My message tonight to the voters of Malacca is to continue their historic role to provide leadership in Malaysia, and in the current challenge and context, to demand for a “Malaysia Reset” of national polices to keep what is good but to correct or abandon policies which are detrimental to the rights and interests of Malaysians.
Without going into history going back to 600 years ago, Malacca’s important role in modern nation-building in Malaysia was clear and evident even before the nation achieved Merdeka on August 31, 1957.
On February 20, 1965, Tunku Abdul Rahman who was then Chief Minister chose Malacca to announce that Malaya would achieve independence on August 31, 1957.
Before I came to the dinner, I visited the YSG Gallery at Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, and it brought back memories for it was at Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock where I held the first of many public rallies in my campaign for the Bandar Melaka parliamentary constituency in 1969.
I have been MP for Malacca town for three terms, from 1969 – 1978 and 1982-1986.
I remember three outstanding matters when I was MP for Malacca town.
The first took place within days of my election as MP for Bandar Melaka on May 10, 1969.
I was speaking at a public rally and campaigning for an independent parliamentary candidate in Kota Kinabalu on May 13, 1969, when someone conveyed information that “trouble had broken out in Kuala Lumpur” – we did not know at the time the severity of the “trouble”, but it was later to be known as “May 13, 1969 Incident”.
On the morning of 14th May, Sabah immigration officers visited me at the hotel I was staying with the expulsion order from the then Sabah Chief Minister, Datuk Mustapha, who acted on immigration powers vested in him – nothing to do with the “May 13” troubles in Kuala Lumpur, but for my criticisms of him at the Kota Kinabalu public rally the previous night.
I left Sabah on 15th May 1969, and as the Subang Airport and Kuala Lumpur area was under curfew, I was in Singapore for three days from May 15 to May 18.
During that period, I spoke to DAP leaders and my wife and they advised me not to return as I was on the “wanted” list for Internal Security Act detentions. Guan Eng at that time was eight years ago.
However, not returning to Malaysia was never an option for me, as it would be going against every grain that I stood for. I had just been elected as MP by the voters in Bandar Melaka – how, in such circumstances, can one run away or stay away from the country when the people had problems or troubles after I had asked them to elect me to be their MP and to have confidence in my leadership?
I flew from Singapore to Subang and to my first ISA detention on May 18, 1969.
The second “highlight” of my parliamentary terms representing the Malacca town were my two exposes about the mass deaths in the Malacca Hospital: the first time in 1972 because of the breakdown of the hospital’s autoclave, i.e. sterilization plant, leading to blood and saline poisoning of the patients; the second time in 1973, when there was an unusually high rate of infant mortality. kicked up a big fuss over these two issues in Parliament.
The third “highlight” during my parliamentary tenure in Malacca was the “Save Bukit China” campaign – a multi-faceted campaign to save and preserve a 500-year-old cemetery hill – not for the Chinese alone but for all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, as it symbolized the multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural character and basis of Malaysia.
There was a 300,000-mass signature campaign, numerous gatherings and ceramahs, a thousand-mile marathon walk to Bukit China from three points of Alor Setar, Kuantan and Johor Baru, etc.
There were threats of police arrests and prosecutions against those involved in the “Save Bukit China” campaign, but finally, truth and justice prevailed, and Bukit China cemetery hill remains today for visit by Malaccans and Malaysians, as well as by tourists all over the world.
As over the past five decades, the voters of Malacca town were in the forefront for change and reform in Malaysia, I call on them to remain as the vanguard for positive change and reform in Malaysia.
The greatest challenge today is to demand a “reset” of our national policies on the 60th National Day anniversary this year – keeping policies and measures which are good for the country, but correct or abandon policies and measures which have caused Malaysia to lose out to countries which were behind us, both politically and economically six decades ago.
Malaccans in particular should lead Malaysians to demand an end to kleptocracy, which have brought so much shame, infamy and ignominy to Malaysia, whether in or out of the country.
Let the voters of Malacca, regardless of race or religion, lead a “Malaysia Reset” national movement on the 60th Merdeka celebrations to make the country a world-class nation.
(Speech at DAP Malacca Solidarity Dinner held at Pay Fong Secondary School Hall, Malacca on Friday, 17th March 2017 at 9 pm)