Breaking the political hegemony of Barisan Nasional in next election should be the common goal of all Malaysians who want justice, freedom, democracy and good governance a chance to take root in Malaysia

Speech (1)
- 1999 DAP National Conference
Lim Kit Siang 

(Kuala Lumpur, Sunday):  Never before in our  42-year nation-building history have  more Malaysians realised the rot in our democratic society and national institutions, which had been camouflaged by strong continuous growth of the economy in the past decade, such as:

The Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim cases sum up what is terribly wrong with Malaysia - the rank injustices; rampant corruption and abuses of power;  suppression of  human rights; lack of democracy and misgovernance of the Barisan Nasional government.

These national ills stem from two basic causes:

It is unthinkable that the Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim cases of injustices would have occurred during the tenure of the first three Prime Ministers of Malaysia, namely Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, who have a greater understanding and respect of  principles of the rule of law and the  independence of the judiciary as well as the doctrine of the separation of powers among the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.

Breaking the political hegemony of Barisan Nasional in next general election should be the common goal of all Malaysians who want justice, freedom, democracy and good governance a chance to take root in Malaysia.

The  Barisan Nasional is supremely confident that the question of its losing two-thirds majority does not arise in the next general election, let alone losing power.

A pro-Barisan Nasional election analysis in June this year forecast another landslide victory for the Barisan Nasional and Mahathir’s fifth landslide win, with the Barisan Nasional securing 140 to 150 seats out of 193 parliamentary seats in the next election, projecting that in the final analysis, PAS could at best win no more than 20 Parliamentary seats, DAP 15 to 18 and KeADILan possibly 1 or 2.

This pro-Barisan Nasional election analysis believed that "At the end of the day, the Anwar factor could have increased Malay political consciousness and pose a challenge to UMNO but insufficient to lead to a change of government" and that "When the votes are counted it is likely that UMNO may lose not more than a dozen or so parliamentary seats".

This analysis said:  "In the coming elections, Chinese votes are pivotal.  Although  the number of Chinese majority seats in Parliament are not many (about two  dozen or 12 per cent of Parliamentary seats), the Chinese voters will have a decisive role in determining the outcomes of many mixed constituencies and even in some Malay majority seats in the event the Malay voters are divided, leaving the Chinese to decide on the winner."

"Among the  issues that will have an impact on the Chinese electorate are:

"The Chinese voters have been known to be swing voters, supporting the   Barisan Nasional in one election and then swinging their support to the Opposition in the next election before switching back again to the Barisan  Nasional, giving rise to pendulum theory in Chinese voting patterns.  In the 1995 General Elections the Chinese overwhelmingly supported the Barisan  Nasional leading some political analysts to wonder whether this pendulum  theory will hold in the coming election.  The DAP hopes to capitalise on the  Lim Guan Eng factor and the hardships caused by the economic downturn   last year.  However, the economic recovery and the bullish sentiments on the KLSE which have a created a ‘feel good’ atmosphere may work against the DAP.  The Chinese fear of  Indonesia-style race rioting would also handicap the DAP."

According to this analysis, the factors that will favour the Barisan Nasional among the Chinese voters in the coming election are:
"i. Political and Social Stability  that the Barisan Nasional provides.  Dr. Mahathir is a leader the Chinese community feels comfortable and can trust. Today it is not inconceivable that Dr Mahathir is more popular with the Chinese than the Malay community.  The Barisan Nasional is seen to be a party that can deliver peace and stability.  Unity is an important theme in the Barisan Nasional's message that will go down well with the Chinese community.
"ii. Economic Track Record  that the Barisan Nasional can convincingly claim to have achieved.  Dr Mahathir is seen to be a leader who has successfully navigated the country through two recessions.  To even those  critics who are less enamoured with the Mahathir Administration's track record, the comfort is in ‘the devil you know rather than the devil you don't   know’.  The Economic Liberalisation  that has occurred over the past several years has also reduced Chinese antipathy towards the New Economic Policy (NEP).  More importantly after the Jakarta riots broke out  last year, the Chinese community now feels that it  is better to have the NEP  with peace and stability than to have social unrest and widespread rioting as in Indonesia.  Today there is considerable less unhappiness with the NEP among the Chinese. The NEP is no longer an issue.

"iii. Educational Liberalisation that has increased educational  opportunities for the Chinese community.  In the 1970s the single biggest   source of Chinese dissatisfaction against the Government is lack of educational opportunities.  However with the liberalisation of educational opportunities leading to establishment of private colleges, twinning  programmes and private universities as well as branch campuses of foreign universities together with the expansion of local  universities and Tunku Abdul Rahman College, the Chinese no longer feel deprived of educational opportunities.  The emotive issue of Chinese  language which was a contributoray factor in the 1987 Operation Lallang crackdown has also abated.  The controversial section 21 (2) of the 1961 Education Act which has troubled the Chinese community for more than 30  years has also been removed.
"iv. The MCA has also generally done well over the past several years.  Its successful Langkawi Project, Tunku Abdul Rahman College expansion and branch campuses and the JE Fund Raising have  demonstrated the MCA's practical approach to solving the community's  problems.  Even the Gerakan has won admiration for its bold stance on social justice and human rights including having its MP call for the abolition  of the ISA at the recent sitting of Parliament.  By doing so, Gerakan has  been able to win back to the Barisan Nasional some Keadilan supporters.  Rivalry between MCA and Gerakan has also been reduced.
"In the coming elections, the Chinese votes will become decisive. If the  Malay votes are divided between UMNO and the Malay Opposition, it is the  Chinese votes that will deliver the marginal seats to the Barisan Nasional. This is particularly crucial in the over 30-odd mixed parliamentary  constituencies where Chinese votes constitute over 30 per cent of the  electorate.  At the present moment, the Chinese sentiments tend to be with  Dr Mahathir and the Barisan Nasional.  CHINESE VOTES WILL EVEN BE  DECISIVE IN MALAY MAJORITY CONSTITUENCIES IN PERLIS, KEDAH,  KELANTAN AND TRENGGANU WHERE THE 500-1,000 CHINESE VOTES COULD DETERMINE THE ELECTORAL OUTCOME IN CLOSELY                    CONTESTED SEATS.  In the last elections there were a number of seats  won with narrow majorities of between 200 and 500 votes.  In these marginal  seats, the Chinese votes are pivotal. It is because Chinese votes account for between 20 and 30 per cent in many of the constituencies in Kedah that the  possibility of PAS winning control of Kedah state is unlikely.  It is also                    because Chinese voters account for 30 to 40 per cent of most constituencies  in Johor that the Opposition has not made much headway in Johor state."

It is worth noting that in this pro-Barisan Nasional analysis, no weight whatsoever is given to the role and influence of the Indian voters in Peninsular Malaysia in shaping the political future of Malaysia - a view typically characteristic of the top Barisan Nasional leadership.

We do not agree with this pro-BN election analysis or we will give up hope that we could break the political hegemony of the Barisan Nasional by denying and ending for the first time in nine general  elections in 42 years its two-thirds parliamentary majority, but it is useful to know how the Barisan Nasional perceive their prospects and support  in the next election.

If we are to break the mould of the Barisan Nasional political hegemony in the past four decades by ending its parliamentary two-thirds majority, we must also break the mould of Malaysians voting strictly along ethnic lines according to the Barisan Nasional "divide-and-rule" ethnic straightjacket.

Is there hope that Malaysians can rise above their ethnic and religious differences to come together to vote for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance, as for instance to collectively cast their vote to express their condemnation at the injustices meted out to Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim?

Barisan Nasional election strategists and propagandists operate on the basis that they would have no problem to bring out their  traditional "divide and rule" ethnic  straightjacket  and stampede Malaysian voters into their respective ethnic enclaves and vote as Chinese, Malays, Indians, full of suspicions and fears about other communities.

I believe however that the next general election is a great test for the Malaysian people, to demonstrate that they are more Malaysian-minded and justice-conscious than the Barisan Nasional leaders - where Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans and Ibans could rise above strictly ethnic considerations and  vote for the common goal of restoring justice, freedom, democracy and good governance.

There are positive signs that there has been a greater maturity of Malaysian nation-building process, that more and more Malaysians are emerging from the  ethnic  "divide-and- rule" straightjacket imposed by  the Barisan Nasional to see and analyse events and issues transcending race and religion.

The heart-warming reception for Lim Guan Eng in the past 10 days since he walked out of Kajang Prison after being jailed for 12 months is one such positive sign - the unprecedented political phenomenon where Malaysians of all races, whether Chinese, Malays, Indians, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians,  Hindus, Sikhs, men and women, young and old, poured out to give Guan Eng a tumultous reception wherever he went  - a welcome given to a national hero and not a lowly common criminal.

If the Barisan Nasional can still win another landslide victory after the  Lim Guan Eng and Anwar Ibrahim injustices as well as the long list of abuses of power and violation of human rights and democratic freedoms, Malaysians must expect another dark age and a repetition of Operation Lalang on an even greater scale than in 1988, where over 106 opposition leaders, trade unionists, social activists were detained under the Internal Security Act for threatening not national security but the political security of the Barisan Nasional leadership.

The DAP on its own cannot break the political hegemony of the Barisan Nasional by winning at least 65 seats to deny and end the unbroken BN two-thirds parliamentary majority. In fact, there is not a single opposition party which can on its own deny the 14-party BN its traditional two-thirds majority in the next election.

Collectively, however, a combined opposition can break the Barisan’s political hegemony and win 70 to 75 seats, with the DAP aiming to win 25 to 30 Parliamentary seats.

This itself is reason powerful enough why there should be opposition co-operation and unity to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance in Malaysia.

DAP’s co-operation with PAS has been exploited and distorted by our political enemies as DAP support and endorsement of PAS’ Islamic State.

DAP stands by our record, that we mean what we say and we say what we mean - that we do not compromise our principles and convictions for any political gain or personal profit.

DAP is co-operating with PAS to restore the independence of the judiciary; end selective prosecution and abuses of power by the Attorney-General; repeal unjust and draconian laws like the Internal Security Act, Official Secrets Act, the Sedition Act, the Printing Presses and Publications Act; wipe out cronyism, corruption and nepotism; stop wasteful mega-projects and ensure that privatisation does not end up as piratisation; ensure government accountability and transparency; protect and promote human rights and the freedoms of speech, assembly, association and information; provide social and economic justice to all Malaysians to enjoy basic needs in health, education, health, environment and quality of life.

On the issue of  Islamic State, the DAP’s stand is clear - the DAP is opposed to the establishment of an Islamic State as we regard it as unsuitable for a multi-racial, multi-religious Malaysia.  We have reiterated the DAP stand not just in DAP functions, but also at PAS Headquarters and with PAS national leaders.

The issue in the next election is not the issue of Islamic State, which would require a constitutional change requiring a two-third majority of 129 out of a total of 193 parliamentary seats.

Apart from the fact that PAS, which presently has eight MPs, cannot win one-third let alone two-thirds majority in the next general election, the real  issue is whether Barisan Nasional’s political hegemony could be broken in the next election by the combined seats of the Opposition parties denying the Barisan two-thirds majority.


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