Fifty one years ago, when the DAP was formed, nobody would have expected that we would be so strong, confident and even formidable as evidenced by the high-spirited turn-out of DAP leaders and activists from the various parliamentary constituencies in Penang for the launch of the Penang DAP election machinery for the next general election today – all ready for the great electoral battle in the 14GE, expected to be held in September this year.
If the recent publicity offensives of the UMNO/BN leaders, propagandists and cybertroopers are to be believed, DAP should today be a very disunited, dispirited and diffident party in the midst of a national crisis and on the verge of disintegration and disaster – and we would never have been able summon such a large turnout of highly-spirited and highly-motivated DAP leaders and activists all ready for the 14GE, whenever it is held.
In the first general election contested by DAP in 1969, DAP secured 286,000 votes which was increased six times to 1.7 million votes in the 2013 General Election, which was one-third of the total of 5.6 milllion votes secured by Pakatan Rakyat, while the UMNO/Barisan coalition secured only a minority popular vote of 47%.
This is not a record of a political party on the verge of disaster, disintegration or decline, but a party which has reasons to be confident of achieving greater political changes in Malaysia because of the strong and sustained support of Malaysian voters.
This year Malaysians will be celebrating our 60th National Day to commemorate the nation’s attainment of Independence on August 31, 1957.
In the past six decades, Malaysia failed to live up to the promises of Merdeka in 1957 for the country to be an example and showcase to the troubled world as to how diverse races, languages, religions, cultures and civilisations could successfully co-exist and integrate to build a united, harmonious, purposive, democratic, just, progressive and prosperous nation.
The 60th National Day anniversary is a fit and proper moment for the nation to undertake a “Malaysia Reset” movement, where we keep policies and measures which had done good to the country but correct or even abandon policies and measures detrimental to the nation or which had damaged the nation building process.
The incumbent UMNO/Barisan Nasiuonal government will not conduct any such “Malaysia Reset” Movement, as a new political coalition in Putrajaya is a precondition for any “Malaysia Reset” movement and transformation in Malaysia.
Here, let me touch on 10 areas which should be the subject of a “Malaysia Reset” operation:
1. The ruling coalition of political parties in Putrajaya must be a coalition of equals, and not a “master-servant” coalition. The Alliance of Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tan Cheng Lock and V.T. Sambanthan started as a coalition of equals, and so was the National Front when it was started in the early seventies by Tun Razak, together with Tan Siew Sin, Sambanthan and Dr. Lim Chong Eu. But the National Front today is a very different creature if we go by the announcement of Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi yesterday that the government will take over PAS President, Datuk Seri Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 (or Act 355). There is no need here to go into the merits or demerits of Hadi’s private member’s bill motion. What is clear is that there is no consensus whether in the Cabinet or the Barisan Nasional Supreme Council for any Barisan Nasional Government take-over of Hadi’s private member’s bill, and if a Deputy UMNO President can disregard the stand and position of the other 12 non-UMNO Barisan Nasional parties, then the National Front coalition has changed it character from a coalition of equals into one where UMNO exercises hegemony in unilaterally deciding what should be the National Front stand on any issue.
2. Malaysia should become a normal democratic country, where the voters can peacefully and democratically change the Federal government through the ballot box, as in countries recognized as normal democracies, whether United Kingdom, European countries, United States, Australia or even Asian countries like India, South Korea and Japan. The voters should not be threatened with chaos, riots or undemocratic and authoritarian measures to frustrate the democratic will of the people expressed in a general election, as is the case in Malaysia today. Will the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak announce that he will unconditionally accept the democratic verdict of the people in the 14GE, and that he regards Malaysia becoming a normal democratic country where the voters can peacefully and democratically change the Federal government through the ballot box as even more important than his continuing as Prime Minister?
3. Parliament must be restored as the highest legislative and political chamber in the land, in accordance with the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers among the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. At present, Parliament is a mere appendage of the Executive, and there are even important national issues which are banned from questioning or debate in Parliament, like the 1MDB scandal, when there are no ways to stop the questioning or debate of 1MDB outside Parliament, whether inside or outside the country.
4. Restoration of the independence, impartiality and professionalism of the Judiciary. In South Korea, eight judges of the Constitutional Court could unanimously uphold the impeachment of the South Korean President by the South Korean Parliament on charges of corruption and cronyism. Is it thinkable that such a thing could happen in Malaysia? This speaks volume about public confidence in the independence, impartiality and professionalism of the Judiciary in Malaysia.
5. An independent, non-partisan, professional and efficient Election Commission. This is sorely lacking at present. It is an indictment on the competence, efficiency and professionalism of the Election Commission that on the eve of the impending 14GE which may be held in September, over four million eligible voters representing some 25 per cent of some 17.6 million eligible total electorate had not registered on the electoral roll as to qualify them to cast their vote in an election. Should the salaries and perks of the Election Commission Chairman and Members be slashed by 25% for such incompetence and gross dereliction of duty?
6. A new Federal government in Putrajaya will commission a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the international multi-billion dollar 1MDB money-laundering scandal which has caused Malaysia to be ridiculed world-wide as a “global kleptocracy”.
7. An important objective of “Malaysia Reset” must involve an all-out war against corruption, cronyism and abuses of power. During Saudi Arabia King Salman’s visit to Jakarta, the Saudi visitors lavished multi-million ringgit worth of gifts on Indonesian officials, ranging from customized Arabian sabres, Rolex watches, gold ballpoint pens and diamonds rings. Indonesia’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has given all Indonesian officials 30 days to report such presents. Why is the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) not doing the same in requiring all Malaysian officials to declare the gifts they received during the Saudi Arabian visit of the Salman delegation to Malaysia?
8. Malaysia should become a country where the talents and expertise of all Malaysians can find fulfilment so that the nation realise the full potential in its development in all spheres of human endeavour. Sixty years ago, South Korea was both politically and economically much more backward than Malaysia, with a per capita GDP in South Korea less than half of our country when we achieved Merdeka in 1957. Today, South Korea is one of the richest and most developed countries in the world, whose human rights and democracy have reached a stage where a South Korean President could be impeached and removed. Where did Malaysia go wrong?
9. The fulfilment of aspirations of the people of Sabah and Sarawak for an equal place under the Malaysian sun, as spelt out in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement.
10. Instead of being a show-case to the world of a successful and harmonious plural nation which is the confluence of the greatest religions, cultures and civilisations in the world, Malaysia has never been so polarized and divided than today. Sixty-six years ago in 1951, the founder of UMNO Datuk Onn Jaafar was told that he was “too ahead of his times” when he left UMNO because his proposal to UMNO to open its doors to non-Malays and end the race-based communalist politics was rejected. Fifty-one years ago, on 18th March 1966, DAP was told that we are “too ahead of our times” when we formed a political party dedicated towards the goal of a democratic, prosperous and just Malaysia for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region. Thirty years ago, in December 1987, a top official visited me somewhere in Batu where I was held in solitary confinement for 60 days during the ISA custodial detention in my second ISA detention under Operation Lalang, and I was told that I would be formally detained and be sent to Kamunting Detention Centre, because the DAP was “too ahead of the times” although DAP principles and polices are right and good for the country – that it might take another generation for them to become generally acceptable. This is 2017, sixty years after Merdeka in 1957 and 57 years after the formation of Malaysia – after three generation of Malaysians. A “Malaysia Reset” is imperative for all Malaysians to stop thinking of themselves merely as Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans and Ibans and to start thinking of themselves as Malaysians!
There are more than 10 reasons why there should be “Malaysia Reset” transformation after sixty years of Merdeka and 57 years of establishment of Malaysia – but such a “Malaysia Reset” is only possible if Najib, UMNO and BN in Putrajaya are ousted by Pakatan Harapan and Pribumi Bersatu in the 14GE.
(Speech at DAP 51st anniversary celebration and launching of the Penang DAP 14GE election machinery Komtar, Penang on Saturday, 18th March 2017 at 11 am)