Call on Berita Harian to set an example of graduating from merely fighting for Malay rights to fighting for the rights of all Malaysians

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Berita Harian has done me unusual honour in devoting a full editorial on me for ticking off a Berita Harian reporter entitled “Tidak ada silapnya Berita Harian pertahankan hak Melayu”.

Let me start by expressing my agreement that “Tidak ada silapnya Berita Harian pertahankan hak Melayu”, though with two caveats: firstly, it should not violate the cardinal New Economic Policy principle that “no one in Malaysian society need experience or feel any sense of loss or deprivation of his rights, privileges, income, job or opportunity” and secondly, that it is time  Berita Harian graduate from merely fighting for Malay rights to fighting for the rights of all Malaysians regardless of race or religion.

The Berita Harian is guilty of gross distortion  and journalistic sensationalism when it misled  its readers by claiming that I am  “arif dalam ‘melucutkan’ taraf   kewarganegaraan seseorang” and said: “Lebih daripada itu, kenyataannya bahawa wartawan berkenaan tidak layak menjadi warganegara Malaysia adalah   sesuatu yang keterlaluan”.

For the record, I never said that the reporter was not fit to be a Malaysian citizen or implied that her Malaysian citizenship should be removed. What I said was that the reporter was not fit to be a Malaysian if she is unrepentant in asking racially provocative questions on issues which had nothing to do with race.

In the context of the nation’s plural society and the represssive laws in the country like the infamous Internal Security Act, it is highly irresponsible, insensitive and provocative  for any Malaysian reporter to ask whether a Malaysian political leader is  trying to “create racial tension” when there is  no cause whatsoever.

It is most unfortunate that the Berita Harian front-page report today failed to report that when I called for the release of  7,168  unfilled science university places to eligible Chinese and Indian students, I also made two further points:

As to whether there are unfilled 7,168 science university places, it is the Education Ministry Higher Education Department  director Professor Hassan Said  who said on 3rd May 2001  that there had been a 15 per cent drop in     university intake from the originally-targetted 38,000 university places to 30,800 because of a shortfall of qualified bumiputra science students, which was  reported by Utusan Malaysia but not Berita Harian.

In my email to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on 13th May 2001, I had given four reasons as to why the explanation of the  Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad on the non-existent  7,168 unfilled university places was unsatisfactory, namely:.

It is most regrettable that the Berita Harian front-page news report omitted my statement in Parliament lobby yesterday that it was not my  intention to create racial unhappiness as the DAP supported the right of bumiputra students to be assisted - as in  the fields of engineering, medicine, information technology, etc.

The question as to whether I was trying to create racial tension was most unwarranted, provocative and intolerable in the context of multi-racial Malaysian politics especially as DAP had never suggested the denial or deprivation of any single university place to a bumiputra student, but wanted all deserving non-bumiputra students to be given places in the public universities.

I even mentioned at the Parliament lobby yesterday that the nation has enough finances to offer new university places to the best and brightest of our generation, as seen by the billions of ringgit of public funds being squandered away in scandalous bail-outs and buy-outs, whether Time dotCom, MAS, LRT companies like Star and Putra, etc.

I also stressed that faced with the challenges of globalisation, liberalisation and information and communications technology (ICT), Malaysians should focus on how best to compete with the rest of the world instead of turning inward against our own selves.

Why did Berita Harian omit these references?

The most offensive part of the Berita Harian editorial is its concluding paragraph, which reads:

“Malah, jika Lim, The Star dan akhbar Cina berasa bertanggungjawab untuk memperjuangkan kepentingan masyarakat Cina, maka kita tidak nampak di mana silapnya Berita Harian mempertahankan hak Melayu daripada dicabar   dan dipertikaikan. Jadi bagaimana Berita Harian boleh dituduh perkauman, tetapi DAP yang memperjuangkan  kepentingan Cina tidak pula dianggap perkauman.”

I cannot speak on behalf of the Star and the Chinese Press but only the DAP.  Let me correct Berita Harian. Ever since the party’s formation 35 years ago, the DAP had never just fought for the interests of the Chinese community but had always dedicated itself to the higher Malaysian national interests and defended the interests of all communities.

Lest it forget, let me remind Berita Harian that DAP National Vice Chairman Lim Guan Eng went to prison and lost his parliamentary status not for protecting Chinese interests, but for upholding the dignity and honour of an underaged Malay girl.   And lest it forget, let me also remind Berita Harian that when DAP leaders spoke up against financial scandals and abuses of public funds, it was not to defend Chinese interests but the interests of all Malaysians, regardless of race.

This was why I supported the  Education Ministry decision to introduce science as a subject for Year One pupils next year although the main beneficiaries will be the Malay students, who are comparatively backward in science which will be a major drawback in the age of Information Technology.

So let me tell Berita Harian: Grow up as a Malaysian institution. There is nothing wrong in defending Malay rights. But don’t just defend Malay Rights. Defend the rights of all Malaysians, regardless of race or  religion, as well.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman