Media Statement by DAP National Chairman Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Thursday, December 21, 2000:
Barisan Alternative Leaders had not taken any joint stand to endorse all the Suqiu Appeals or to specifically reject anyone of them
Further clarification is in order in view of the statement by the Parti Rakyat Malaysia president Dr Syed Husin Ali to malaysiakini yesterday suggesting that I was mistaken when I had said that the Barisan Alternative (BA) Leaders had not taken any joint stand to reject any Suqiu appeal.
On Tuesday, December 19, 2000, malaysiakini asked me to comment on the statement issed by Parti Keadilan Nasional President Datin Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on Saturday that while BA supported most of the appeals by Suqiu, the coalition has rejected certain clauses that were allegedly against the Constitution.
Specifically, she said, BA rejected the appeals by Suqiu (Chinese Organisations' Election Appeal) regarding the abolishment of the bumiputra and non-bumiputra distinction as well as the ethnic quota system.
I clarified that the BA leaders, in a joint statement before the general elections last year made two important points on the Suqiu appeals , firstly support for the Suqiu on basic issues such as human rights, democracy, accountability, justice, women's rights, workers' rights, an equitable economic policy, privatization, corruption, environment and mother-tongue education; and secondly, declaring the BA's commitment to the fundamental principles of the Constitution on Malay special rights and the position of Malay as the national language which is the sole official language and the legitimate position and use of other languages.
I stressed that the BA joint statement made no specific references to rejecting any of Suqiu's appeals.
As Syed Husin's statement that members of Barisan Alternatif (BA) need to go back to the joint BA manifesto and the joint statement signed by the four BA leaders regarding the Suqiu election appeals seemed to imply that I had misrepresented the BA position, as one of the four signatories of the joint BA statement last October, I wish to reiterate that the BA Leaders had not taken any joint stand to reject anyone of the Suqiu appeals although it left open for further discussion certain controversial items.
I believe Syed Husin would endorse the clarification that while the BA leaders had not taken any joint stand to endorse all the Suqiu appeals, they had also not specifically rejected anyone of them as he, together with Dr. Wan Azizah and PAS President, Datuk Fadil Mohd Nor were the other three signatories of the joint statement dated 19th October 1999, which among other things, said:
"A good part of the Chinese Associations' Appeal is concerned with such basic issues as human rights, democracy, accountability, the judicial system, the attorney-general's office, the police, women's rights, workers' rights, an equitable economic policy, privatization , corruption and the environment, all of which should be given proper consideration by the Government. These important questions form the leading issues in the politics of our country at this present time.
"The Alternative Parties also support that section of the proposals made by the Chinese Associations regarding education in the respective mother-tongues of our multi-ethnic society."
The BA Joint Statement ended with the following position:
"In raising the issue of education in the mother-tongue and in pressing for greater social justice, the Alternative Parties are informed by the fundamental principles of the Malaysian Constitution, for instance, defends the position of Malay as the National Language which is the sole official language, and also protects the use of other languages. This is because Malay has been accepted by all communities as the basis of the national system of education. Similarly the Malaysian Constitution recognizes the special position of the Malays and other indigenous groups in the country whilst preserving the rights of the other communities.
"Through the process of taking into consideration the rights and interests of all communities and guided by the principle of moderation in political matters, the Alternative Parties strive to build a Malaysian society that is just, with sound values, and democratic."
It is clear that whether going back to the BA Joint Manifesto or the BA Joint Statement, there can be no basis for any claim that BA had jointly endorsed all the Suqui appeals or that it had rejected any specific Suqiu appeal - just as it would be wrong for anyone to claim that the BA had jointly supported or rejected the Islamic state.
DAP supported the 17-Point Suqiu Appeal because it did not violate the entrenched constitutional sensitive positions and is in line with Vision 2020 and Bangsa Malaysia concept.
What should be a matter of grave concern to all Malaysians is whether multi-racial Malaysia is always going to be held to ransom by political desperadoes and adventurists who have no compunction in escalating ethnic tensions to achieve their short-term political gains, by pandering to the crudest emotional and ethnic sentiments to restore Malay political support?
The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had said in Parliament that the Cabinet had given the 83-point Suqiu appeals "approval in principle" in September last year in order to win the Chinese votes in the last general election.
But did Mahathir and all the UMNO Ministers and leaders give their approval in principle to the Suqiu appeals in September last year despite believing that they challenged Malay special rights, or is this a stand taken after UMNO suffered unprecedented losses in the last general election in November last year, and which has been further aggravated by the Barisan Nasional defeat in the Lunas by-election last month.
Neither scenario, whether Mahathir and UMNO Ministers "approved in principle" the Suqiu appeals despite believing that they challenged Malay special rights or that they are using Suqiu to try to restore Malay political support from the general election defeat and in the Lunas by-election, reflects well on their political integrity or national purpose.
Malaysians are shocked that MCA President Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, could express understanding for the irresponsible politics of blackmail of the Federation of Peninsular Malay Students (GPMS), claiming that it was an understandable response to the Suqiu appeals.
In the past decade, the MCA, through their branches, states, youth and women wings, had passed resolutions calling for the abolition of the distinction between bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras so as to promote a truly Malaysian national unity. Is Liong Sik going to order a full audit and retraction of all these MCA resolutions in the past decade?
Liong Sik, himself, when speaking at the 42nd MCA anniversary celebration in Seremban on March 24, 1991, announced MCA's support for Vision 2020 and Bangsa Malaysia and declared the MCA's commitment to goals which include
"The elimination of the differences that exist among the races - in particular among the bumiputras and non-bumiputras leading ultimately to the creation of a truly secure Malaysian race, but with Malaysians of all origins free to practise their customs, culture and beliefs."
Is Liong Sik going to retract this speech on the "elimination of the differences" between bumiputras and non-bumiputras?
In May 1993, the Gerakan Secretary-General Tan Sri Chan Choon Tat publicly called for the end of the division of Malaysians into bumiputras and non- bumiputras, advocating that "those born after Independence should be considered bumiputras irrespective of their background as they are thinking and acting as Malaysians", eliciting the response from the then Deputy Prime Minister, Abdul Ghafar Baba that "the time has not come" for the Government to give bumiputra status to all Malaysians, although forming a united Malaysian race was in line with the wishes of the Barisan Nasional and UMNO in the long run.
Had Chan committed an offence of sedition in making such a call and if so, he could still be prosecuted as there is no statutory limitation for crime. Should Chan be asked to retract his 1993 call?
In June 1990, Gerakan President Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik called for the phased abolition of racial quotas and replacement with a system based on justice and equality. This elicited the response from Mahathir that it had always been the government's ultimate objective to do away with the quota system after "the communities that are lagging behind must be brought up to the level of the other communities".
Had Keng Yaik and Mahathir committed the offences of sedition in making such statements in 1990.
If not, why should Suqiu appeals on the same subjects and with similar lines of thinking as expressed previously by Mahathir, Ghafar Baba, Liong Sik and Keng Yaik be now regarded as a challenge to sensitive and constitutionally- entrenched provisions, except for political desperadoes and adventurists to escalate ethnic tensions to serve the ignoble agenda of restoring Malay political support?
Has Malaysia, in 2000, become even more intolerant and undemocratic of free expression and debate than in the previous decade?
The synthetic ethnic crisis created by GPMS and others over the Suqiu appeals is not doing the country any good, whether in terms of our international image as a vibrant democratic civil society or as a safe investment destination.
DAP calls for an immediate end to all irresponsible escalation of ethnic tensions and let the 83 Suqiu appeals and 100 GPMS demands be the subject of a closed-door conference of all political parties, bearing in mind not only the existing constitutional provisions but Vision 2020 and the Bangsa Malaysia concept - of the past, the present as well as the future.
- Lim Kit Siang -