I want first to thank the DAP Assemblywoman for Senai, Wong Shu Qi for a new translation and bringing out this new Chinese edition of “Time Bombs in Malaysia”, a collection of my speeches in Parliament during my first two terms as Member of Parliament from 1971 – 1978.
I am reminded of the first day of the resumed Parliament on Feb. 23, 1971, when Members of Parliament convened for the first time after a 21-month suspension of Parliament and National Operations Council (NOC) Emergency rule after the May 13 racial riots of 1969, under the grave threat that Parliament will be closed down and Members of Parliament sent home if they failed to accomplish the first task expected of them – to amend the Malaysian Constitution to entrench four issues as “sensitive” issues which could not be questioned on pain of conviction for sedition and the removal of the parliamentary immunity of MPs with regard to these entrenched “sensitive issues” even in parliamentary debates.
In fact, a few days before MPs met, the UMNO Youth leader at the time warned that UMNO Youth would surround Parliament until MPs approved the Constitution Amendment Bill.
During the debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill in Parliament, there was palpable electricity in the air, with government MPs walking around with bulges in the pocket, signifying the least pacific intentions.
However, the 13 elected DAP MPs were not so easily browbeaten and we stood up for the people’s rights and made it clear that DAP MPs were not elected into Parliament to be “yes-men” to surrender their principles or betray the trust and confidence of the electorate.
When the DAP MPs stood their ground and opposed the Constitution Amendment Bill 1971, the parliamentary democratic process was abused and the Speaker was instructed to punish the DAP MPs by denying them the chance to participate in the next parliamentary item on the debate on the Royal Address.
When even up to the last hour of the third and final day of the debate and not a single one of the DAP MPs had “caught the Speaker’s eye” to speak, all the DAPs walked out in protest – which started the history of Parliamentary walkouts and boycott in Malaysia.
So the recent parliamentary charade where I was punished and suspended for six months from Parliament for basically pursuing the question “Mana RM2.6 billion?” had a history going back some 44 years!
In those dark days for democracy and human rights in 1971, the future political prospects were bleak and gloomy, and many completely lost hope for change, progress and democracy in Malaysia.
But we in the DAP, despite the many ups and downs, trials and tribulations, Internal Security Act detentions and even prison terms, continued to plough on because our love, loyalty and patriotism to Malaysia, and belief in democratic change and in progress, which saw fruition not after one general election or two, but after eight general elections of nearly four decades, as evident in the 2008 and 2013 General Elections.
What I wrote in the foreword for the second edition of ‘”Time Bombs in Malaysia” (August 1978 – after the July 8, 1978 General Election) reflects the DAP’s loyalty and commitment to democratic change and process in Malaysia.
I had quoted from my speech at an election victory dinner in Klang on 20th July 1978, where I said:
“The post-election period has been a season of rumours…The latest rumour is that the DAP would join the Barisan Nasional….
“The idea of DAP joining the Barisan has never occurred in the minds of DAP leaders. It has never been discussed. It is a mere fabrication by rumour-mongers who have their own axe to grind!
“To give these rumours some credence, these rumour-mongers point to my speech to DAP MPs and State Assemblymen last Sunday declaring that the DAP was prepared to co-operate with the Prime Minister, Datuk Hussein Onn, to overcome the problems and obstacles in nation-building.
“This has been the stand of the DAP right from the beginning, that we are prepared to work with anybody to help build a Malaysian nation on a just and equal basis, to save democracy, to combat poverty and class exploitation, to uphold human rights and to fight corruption. We are not an Opposition for opposition’s sake.
“In fact, when Datuk Hussein took over as Prime Minister after the death of Tun Razak, I made exactly the same point in Parliament in the motion of confidence on Datuk Hussein Onn as Prime Minister.
“We in the DAP are reasonable people. But we will be firm and unyielding in our political principles and beliefs. But we will be firm and unyielding in a reasonable way.
“We will seek, for the interests of the country and for the future of our children, to make the government see our point of view, to understand the people’s deepest hopes and dreams. We will do this by speaking up inside and outside Parliament and the State Assemblies, and in meeting with the Prime Minister and other government leaders. We will do so, not to ask for Minister or Deputy Minister posts or to get entry into the Barisan, but to change the thinking and assessments by all political leaders on basic problems of the nation.”
For the past five decades, DAP had remained true and faithful to the democratic values and guidelines which I summed up in Klang on 20th July 1978, eleven days after the July 9, 1978 general election, where DAP won 16 Parliamentary and 25 State Assembly seats.
The 14th General Election which is likely to be held in two-and-a-half years in 2018 will be a watershed in Malaysian electoral history.
Malaysians who had rooted for political change in the 13GE went into the deepest and darkest despair at the demise of Pakatan Rakyat, for they see the hopes of political change being destroyed completely, at a time when the UMNO/BN government has proved to be such a national liability and disaster.
The formation of Parti Amanah Negara and establishment of Pakatan Harapan comprising DAP, PKR and AMANAH have however saved the political situation, filling the political vacuum and void caused by despair and seeming hopelessness for political change, with the country inundated by so many political, economic, good governance and nation-building scandals under the Najib premiership.
However, the battle for political change in 2018 GE will not be easy or smooth one, as the Najib strategists are doing their utmost to present the 13th General Election as a battle for the survival of Malays and Islam, equating the survival of Datuk Seri Najib Razak as Prime Minister with the survival of the Malays and Islam in Malaysia.
This not the case. The 14GE is not battle between the Malays and Chinese for political power as Malays will not lose political power but whether Najib and UMNO leaders can continue to mislead Malaysians to continue their economic scandals and abuses of power.
A Pakatan Harapan Federal Government will compete with UMNO and Barisan Nasional to have a better record in upholding the fundamental features of the Malaysian Constitution and look after the rights and interests of all Malaysians, whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, Orang Asli and the question of Malays or any community losing political rights, or Malays and Islam under threat, will not arise.
This is because a Pakatan Harapan Federal government does not want to be a one-term government but be able to continue to get the mandate of the electorate in subsequent polls to govern Malaysia because we have proved to be better in looking after the rights and interests of all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region.
(Speech at forum on “ Malaysia – What is the road to take for the future” in conjunction with the book launch of new Chinese edition of “Time Bombs in Malaysia” at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on Wednesday,6th January 2015 at 9 pm)