(Penang, Sunday): In my speech in Parliament last Monday, I had said that the 1999 Budget had been completely overshadowed by the political turmoils in the past two months, highlighting the importance of the political fundamentals which must be addressed if the problems of confidence- restoration and the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history are to be successfully overcome.
For this reason, the DAP had proposed in Parliament the immediate resolution of the ballooning political crisis in Malaysia without which there can be no full confidence-restoration to effect the speediest economic turnaround and recovery in the shortest time possible.
I told Parliament that the political crisis in the country was not just about the unprecedented sacking, detention and heinous allegations levelled against former Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, but goes beyond the case of Anwar Ibrahim and concerns the deep-seated hopes and aspirations of Malaysians for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
Furthermore, the political crisis of confidence is very deep-seated, as it is the cumulation of the people’s frustrations over the years, and the time has come for the expansion of democratic space in Malaysia for the people to peacefully gather and demonstrate their aspirations for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.
I also made very clear the DAP’s stand against violence, both against peaceful demonstrators, innocent members of the public and the police, as completely unsuitable and unacceptable in Malaysia’s plural society.
I had made two proposals for the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to resolve the grave political crisis of confidence, credibility and legitimacy: either to dissolve Parliament and call for new general elections to seek a clear national mandate from the people, or to convene an All-Party/NGOs Roundtable Conference to chart out a new political blueprint that can assure for all Malaysians greater democratic space, freedom and justice in the country.
The very heavy police presence in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, with Federal Reserve Unit and special police reinforcements brought in from various parts of the country, with the visible sight of scores of special police armed with M16 assault rifles and dressed in battle fatigues and black berets, have ensured that the Federal Capital was comparatively incident-free despite widespread fears that yesterday might be worse than the previous Saturday.
Massive police presence however is not the answer to what is fundamentally a political challenge rather than a police or security problem. The people’s right to express themselves peacefully in a democratic society must not be bottled up or snuffed out by FRUs or M16s.
A political issue of the people’s demand for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance must not be turned into a law-and-order situation and this is why the government must take the initiative to break the impasse by respecting the constitutional right of the people to assemble peaceably to express their legitimate concerns and aspirations as by issuing police permits for such peaceful gatherings.
I note that this is also generally the position of the former Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Musa Hitam (the only other Home Minister in the 17-year Mahathir administration) in his interview with Mingguan Malaysia today, where he pinpointed intolerance to criticism as a basic cause of the present political crisis and advocated a political solution to the political crisis.
"Tetapi kalau mereka sekadar melaung-laungkan perkataan reformasi, menjerit dan mengibar sepanduk, itu perkara biasa. Pada saya itu demonstrasi yang ada hubungan dengan reformasi."
"Dalam menghadapi sesuatu penyakit pun, kita kerapkali mendapatkan second opinion daripada doktor yang lain. Apatah lagi kalau penyakit dalam masyarakat, sudah tentu kita memerlukan pendapat kedua, ketiga dan seterusnya.
"Rasa saya, selagi kita berupaya memberi ruang dan kebebasan kepada individu untuk menterjemahkan pendapat kedua dan pendapat seterusnya, selagi itulah kredibiliti kita sebagai pemimpin akan terpelihara.
"Memberi kebebasan bersuara sepenuhnya kepada setiap individu dan mendengar pandangan jujur segenap lapisan masyarakat pada saya amat penting daripada kita bersikap reaktif berbanding proaktif.
"Tidak salah menyatakan kelemahan jika ia boleh mendatangkan kebaikan. Pada saya, tidak mustahil ada perkara yang belum pernah difikirkan oleh kepimpinan dapat diselami dan dijadikan penawar dalam menghadapi keadaan yang mencabar hari ini.
"Sebab itulah saya suka untuk beri ingatan kepada pemimpin-pemimpin baru khususnya dalam UMNO, semakin tinggi jawatan yang disandang tahap toleransi dalam jiwa seseorang pemimpin itu harus juga tinggi dan meningkat.
"Sikap toleransi adalah faktor utama membolehkan ideologi positif melahirkan bangsa Malaysia yang bersikap integrasi dan ia harus mendapat suntikan liberalisme dan pandangan lebih terbuka.
"Secara peribadi, saya berpendapat bahawa kurangnya sikap toleransi dan penerimaan terhadap kritikan inilah yang mencetuskan begitu banyak konflik politik dan akhirnya menyaksikan keadaan seperti yang berlaku akhir-akhir nya."
The Prime Minister should seriously consider a political solution to the present political crisis, whose solution is not through a show of massive police force but democratisation of the political process to win the hearts and minds of Malaysians.
The Prime Minister should draft Musa Hitam and other prominent and concerned Malaysians into a national commission to propose a democratic solution to the ballooning political crisis which is highly injurious to Malaysia’s international reputation and poses a great obstacle to national economic recovery.