(Sitiawan, Saturday): These two days, together with three other members of the DAP National Support Panel for a New Perak DAP, the National Organising Secretary, Tan Kok Wai, National Assistant Organising Secretary Ronnie Liu and Political Secretary to the Secretary-General Foo Yueh Chuan, I would be visiting the Sitiawan constituency to meet with DAP branch leaders and members as well as to find out the problems, views and concerns of the people of Sitiawan.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad announced the formation of state-level National Economic Action Council to be chaired by the respective mentris besar and chief ministers.
He said that the state NEAC would explain to the grassroots the government policies and strategies to ensure the authorities get the full support of the people in pursuing measures to overcome the economic showdown.
I hope the state NEAC would boldly and imaginatively address and resolve the grave problem of Information Deficit which has resulted not only in a serious credibility gap in the government but is a major cause why the government has not been able to restore public and investor confidence in the past six months.
The state NEACs should organise public meetings and forums on the national economic crisis in every part of the state to explain the national economic crisis and make the people convinced that the government is prepared to be fully frank about the government’s own mistakes so as to get full public support.
There are those who say that in the past six months of the national economic crisis, there had been a breakdown of communications which has caused the Information Deficit, where Malaysians prefer to believe the foreign mass media even when they are wrong or superficial rather than the government or the local mass media, whether printed or electronic.
I do not agree. The problem is not a breakdown of communications, but a policy of miscommunication and misinformation.
This is why the DAP had taken the initiative to perform a national service by organising various ceramahs and forums on the national economic crisis, not to play party politics or finger-point who is at fault, but to make the people more prepared to face the economic hard times in the coming months and years.
Perak DAP has so far organised six such forums/ceramahs on the economic crisis, with two to be held in Manjong this weekend, and another two by next Thursday - totalling ten. Penang DAP has organised two such forums while Malacca DAP has organised one.
All DAP states and branches have been instructed to organise more forums/ceramahs on the economic crisis and the DAP is prepared to co-operate with the State NEACs to inform the people about the national economic crisis and to rally and galvanise the whole society to respond as one unit to tide through the national economic crisis in the shortest time possible with the minimum of avoidable pain, sufferings and hardships to the people.
However, such an information policy must an honest communication programme, not to hide ugly facts and realities from the people, or the State NEAC communication programme would fail as has happened to the activities of the Information Ministry.
In the face of the national economic crisis, all political parties, whether government or opposition, should put aside their political differences as the central issue must be to rally the people as one unit during the crisis.
It is for this reason that I have written to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad asking for an appointment for DAP leaders to meet him to discuss about the national economic crisis.
This would be a follow-up to the meeting DAP National Vice Chairman and MP for Kepong, Dr. Tan Seng Giaw and I had with the Prime Minister in Langkawi on December 5 at his invitation in connection with the economic crisis.
DAP leaders would like to convey in our meeting with the Prime Minister the increasing concern of growing numbers of Malaysians that the government has not been able to completely shake off the "denial syndrome" which is blinding the government from adopting a proper strategy to bring about an economic turnaround although we are entering the seventh month of the economic crisis.
The DAP is prepared to extend full co-operation with the Federal and all State Governments as the economic crisis must be regarded as the biggest threat to the wellbeing of all Malaysians and the country.
During my two-day visit, I will try to understand the problems, views and concerns of the people of Sitiawan and would convey them to the Federal or Perak State Government.
In this connection, I commend the Perak Mentri Besar, Tan Sri Ramli Ngah for showing a very open, democratic and responsible attitude with regard to the problems which we have brought to his attention.
I am particularly impressed by the speed with which Ramli has acted on my proposal to him last week that the state government should announce a new "first-come, first-served" land policy during the economic crisis to allow anyone in Perak who wants to engage in agricultural activities to help in reducing the RM9 billion food import bill.
Perak DAP leaders and I met Ramli last Saturday where I made the proposal and the state government announced on Tuesday a new government policy to encourage farmers to grow vegetables and other cash crops on idle Government land to increase food production.
Farmers who will only be allowed to grow crops like sweet potatoes, tapioca, papayas, bananas and pineapples, among others, will not have to pay any premium on the land. A levy will be imposed on the crops after a successful harvest.
The State Agriculture Committee Chairman, Ramli Zahari said that farmers would only be charged for their crops after the first yield.
Currently, farmers cultivating vegetables and cash crops under temporary occupation licence have to pay a certain amount of premium for the utilisation of the land.
Ramly said the policy would be implemented state-wide by early March so that farmers could expand their agricultural activities and help increase food production.
I hope all other Mentri-Mentri Besar and Chief Ministers can emulate Ramli Ngah in the speed with which he is prepared to adopt proposals and suggestions on how to cope with the national economic crisis, even if they come from Opposition parties or NGOs.
If Ramli Ngah is prepared to be fully response to the views from all quarters, Perak may be the first state which could rally and galvanise the people to respond as one unit in the face of the national economic crisis.