Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the launching of the book, “25 Years of Struggle – Milestones in DAP History” at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, 19th March 1992 at 7.30 pm.
If not for the DAP, Dr. Mahathir would not have announced his Vision 2020.
It gives me great pleasure to launch the book “25 Years of Struggle – Milestones in DAP History”, prepared by DAP Director of Research/Political Education, Dr. Kua Kia Soong.
Dr. Kua has not set out to produce a scholarly or full-length history of the DAP, but within the time constraints, to set out the main milestones of the DAP’s 25-year political struggle on the occasion of the DAP’s Silver Jubilee celebrations.
The struggle of people (against power) is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
It is very important that the new generation of Malaysians have easy access to a sourcebook of the history and struggle of the DAP, for it has been rightly said that ‘The struggle of people (against power) is the struggle of memory against forgetting’.
We saw an example of this only last week, when there was an attempt to get all lawyers and Malaysians to forget the 1988 Judiciary Crisis when the fundamental principle of the Independence of the Judiciary suffered the greatest assault from which the country’s judicial system had not recovered.
I believe that the Malaysian generation who was born in the same year as the DAP in 1966, who would
be 26 today, would be sur¬prised by the history, the events, the struggle and the sacrifices of DAP leaders and members he would read in this book – for this is not the history nor the current events which he reads whether in the schools or universities, or in the books and newspapers.
To most young Malaysians, this book will be an eye-opener for them, and will be the first breach of the ‘curtain of ignorance’ and the first puncture of the ‘false consciousness’ which had cocooned them from the political realities of the country.
In a sense, this is a testimony of the power and success of those forces in our society which had been carrying out a unrelenting campaign to get the people to forget their memory of the recent past of the country, or not to know about their recent history altogether so that they could rewrite history afresh.
For this reason, this book can play a very important role in carrying forward the struggle of the people
of Malaysia for freedom, democracy, justice, equality and unity by making it more difficult for memory to forget.
There are eight chapters in this slim 108-page volume on the 25-year milestones of the DAP struggle,
and every chapter can be the subject of a full-length book itself. In fact, some chapters can be the
subject of a few full-length books!
The DAP and its leaders have reason to feel proud of our political struggle in the past quarter of a
Many DAP leaders members and supporters had paid a heavy price for their political beliefs, losing
their personal liberties when detained under the Internal Security Act, or prosecuted in court on politically trumped-up charges, or victimised in a large variety of ways.
Although the DAP remained in the Opposition in the last 25 years, our very presence, existence
and mass support, was a political force and reality which could not be ignored or disregarded by any government of the day.
If not for the DAP, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, would not have announced his Vision 2020.
Dr. Mahathir’s Vision 2020 of Malaysia becoming a developed country, which is united, democratic, moral, and liberal and the creation of a Bangsa Malaysia, had been well-received by Malaysians of
Barisan Nasional had depended on the pendulum theory to work in its favour in the 1990 general elections.
The question is why Dr. Mahathir did not present his Vision 2020 in the October 1990 general
elections, and only did so four-months later in February 1991?
The reason is very simple. The Barisan Nasional Government felt there was no need to win the hearts
and minds of the people, as they were very secure in power.
Despite its 1986 general election reverses, the Barisan Nasional leaders expected the theory of the pendulum to work in its favour in the 1990 general elections as far as the urban electorate is concerned, with the Barisan Nasional parties making great electoral gains at the expense of the DAP.
The Barisan Nasional government’s belief in the pendulum theory in Malaysian general elections with
the voters swinging from the Opposition to the ruling coalition with every general elections was the reason why it refused to make major concessions despite its setbacks among the urban electorate in
the 1986 general elections.
The Barisan Nasional leaders believed that the urban elec¬tors were fickle-minded and that the pendulum theory would work in the 1990 general elections and that they do not have to carry out any soul-searching of their policies.
The 1990 general elections came as a shock to the Barisan Nasional government, for the pendulum
theory did not work. The MCA and the Gerakan, in fact, received only about 20 per cent of Chinese electoral support and the MCA and Gerakan MPs and Ministers would have been defeated if not for UMNO’s Malay votes.
The UMNO leaders were very angry at first, and this explained, for their publicly asking the Chinese in Malaysia ‘what they wanted’.
However, as democratic politics is finally competing for the hearts and minds of the people, the failure
of the pendulum theory to secure to the Barisan Nasional the urban electoral support was the reason which caused Dr. Mahathir to carry out a searching assessment, as to why his government has failed
to win the support of the urban areas.
DAP must remain strong if Vision 2020 is to be a concrete reality and not an empty promise.
The result is the Vision 2020 which he announced in February 1991. This is why I said that if not for
the DAP and the failure of the theory of the pendulum theory for the Barisan Nasional in the 1990
general elections, there would have been no Vision 2020.
It is not only the very presence, existence and mass support of the DAP which was responsible for the birth of Dr. Maha¬thir’s Vision 2020. In fact, whether Vision 2020 becomes a concrete reality or an
empty promise will depend on whether the DAP remains strong to compel the Barisan Nasional to be
true to Vision 2020 in having to compete for the hearts and minds of Malaysians.
The last year has shown that the Barisan Nasional Govern¬ment is not really sincere in Vision 2020 for Malaysia, for the Gov¬ernment is not taking the country closer to this Vision but in the opposite direction.
In other words, whether the Barisan Nasional Government adheres to Vision 2020 will depend on the strength and role of DAP. If the DAP closes shop tomorrow, then Vision 2020 as spelt out by
Dr. Mahathir last February would immediately be forgotten.
In the short-term, the political influence of the DAP can create a situation as to benefit our political opponents, as for instance, the appointment of Tan Ghim Hwa as the President of the Majlis Perbandaran Pulau Pinang (MPPP). There is no doubt that Tan Ghim Hwa would have no chance of being appointed MPPP President if not for the great DAP inroads in Penang in the last general elections.
Tan Ghim Hwa has betrayed the DAP and the people with his scandal of the four-minute MPPP full council meet¬ing.
The DAP does not really mind if its political power has benefited our political opponents, provided that the people and coun¬try benefit from it.
Imagine the DAP’s consternation when Tan Ghim Hwa betrayed not only the DAP but also the people when he look only four minutes to chair his first MPPP full Council meeting last Thursday, completely dismissing the problems, needs and aspirations of 600,000 people on the Penang Island to a better quality of life!
The DAP is proud of what we have fought for and achieved in the past 25 years, and the tendency for such occasions such as this is to dwell on our achievements of the past.
I think, however, that it is more important to focus on the great potential, possibilities and political mission of the DAP in the next two or three decades.
We should not just dwell on the past but have the courage to plan for the future. This is why the DAP
has launched the 24-month Party Reform to make the DAP more prepared to face the new and even greater challenges in the 1990s and the 21st century.
The last thing the DAP wants is to end up as a marginalised party like the MCA, whose sole preoccupation of its leaders is to continue to be Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary
Secre¬tarries, although their role and responsibility in the Government have been progressively marginalized.
If the MCA should cease to exist, it will not be missed by anyone; but if DAP disappears from the Malaysian political scene, it will be a great and irreplaceable loss to the people of Malaysia.
When Malaya achieved independence in 1957, the MCA could claim the important Cabinet post of Finance Minister. In the past 15 years, the MCA has become so marginalised that it could only lay
claim to the post of Deputy Finance Minister.
But this is not marginalisation enough. Today, the MCA has become so marginalised and irrelevant in
the Barisan Nasional Govern¬ment that an ordinary government committee is more powerful that the
MCA Deputy Finance Minister or even the four full MCA Ministers.
This is why a government committee, like the Foreign In¬vestment Committee (FIC), could trespass into policy areas which should be the special province of the political masters, in demanding that companies which had complied with the 30 per cent bumiputra stake should be compelled to restore it to that level
if there had been subsequent dilution because of sale by bumiputras of their allocated shares.
Although this is only the draft new guidelines of the FIC, it has also raised the fundamental question as
to whether it is the National Development Policy adopted by Parliament in June last year or the Third Bumiputra Economic Congress resolutions and working paper’s which is the highest national economic policy in the’country.
The MCA has become so marginalised and opportunistic that its leaders dare not express any view or stand on the important issues in the country, like the current controversy over the important prin-ciple
of the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of Law as a result of the Bar Annual General Meeting last Saturday retaining its 1989 ‘no-confidence’ motion on the Lord President, Tun Hamid Omar.
If for some reason, the MCA should cease to exist, its absence or disappearance would not be missed
at all. However, if the DAP should disappear from the Malaysian political scene, it would be a great
and irreplaceable loss in the cause for freedom, democracy, justice and equality for the Malaysian people.