Kit Siang: Hishammuddin acting as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner in one on Suqiu

Transcript - MerdekaTalk by DAP National Chairman Lim Kit Siang in an instantaneous online email dialogue on Bungaraya mailing list Thursday, 31st August  2000 at 10 pm

LKS (Opening Remarks): Dear Bungaraya-ers,  Welcome to the MerdekaTalk. I hope this will introduce a new interaction in the political arena and I wish to apologise to Bungaraya listers if there  should be heavier traffic than usual for this hour.

Q1: what is your opinion on the action carried out by UMNO Youth that reversed to the communal politics of  the 70s, do you think they gain Malay ground by doing  so or do you think their tactics are still popular in the Malay society?

LKS:  UMNO Youth's recent action is a regression to the communal politics of  the past as well as the politics of intimidation.

Malaysians had hoped that UMNO Youth would have become more mature especially under the leadership of Hishammuddin who is generally expected               to be of Prime Ministerial calibre. He was  selected by Asiaweek as one of the 20 Asian "leaders of the millennium" who is capable of breaking the  shackles of the past to strike out on new grounds.

But the recent events have proved otherwise.

UMNO Youth had done Malaysians a great disservice in trying to create a synthetic political and communal crisis out of a vaccuum, alleging that Suqiu had challenged Malay special rights.

Malaysians remember what UMNO Youth did in 1987 in precipitating the communal tensions in the run-up to Operation Lalang. It would appear that there is now a re-run and in fact, I felt a sense of deja vu when I  followed the National Day message of Dr. Mahathir yesterday.

A few days ago, Hishammuddin in an interview in Malaysiakini justified the unruly, abusive and gangsterish UMNO Youth demonstration  at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on August 19. If the opposition had done  only half of what happened  there -  the racist slogans, the  threat to "burn down" Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, the one-week ultimatum - the police would have used the ISA already.

Hishammuddin also claimed that Suqiu had challenged Malay special rights. By doing so, Hishammuddin was acting as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner in one.

Since the 1971 Constitution Amendment, anyone who questions Malay special             rights would be committing the criminal offence of sedition. Even MPs have lost their parliamentary immunity where they could be prosecuted for questioning Malay special rights in Parliament.

In the same interview, when asked why UMNO Youth had not demanded government clarification on the testimony by the former ACA  director-general Yahya Shafee that the Prime Minister had interfered with ACA investigations into the then Economic Planning Unit director-general who was later appointed Bank Negara governor, Hishammuddin said every allegation must be proven in a court of law or there would be anarchy and chaos.

Why didn't UMNO Youth follow the same strict legal principle to let the  courts decide whether Suqiu had committed the sedition offence of questioning Malay special rights - especially as Suqiu had denied it and  Suqiu  had been publicly endorsed  by MCA President, Liong Sik, Gerakan President, Keng Yaik, and SUPP Deputy President, Hieng Ding in August last year?

If UMNO Youth is not prepared to take a stand on whether Shafee's allegation is true or otherwise, and to leave it to the courts to decide,  then why the double-standards on the part of UMNO Youth to prejudge that  Suqiu had questioned Malay special rights?

I have grave doubts that such gangsterish politics can be effective in  influencing opinion. However, it may be useful in creating the conditions  for the government to crackdown on democracy and human rights as a second Operation Lalang.

This is why the Prime Minister's National Day message yesterday is very disturbing - whether Umno Youth has created the conditions for it. In any event, the PMís  National Day message has created general outrage among the people.

Q2: I am disappointed with Hishamuddin for his  statements after the Anwar sacking as well as his statements against the suqiu committee. What is your opinion towards him? Do you think he has the quality  of his father? Do you think he is popular among the  Malay youths?

LKS: We should not be too uncharitable on  Hishammuddin as he is under great pressure with the high  expectations on him as a result of his  political lineage as well as his future. However Hishammuddin should realise that he is expected to break and not be enslaved to the shackles of  the past.

Q3: NEP - The DAP has been a long time opponent of the NEP. Eliminating the Bumiputera designation has been integral to the DAP identity and is often perceived by the public to be the party's number one objective; akin to PAS's ambition to form a theocracy.

While the concept of egalitarianism and equality is something that all idealists would be very much in favour of, reality compels us to be concerned with the socio-economic impact this would have on the country.

It is common knowledge that the economy is dominated by the Chinese; in fact some would go so far as to say that the Chinese are generally more intelligent than the other ethnic groups. How confident are you, Mr.Lim, that all ethnic groups would be able to survive and compete not only with the Chinese, but with virtually the entire world, as would be the case post  2003 when WT0 liberalization starts to kick in? What more without protective policies like the NEP?

If you are indeed convinced that it's time for the NEP to go, what is the DAP's strategy to convince Malaysians, especially the Bumiputeras, that the  DAP's intentions aren't just for the advancement of the Chinese in this  country?

LKS: DAP supports the Suqiu call for the ending of the differentiation of  Malaysians into bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras.  This is different and separate from the issue of Malay special rights - and this is why the Suqiu committee's clarification that this plank in its 17-point demand does not mean demand for the abolition of Malay special rights is correct.

 It is not correct to equate intelligence with any ethnic factor or to treat  socio-economic backwardness  as an ethnic problem. While there should be greater emphasis on  merit, socio-economic need must always be a priority in the interest of social justice.

If Malaysia is to stand up and compete with the rest of the world, we  should remove the subsidy mentality or dependence syndrome, regardless of ethnicity.

Q4: Socialism - DAP is a socialist party. Unfortunately, many people, particularly the Chinese community seem to have a stigma for socialism, and many people openly claim that the only reason they do not support the DAP is because of its socialist traits. Why do you think there is such a fear of socialism in   this country? What can be done to counter these fears?

LKS: The root problem is the success of the propaganda of the powers-that-be in equating socialism with communism when social democracy is very different from communist dictatorships. People are afraid of the Soviet Union  but not Scandinavia, Germany, France or England when ruled by social democratic governments.  But Malaysians tend to succumb to Barisan Nasional propaganda  that socialism means communism. This equation must be broken with greater  political education.

Q5: DAPSY - Recently, we've all seen the role that UMNO Youth plays in Malaysian  politics. What role do you see, or what role would you like to see, DAPSY  play?

LKS: UMNO Youth is continuing to play the role of a communal pressure group. DAPSY should play the role of a progressive multi-racial youth movement which can rally young Malaysians for the ideals of justice, democracy and  good governance which transcend ethnicity and religion.

Q6: One of the major obstacles facing non-Muslims is the perception that PAS is an unacceptable alternative to  Umno and the BN coalition. They feel there is not an acceptable party to represent them, protect them, and  restore the country to democratic and just principles.

PAS is in power in  Kelantan and Terengganu. The leaders there give every assurance that BN allegations of conservative [repressive]  religious tenets are just misrepresentations  to create fear and thus political division.

Islam is not a threat to anyone, non-Muslims as well as  Muslims. You have met with the leaders of Kelantan and Terengganu,  and you seem convinced of their authenticity.

What are your views as to how the DAP can most effectively function  as a BA member and give representation to the Chinese community?   I make an assumption that many Chinese have become alienated  from the BN and seek a new government.

Congratulations to you for your courage and commitment.

LKS:  What you raised is probably the most challenging political issue in the country - whether a new paradigm shift can take place under BA, combining DAP and PAS together with PKN and PRM.

As you know, DAP and PAS have differences, which if not resolved, could make BA unsustainable.

Penang DAP has just held a fairly successful fund-raising Merdeka Walk, and we raised three times more than the best fund-raising event for Penang DAP in the past. But there are also traditional DAP supporters who declined to contribute, solely because of DAP's co-operation with PAS and their fear of PAS.

This is a real and serious problem. The fear of non-Malays about an Islamic state must be allayed or the BA would not be able to make much headway.

BA came together on a common platform for a just Malaysia and if all component parties keep strictly to the principles agreed, we have the chance of convincing more Malaysians to our cause.

It is to PASí credit that it is committed to the principles of democracy - especially as there are arguments that Islam is not compatible with democracy.

This is a good start but not enough.

We all hope that we can continue to widen our areas of understanding and co-operation so that BA can enlist greater support from Malaysians of all races and religions.

Q7: Dear Mr. Lim, How do you value Mahathir now? Do you believe this will be his last term to be the PM or President of  UMNO? Do you think all the problems of UMNO will be  resolved if he is removed/stepdown and resign, or do you think there will be more problems in UMNO if this old man is not around?

Do you think the there will be more room for democracy in Malaysia if Mahathir is not in power?

Do you think the action of UMNO Youth has obtained the  sanction of Mahathir?

LKS: I remember that when Dr. Mahathir was first appointed Prime Minister in July 1981, the then Far Eastern Economic Review Malaysian correspondent, the late K. Das rang me up for my comments. I told him that in my view, Mahathir would be the Prime Minister with the most independent views. His most formative influence was his battle against Tunku in 1969, when he was expelled from UMNO and his book "The Malay Dilemma" banned. Yet he could not only return to UMNO, but ascend to become its leader and the Prime Minister of  the country, which would inculcate in him the attitude and belief that whatever the odds, it was others, whether in the ruling party, the country or the world who are  wrong while he is always right. In those circumstances, he could be capable of great good or great evil.  I leave the final judgement to the people.

I do not think the immediate post-Mahathir scenario will be a smooth-sailing one as it would not be possible  to find a successor with Mahathirís command and control of all the strings, instruments and organs of power. UMNO and Malaysian politics will be in a flux.

Mahathir is aware of this and the expectation that in the post-Mahathir scenario, Anwar though incarcerated in Sungai Buloh will again be an important political factor.  This is probably the most powerful reason why Mahathir would stay on as Prime Minister as long as he could.

Will there be more democracy after Mahathir? Hopefully, for at present, there is nobody who could act as a check on him or he would not have made the atrocious and disgraceful Merdeka Day message yesterday, abusing his office as Prime Minister to deliver a speech more suitable for UMNO President.

Mahathir had not censured UMNO Youth although he had censured and even defamed Suqiu, when it was the former which conducted the unruly, abusive and gangsterish demonstration while Suqiu had consistently asked for a dialogue.

LKS (Ending Remarks): Dear Bungaraya'ers, Thanks for joining in the MerdekaTalk on bungaraya mailing list (for 75 minutes). We  experienced time lags and delays which will have to be smoothened out.

I have received some questions, particulaly  from seah mei peng, which would  have to be left for another occasion, as the focus now is more on the  political situation in the country than on party or personal matters.

However, i'll just answer one of his questions as to why I visited Mahathir's Hari Raya open house when many other opposition and ngo people have been boycotting it.

Mahathir has been talking about the politics of hate as poisoning the well of nation-building, in fact claiming that this is the cause of racial and  religious polarisation in the country in his attack of  Suqiu and Al-Ma'unah.

If Mahathir's accusation against the Opposition is right, then I should be the greatest practitioner of the politics of hate, considering what Mahathir had done to Lim Guan Eng.  But I have never believed in the  politics of hate. In fact, immediately after my second ISA detention during Operation Lalang, I asked for an appointment with Mahathir. I  do not hate him but I  wanted an explanation why I was detained under Operation Lalang under ISA  when others like Najib was not detained when this would have been more  deserving.  I will leave to another occasion as to Mahathir's explanation.

In politics, we can have our differences, however intensely, but there is  no need to make it personal.

Thanks and good night.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman