1999 General Election a double  referendum: on  Mahathirís   18-year premiership and on the failure of Barisan Nasional to improve the quality of life of the people of Penang, both state and local government levels

- 1999 Election Nomination Day
Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Saturday): The 1999 General Election is a double referendum: firstly, on the 18-year premiership  of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and secondly, on the failure of the Barisan Nasional to improve the quality of life of the people of Penang, both state and local government levels.

I agree with Mahathir when he said on Nov. 10 when announcing his decision to dissolve Parliament and call for polls that a general election is not a test of popularity, but it should certainly be a referendum on Mahathirís 18-year premiership  - and in particular on his policies and actions in the past five years after the landslide Barisan Nasional victory in the 1995 general election.

The Nov. 29 poll is not about the toppling of  Mahathir as Prime Minister, but to provide firm and effective checks and balances against gross abuses of power which had become very rampant and even personalised in the past few years as a result of the unhealthy political hegemony of the Barisan Nasional in Malaysian politics.

Every five years, the Barisan Nasional had been returned to power without fail with a commanding two-thirds majority, sometimes even with five-sixth majority as in the 1995 general election.  Every time, this popular mandate is regarded by the Barisan Nasional government as a blank cheque empowering it to do what it likes, whether it be cronyism, corruption and nepotism; gross abuses of power as destroying the  doctrine of separation of powers resulting in a multiple crisis of confidence in the judiciary, Attorney-Generalís Chambers, the Anti-Corruption Agency, the police, the Election Commission,  Bank Negara and other important institutions of government; violation of human rights or sheer arrogance of power as in denying 680,000 new voters their right to vote in the tenth general election just to protect its two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Some of the most recent and blatant examples of the bane of such Barisan Nasional political hegemony are:

In this general election, the 9.6 million voters should stop giving Mahathir and the Barisan Nasional another blank cheque for five years.  Return the Barisan Nasional to power in Parliament on Nov. 29, but this time, the cheque must be spelt out clearly and specifically that the Barisan Nasional must  introduce political and economic reforms to respond to the peopleís demands for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

Let the people give a last warning to the Barisan Nasional that unless it respects the peopleís wishes for political and economic reforms to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance then in the next general election, whether in 2,004 or 2,005, the people would withdraw its mandate to Barisan Nasional to rule the country.

As an earnest of the peopleís seriousness in giving a last warning to the Barisan Nasional, the 9.6 million votes must deny the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority, end its political hegemony and to let the Barisan Nasional leaders know that the voters mean business this time!

*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong