Speech by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the DAP SEA Park Branch Anniversary Dinner held at Chan Kee Restaurant, Petaling Jaya on Saturday, 22.3.1984 at 8 p.m.
DAP calls for the withdrawal of the Printing Presses and Publication Bill from second reading to enable a nation-wide debate to be held first
The Printing Presses and Publications Bill 1984, which is expected to be tabled for second reading and passage by the Dewan Rakyat next week, will arm the Government with even greater authoritarian powers to restrict freedom of speech, expression and the press.
It is not just a consolidation of the Printing Presses Act 1948 and the Control of Imported Publications Act 1958, for it went very much further than these two pieces of legislation in giving the government new powers to control, regulate and manipulate information, ideas and opinions.
The Printing Presses and Publications Bill 1984 is in fact the most important legislative proposal in the current Parliamentary meeting, for it goes to the very root of defining the very type of society we want to have: an open, liberal and democratic society or a closed, restrictive and authoritarian one.
For this reason, the government must allow the fullest and freest national debate on the Printing Presses and Publications Bill 1984 before it is debated and decided by Parliament, so as to give Members of Parliament an opportunity to get a national feedback on the Bill first.
The Printing Presses and Publications Bill has taken recent political tendencies to centralise ever greater power in the hands of the Executive at the expense of both Parliament and the Judiciary to a even higher level.
Thus, under the proposed Section 7, the Minister would have virtually untrammelled powers, which could not be checked at all, to decide on whether any publication, local or imported, should be banned on the vague ground of ‘public interest or national interest’ – which could had often been equated with party interest or the interest of individ top personalities in the government.
Again, Section 24 barred legal proceedings for any loss or damage for any seizure, detention or confiscation under the Act.
The Bill not only perpetuated the provision which required annual licensing of newspapers, the most effective weapon to keep the newspapers in line, but to allow the Minister to give licences for periods shorter than one year, as is provided in the proposed section 12.
The Printing Presses and Publications 1984 is a complete contradiction of the 2M government’s pledge for an open, liberal and tolerant society. I call on the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs, Datuk Musa Hitam, not to use its majority in Parliament to ram through the Bill, but to allow a free and full national debate on it first.
When will MPs get Mid-Term Review Report
The Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, is to present a motion in Parliament asking for the adoption of the Mid-Term Review Report on the Fourth Malaysia Plan on Thursday, 29th March 1984. But up till now, the MPs have no indication when they would get a copy of the report. The government had to use the entire government resources and over a year to prepare the report, the and as a minimum, MPs should be given a week to study the Report before debate in Parliament. If Parliament is regarded merely as a rubber-stamp chamber to give approval to whatever is brought before the House, then there would be no need for MPs to study the Mid-Term Review Report or any Bill. I call on the government to give MPs ample time to study the Mid-Term Review Report before debate.