Ghafar is more visionary and Malaysian-at-heart than Mahathir when the former Deputy Prime Minister openly supported the Suqiu appeal for the eventual abolition of the distinction between bumiputras and non-bumiputras

Speech at the DAP National Unity Forum held at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
by Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur, Friday):  The National Unity Forum tonight, and the full-house attendance of a truly Malaysian crowd - Malays, Chinese, Indians, as well as Muslims, Buddhists, Christians and Hindus - is to send out a clear and unmistakable message to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, UMNO and Barisan Nasional that 43 years after Merdeka in 1957,  the national focus should be on Malaysian unity and national unity rather than on "Malay unity", "Chinese unity" or "Indian unity" and that the ordinary Malaysian people are more Malaysian-minded than the Barisan Nasional leaders.

Last Sunday, the Malay Action Front (MAF) organised the  "Takkan Melayu Hilang Di Dunia" rally at the  UMNO-owned Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.  Malays in Malaysia are not facing any risk of extinction and what the organisers of the rally  were worried about was actually, "Takkan UMNO Hilang Di Dunia"!

This is  sad for what all patriotic Malaysians should currently be worried about is "Takkan Malaysia Kalah Di Dunia" in the age of Information Technology and globalisation!

It is a national tragedy that in the 14 months after the 1999 general elections, there had been a relentless attempt  to arouse and escalate ethnic tensions for UMNO to regain Malay political support, although the saving grace was that such an attempt had so far been fruitless because of the emergence of a greater multi-ethnic political consciousness as a result of the formation of the multi-ethnic and multi-religious Barisan Alternative.

Although Mahathir won his fifth general elections in 1999 with his two-third parliamentary majority intact, he is now leading a  government which suffers from the worst crisis of legitimacy in the nation's history among Malaysians of all races.

In the 1999 general elections, UMNO suffered its worst defeat in history when it ceased to be the Malay majority party commanding  majority Malay voter support and became instead a Malay minority party.

The Barisan Nasional held non-Malay voter support but on two big lies - the spectre of May 13 racial riots and that a vote for DAP would  be a vote for PAS and a vote for an Islamic State, where the Chinese and the non-Malays could  have no pork, no alcohol, no temples and churches, no Chinese and Tamil schools, etc.

In the past 14 months, the national situation, whether political, economic or nation-buiilding, has got worse instead of better; and it would appear that in the foreseeable future, things will get even worse before they can get better.

In the past 14 months, while UMNO and Barisan Nasional became the greatest threat, the Barisan Alternative became greatest defender and champion, of multi-racial national unity as illustrated by the following events:

UMNO and Barisan Nasional's unprincipled and opportunistic stand on the 83 Suqiu election appeals is the best example of the irresponsible politics of the UMNO leadership, as Mahathir's condemnation of Suqiu election appeals as "extremist", "communist" and "Al-Maunah-like" is completely unacceptable when the Barisan Nasional component parties and the Cabinet could give their endorsement or "approval in principle" before the general elections just to win Chinese votes.

One of the 83 Suqiu election appeals formulated to promote national unity and which was hijacked by political desperados to try to escalate Malay communalism  and tension was  the call for the abolition of the division of Malaysians into bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras.

At the "Takkan Melayu Hilang Di Dunia" rally, the former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Ghafar Baba publicly expressed his support for this Suqiu call for the removal of the distinction between bumiputras and non-bumiputras.

Malaysiakini reported Ghafar as saying at the MAF rally:

"We are gathered here to also support to see the economic distinction between the bumiputra and non-bumiputra abolished as proposed by Suqiu's No 4 appeal.

"We hope there comes a time when we will never again talk about the backwardness of the Malays."

There can be healthy differences of opinion as to the timeframe needed for the abolition of the distinction between bumiputeras and non-bumiputeras, but to condemn such a proposal as "extremist", "communist" and "Al-Maunah-like" is to completely reject the vision of true Malaysian national unity to create a Bangsa Malaysia where everyone will regard him/herself as Malaysian first and Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban second.

At least, in this regard, Ghafar Baba is more visionary and Malaysian-at-heart than Mahathir when the former Deputy Prime Minister declared publicly last Sunday that he supported the Suqiu appeal for the eventual abolition of the distinction between bumiputras and non-bumiputras.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman