Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, at the opening of the Selangor DAP State Leadership Conference held in Klang on Sunday, 12th June 1994 at 10 a.m.
The limited and minor liberalisation in education and economic measures are the fruits of the DAP’s political struggle and sacrifices from the sixties to the eighties, and the DAP must now prepare for the next phase of its political struggle to bring about major liberalisation of nation-building policies
With the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad declaring in Muar on Friday that general elections could be held any time, the DAP must be fully prepared for the dissolution of Parliament any time after the next parliamentary meeting from July 4-19.
The next general elections will be the seventh general elections to be contested by the DAP since the 1969 general elections – and it will be a general elections battle completely different from all the previous six general elections fought by the DAP.
The next general elections will be one where the ruling parties will be fighting with the greatest confidence in Malaysian electoral history since Merdeka in 1957.
Political observers and analysts seem agreed that the next general elections will be very unfavourable for the Opposition.
I believe that DAP leaders and members must be realistic and this is why I said a few months ago that the next general elections will be the most difficult general elections in DAP history and that there will be no safe seats for the DAP.
However, while DAP leaders and members should be realistic, it does not mean that they must be pessimistic in assuming that the DAP would be wiped out in the next general elections.
In fact, I believe that after being realistic about having to face the most difficult general elections battle in the next general elections, DAP leaders and members should look forward to the next general elections with excitement, vigour and challenge.
This is because the DAP has an even more important role in the next general elections than in the previous six general elections that we had contested.
In the last three years, we have seen the Barisan Nasional introducing minor and limited liberalisation in education and economic measures.
These minor and limited liberalisation in education and economic measures are the fruits of the DAP’s political struggle and sacrifices from the 1960s to the 1980s, and the DAP must now be prepared for the next phase of our political struggle to bring about major liberalisation in nation-building policies in the country.
The position of Chinese education is a good illustration Chinese education, whether Chinese secondary schools or Chinese primary schools, are facing more favourable circumstances as compared to the earlier decades in the nation-building experience.
Malaysia faced its most dangerous times in the 1970s and the first hall of the 1980s, where extremist political forces which reject the fundamental nation-building principle that Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious society tried to establish a ‘one-¬language, one-culture, one-religion Malaysia’.
These intolerant, extremist and chauvinistic political forces reject Chinese education system as an integral part of the Malaysian education process, just as there are those who reject Malaysian Chinese literature as part of Malaysian literature on the ground that it is written in Chinese and riot in Bahasa Malaysia.
I still remember my great cultural debate in 1968 with the Gerakan leaders who refused’ to accept Malaysian Chinese literature as part of Malaysian literature – providing a clear demarcation line between DAP policies and Gerakan policies.
DAP totally rejects Gerakan cultural policy which opposed Malaysian, Chinese literature being recognised as Malaysian literature because at is written in Chinese and not in Bahasa Malaysia.
The DAP was completely alone in Parliament in the seventies and eighties to defend Chinese education, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools from being undermined or even closed, as in those crucial years, MCA and Gerakan MPE dared not say a single word for Chinese education, Chinese independent secondary, schools or Chinese primary schools.
I still remember the Parliamentary debate in 1972 where the DAP opposed the amendment to the 1961 Education Act to abolish Boards of Managements of Chinese primary schools, while the MCA and Gerakan MPs gave full support to the amendment bill in Parliament!
If DAP had not stood firm in our defence of the fundamental principle of Malaysia as a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation, the Vision 2020 proclaimed by Mahathir in 1991 would be a very different Vision 2020
There is no doubt that if not for the great political struggle and sacrifices of the DAP for Chinese education, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools, particularly in Parliament when we stood completely alone on this issue, Chinese education, Chinese Independent secondary schools and Chinese primary schools would not be facing the more favourable circumstances prevailing today.
DAP political leaders paid heavy political sacrifices for our commitment – like the DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam Chian Heng Kai and former MP for Sungei Besi, Chan Kok Kit, who were incarcerated under the Internal Security Act for four years’ and nine months. I myself was detained twice under the Internal Security Act.
If the DAP had not stood firm in the 1970s and the first half of the eighties for a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia, where Chinese education is an integral part, of the national education system, the Vision 2020 announced by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir in February 1991 would have been a very different Vision 2020!
We are however misleading ourselves if we believe that the more favourable circumstances for Chinese education, Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools has resolved all the problems faced by Chinese education and that it would never again face the grave threat it experienced in the seventies and eighties.
After all, the ‘ultimate objective’ of the National Education Policy has remained and has not been repealed.
This is why we must move from the limited and minor liberalisation in certain education and economic fields to major and full liberalisation in nation-building policies embracing political, economic, educational, cultural, social, religious and all other citizenship rights to ensure that all Malaysians enjoy a equal place under the Malaysian sun.
This is also why the DAP has called on the Barisan Nasional Government to proclaim a National Charter for Chinese Education which will give full and formal recognition to the role played by Chinese education in nation-building since Merdeka, and to spell out the short-term, medium-term and long-term financial commitments, to support the development of Chinese Independent Secondary Schools and Chinese primary schools.
Neither the MCA nor the Gerakan had given support, to the DAP’s call for a National Charter for Chinese education. This is not surprising, as in the DAP’s political struggle for Chinese independent secondary schools and Chinese primary schools in Parliament in the seventies and eighties, neither the MCA nor the Gerakan had rendered any support either.
The next general elections marks the third phase of DAP parliamentary struggle – to give full meaning and substance to Anwar’s favourite Chinese quote, ‘We Are All One Family’
The next general elections is therefore even more challenging than the previous six general elections.
It will mark the third phase of the DAP’s parliamentary struggle. The first phase of the DAP’s parliamentary struggle in the 1970s and 1980s was the DAP’s lone parliamentary battle to check extremist forces in the country which wanted to create a ‘one-language, one-culture and one-religion’ Malaysia.
The second phase stemmed from the 1990 general elections when the DAP’s second consecutive general elections success forced UMNO to compete with DAP for support from the urban Malaysians, leading to the present minor and limited liberalisation in certain economic and educational fields.
The third phase of the DAP’s parliamentary struggle will be the next general elections, where the DAP would be fighting for full and major liberalisation of the nation-building policies in the country, whether political, economic educational, cultural or religious, to give true meaning and substance to what the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is fond of saying to Chinese audiences – ‘We Are All One Family”!