign had been fair, free, clean and honest, and in particular the UMNO leadership had not resorted to the dastardly Kadazan tengolok issue to panic and stampede the Malay voters, Semangat 46 would have no difficulty in sustaining a swing of ten per cent of the UMNO votes.

If this had happened, Semangat 46 would have elected about 35 MPs, and in this scenario, DAP would have about 30 MPs, PAS about 15 MPs and the Barisan Nasional left with about 52 MPs.

There is no doubt that a new political realignment would have taken place, for with support from Sabah and Sarawak political parties, who owe no eternal allegiance to the Barisan Nasional, a new national government could have been formed with Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah as the Prime Minister and the firm establishment of a two-coalition system in Malaysia.

This historic opportunity was missed although it came so close in the October 1990 general elections.

No Government, however invisible in appearance, is impervious to change or pressure from the people

The lesson we should all draw from it is that no government, however invincible it may appear, is impervious to change and pressure from the people.

We have only to look at the world scene for plentiful examples. Who would have thought just two years ago that the totalitarian communist regimes of Soviet Union and Eastern Europe could have been dismantled?

The manifestation of people’s power, particularly in the past year, on the world stage should give heart to all Malaysians that political change in Malaysia, including change of government whether at the state or national level, is possible and although we failed in the general elections last year, we must keep trying until we finally succeed.

The question that is often posed is what the Opposition, and in particular the DAP, could do in Malaysian politics when it is not in a position to formulate or implement national policies and programmes.

Greatest role of DAP is to keep alive the ideals and vision for democracy and justice

I say the greatest role of the DAP in the past 25 years of our struggle has been to keep alive the people’s hopes, ideals and vision for a Malaysia where there is democracy, human rights, socio-economic progress and justice, national unity and a clean and honest government until we ourselves are in a position to put this vision into practice by being government or part of government, or to compel the adoption of these ideals and vision by the government of the day.

The DAP’s continued presence, with the sustained support of the people through the decades despite the heavy price DAP leaders have to pay for such commitment, is also a constant reminder to the government of the day that they stand to forfeit popular support, credibility and legitimacy if they ride roughshod over these ideals and vision of the people.

The Vision 2020 announced by the Prime Minister. Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, at the Malaysian Business Council in February this year is an attempt by him to win the support of the 48 per cent of the national electorate which rejected the Barisan National Government in the last general elections.

Why didn’t Dr. Mahathir proclaim such a Vision 2020 four months earlier in time for the October general elections of a fully developed Malaysia in 30 years time where there is only one ‘bangsa Malaysia’ living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically-just and equitable, progressive and prosperous.

This was because until 48 per cent of the electorate rejected the Barisan Nasional government in last October’s general elections, there was no need for such a Vision 2020 to win back their support.

DAP and the Opposition must not be defensive or drowned by the nation-wide cacophony on Wawasan 2020

Imitation is the highest form of flattery and Gagasan Rakyat should regard it as a great compliment that Dr. Mahathir had lifted so liberally from the ideals principles and the vision spelt out in the Gagasan Rakyat manifesto for his Wawasan 2020.

There is no need however for the DAP or the Opposition to feel defensive or be drowned for the DAP or the Opposition to feel defensive or be drowned in the nation-wide cacophony about Wawasan 2020, with the controlled and monopolised media orchestrating a seemingly unanimous chorus of unquestioned endorsement, where reservations and dissent are not allowed to surface.

We must make the people see the difference between the rhetoric and the reality of the Wawasan 2020 and raise fundamental questions for the people to ponder as to whether Wawasan 2020 is a mere gimmick to win the support of the 48 per cent of the electorate who rejected the Barisan Nasional in the last general elections, or whether it represents a serious commitment of the Barisan Nasional government.

The first of a series of questions that come to mind is how the people can take such a Wawasan 2020 seriously about having only one ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ with the people “ethnically and territorially integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership” when only four months ago, the most irresponsible incitement of race and religion was resorted to by the ruling parties in order to perpetuate its political power and the people of Sabah and Kelantan are still being punished for choosing the government they want?

Can such a ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ which is “ethnically and territorially integrated” be created in a situation where political power has increasingly been concentrated in the hands of UMNO, where the other component Barisan Nasional parties play mere parasitical roles, and without the support and endorsement of 48 per cent of the electorate?

Does the Vision 2020 mean the postponement of a ‘mature democracy’ in Malaysia until 30 years later, when Dr. Mahathir is no more around in the corridors of power, while in the meantime all the arsenal of repressive and undemocratic laws are not only maintained but expanded? This seems to be a new revisionist version of the promises currently given by military juntas to have elections and to return power to the people in the indefinite future!

The Vision 2020 postulates Malaysia catching up with the 19 developed countries in 30 years time, and that our GDP will be eight times larger by the year 2020 than it was in 1990, and that Malaysians will be four times richer than they were in 1990.

But where will be these 19 developed countries in 30 years time? And why couldn’t and didn’t Malaysia catch up with these developed countries earlier?

Malaysia was No. 2 in Asia after Japan in terms of prosperity and income, where we achieved independence in 1957 despite having a per capita income of only US$200. However, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and even Thailand have caught up with us and gone ahead.

In the first decade after Independence, Malaysia’s per capita GNP had stated to trail behind Hong Kong and Singapore, but was still ahead of South Korea and Taiwan. Malaysia’s per capita GNP in 1967 stood at US$290 as compared to Taiwan’s US$250 AND South Korea’s US$160. But 24 years later today, Taiwan has shot ahead to register a per capita GNP of US$7,790 (or an increase of 32 times) and South Korea to US$5,569 (an increase of 35 times). Malaysia’s per capita GNP today stands at US$2,305, or an increase of only eight time. In the same period. Singapore’s per capita GNP has increased from US$600 to US$12,069 (an increase of 19.5 times).

Malaysia even lagged behind Thailand in terms of the number of times per capita GNP had increased from 1967-1991, as Thailand had increased its per capita GNP from US$130 to US$1,418, an eleventh-fold increase in the past 24 years compared to Malaysia’s eight-fold increase.

Malaysia’s GDP to grow eight times larger in next 30 years although it grew 12 times larger in the last 24 years

How does the Vision 2020 of having our GDP eight times larger after 30 years compare with our previous performance and the performances of other countries?

We see this in better perspective when we note that in the 24 years from1965-1989, Malaysia’s GDP growth grew by 12 times, which apart from the Philippines, is the lowest for ASEAN and NICs.

Growth Performance

GDP $US million No. of times GDP Growth GDP Growth Rate (%)
1965 1989 1965-80 1980-89
Malaysia 3,130 37,480 12 xxxx 4.9
Philippines 6,010 44,350 7.4 5.9 0.7
Thailand 4,390 69,680 15.8 7.3 7.0
Indonesia 3,840 93,970 24.5 7.0 5.3
Singapore 970 28,360 29.2 10.0 6.1
Korea 3,000 211,880 70.6 9.9 9.7
H. Kong 2,150 52,540 24 8.6 7.1

Source: World Development Report 1991

In the context of these statistics, the Vision 2020 is not that impressive after comparison with Malaysia’s past performance, and especially in comparison with the performance of the economies which in the 1960s had trailed behind Malaysia.

Why had Malaysia failed to make full use of her excellent economic advantages and rich resource endowments in the past to become the first little dragon, and is the Vision 2020 in a position to overcome this blind-spot which caused Malaysia to miss the boat to become a fully developed nation today although it had all the ingredients for greatness but could not make the grade?

The answer must finally come down to the short-sighted and self-defeating policy on the most importance resource of all, human resources which is still reflected in the official policy of regarding the emigration of Malaysian brains, talents, skills as ‘good riddance to bad rubbish.’

On Thursday, there was a new item under the heading ‘Malaysian Mayor for Aussie Town’, reporting that a Malaysian-born doctor, Dr. S. Senthil Vasan, who had been a permanent resident for more than 15 years, had been elected mayor of an Australian town.

Could non-Malay Malaysian who had been in Malaysia for generations aspire to become mayors or to head the Municipal councils in which they reside?

It is the disregard and denial of needs and aspirations of Malaysian like these which are at the root-cause of the brain-drain and the wasteful policy on human resources.

We must put Mahathir’s Vision 2020 constantly to the test as to whether it is mere xxxxx xxxxx has real substance – whether it is just like the promise made in the Sarawak general elections that xxxxx full-fledged University in Sarawak would be established by 1995, but when I asked a specific question in Parliament last Monday, the government said that there was nothing concrete or definite and the subject was merely under study.

Dr. Mahathir’s Vision 2020 as an acknowledgement of Gagasan Rakyat’s support and the 48 per cent of the electorate who rejected the Barisan Nasional in the last general elections.

Mahathir resorting to undemocratic actions to silence Opposition and to consolidate his power

But this will not stop or deter Dr. Mahathir from going against all the nine strategic challenges which he said were crucial to the fulfillment of Vision 2020 in order to consolidate his power position. Dr. Mahathir has in fact started resorting to undemocratic actions to silence the Opposition and to consolidate his power.

Tomorrow is the fourth anniversary of the Operation Lalang and it should be a salutary reminder that despite Vision 2020, democratic freedoms and human rights in Malaysia are very fragile and are under constant threat.

Six Sabahans, the most prominent of whom is Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan, are currently in detention under the Internal Security Act because of political differences between Kuala Lumpur and Sabah; last month, Opposition political leaders like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Datuk Abdul Manan Othman were banned from entering Sarawak to carry out legitimate political activities; while at present, the Barisan Nasional Government has moved to stop Opposition publications like the Rocket and Harakah from being sold and disseminates to the general public.

These actions are most undemocratic and show that the Barisan Nasional Government’s commitment to democracy and good government, hich was proclaimed by Dr. Mahathir at the Harare CHOGM recently, does not bear public and international scrutiny.

The principles, ideals and vision for which the DAP was pounded 25 years ago, and out fight for democracy, human rights, socio-economic justice and genuine national unity, remain the aspirations of the new generation of Malaysians and we must continue to stay out historic role to champion them in the nineties and the 21st century.

The DAP cannot be on the defensive, whether on the Vision 2020 issue or the so-called all-out war declared by the MCA President, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik, on the DAP.

The MCA accused the Kelantan State Government of carrying out over 60 Islamisation programmes adversely affecting non-Muslim rights in the past one year, and further accused the DAP of giving full support not only to these Islamisation programmes, but also to the Islamic State objective of PAS.

The DAP must not be on the defensive, but should always be on the offensive because the DAP’s stand and record for a secular Malaysia where the rights of all Malaysians of all religions are fully respected.

Liong Sik seems to have thrown in his surrender in the MCA’s all-out war against the DAP on Islamisation issue

We have full confidence that in a public debate between the DAP and MCA, we can prove that it is the MCA leaders which have a state levels which have seriously undermined and affected non-Muslim rights and interests.

In fact, this was the reason why in 1990, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism (MCCBDHS) launched a campaign to protest against the application of Islamic laws and principles on non-Muslims and all the instances cited had the supprt of the MCA, whether at the Federal Government or in the various State Governments with MCA State Executive Councillors.

This is why I welcome the MCA offensive and all-out war against the DAP which was centre on the issue of Islamisation, for the DAP cannot lose in this argument.

This may be the reason why the MCA President, Datuk Dr. Ling Liong Sik, had virtually thrown in the towel and surrendered shortly after declaring all-out war against the DAP – for he had not dared to respond to any one of the challenges which I had made to him.

Liong Sik must have created political record and history in the spend with which he declared all-out war against the DAP and then throwing in his surrender.

This is why I had said that truth must finally prevail, and all the lies of the MCA propagandists would be exposed, sooner or later.