Call on Malaysian youth movements and youths to be the conscience of the nation and be in the forefront to expand the limits of democracy and human rights in Malaysia

Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the opening of the Young Malaysian Movement Youth leaders training workcamp at the University of Malaya Forth Residential College, Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, 19th June 1993

Call on Malaysian youth movements and youths to be the conscience of the nation and be in the forefront to expand the limits of democracy and human rights in Malaysia

I will start off with the following message which I have written for the souvenir programme for your training workcamp:

“The young generation of every society and nation has always been regarded as the country’s most precious resource, for they are the leaders and the nation-makers of tomorrow.

“However, it is even more important that the young Malaysians must be the conscience of the nation.

“One is most idealistic in one’s youth, when one dares to dream great dreams for oneself, society and nation without the burdens and responsibilities of making a living. Although many if these ideals are leaf behind in colleges and universities, they still exercise an important influence on the thinking and attitudes of the youngsters to make them see purposes in life which are bigger than the pursuitof their selfish interests.

“If we deprive our youngsters this important part and process of their growing up, we are also depriving the nation a very leavening process in nation-building.

“If youths in Malaysia dare not think and dream of the great ideals which had inspired humanity through the centuries, like freedom, justice and equality, then such loss to the nation could not be made up by any Visions imposed top-down – including Vision 2020.

“We should consider whether we have condition in our country which encourage or stunt the idealism of our youths.

“If Vision 2020 is to be realised, then it must not be a top-down but bottom-up ideal. Youth movements and activities which can encourage young Malaysians to think of society and not selfishness, justice and not exploitation, equality and not discrimination will play a crucial role in deciding the fate of all visions – including Vision 2020.”

Tonight, I wish to ask all Malaysian youth movements and youths to be the conscience of the nation and to be in the forefront to expand the limits of democracy and human rights in Malaysia.

At present, the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights is taking place in Vienna. It is most unfortunate that the first world human rights conference in a quarter of a century is shaping into a confrontation between the East and West, North and South when it should be an united effort by humanity to give greater human dignity and worth to the world’s population.

There is an urgent need for all countries and governments to reaffirm their commitment and adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations” and to constantly examine their human rights record against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, had denounced what he called Western notions of democracy and human rights, but when he was chairman of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 1979, the CHOGM Communique called on all member countries to immediately ratify the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which ironically, Malaysia as the host country, has refused to do.

Malaysian youth movements and youths should step forward to be in the vanguard in the fight to extend the frontier of democracy and human rights in Malaysia, not because they are slaves and stooges to Western values and countries, but because they are the conscience of the Malaysian nation. They must speak up for rights which are not conferred by any nation, government, group or individual but which is the birthright of every human being from the very moment he or she is born, and this is why they are called human rights.

The Prime Minister personally attended the world Earth summit in Rio de Janeiro last June but he conspicuously stayed away from the World Human Rights Conference in Vienna.

This not only shows that the Malaysian Government is more hostile to the World Human Rights Conference in Vienna, but that it is more defensive with regard to its human rights record as compared to its environment record.

Malaysian youth movements and youths must dare espouse the cause of democracy and human rights not because they are acting under the behest of the West, but under the dictates of their own conscience.

Malaysian advocates for democracy and human rights are not fighting fr ‘absolute democracy’ or ‘unlimited freedom’ but for greater democracy and more respect for human rights in their own country, as in the repeal of undemocratic and repressive laws which not only deny political freedoms, but economic justice and environmental protection.

I am not asking youth movements to get involved in party politics, but if they are going to be the conscience of the people, they cannot abdicate from th great issues of their generation.

I hope these few remarks will give some food for thought for the participant of this YMM activists training workcamp, and I conclude by commending as your motto as a youth leader the following saying: “Be the first to worry before the world worry; Be the last to enjoy after the world could enjoy”.