Mahathir should stop Penang UMNO leaders and Utusan Malaysia from undermining the 45th National Day celebrations and 45 years of nation-building by creating  ethnic tensions in their  petty “tit-for-tat” politicking with Gerakan

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Tuesday): The Prime Minister and UMNO President, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who is making a one-day visit to Penang today, should put an immediate stop to the irresponsible campaign by Penang UMNO leaders and Utusan Malaysia in  their petty “tit-for-tat” politicking with Gerakan which undermines  the 45th National Day celebrations and 45 years of nation-building by creating  ethnic tensions in the state and country. 

Utusan Malaysia’s front-page report yesterday and today about the Malays in Penang being ignored and marginalized by the Gerakan state government is clearly the result of a new strain in relationship between Gerakan and certain factions in UMNO, but this internal Barisan Nasional feuding can be no excuse for spoiling the 45th National Day celebrations on Saturday, as it will be another  recent example  of ruling party politicians who are prepared to put narrow personal and party interests above national interests. 

Furthermore, if a Chinese or Tamil  newspaper had conducted a very similar campaign with some political groups in another state claiming that the Chinese or Indian minorities in the state are being ignored and marginalized by the UMNO state government, there would be no doubt that fierce warnings and threats of action under the Sedition Act and even detention-without-trial under the Internal Security Act would have been issued by the Federal Ministers.  Why should there be double standards in more and more areas of national life in the country after 45 years of nationhood? 

The excuses used  by certain UMNO leaders and Utusan Malaysia to mount their “tit-for-tat” campaign  against Gerakan revolve around at  least two issues: firstly, the Gerakan’s belated opposition to the proposal to  use  English to teach mathematics and science for national, Chinese and Tamil primary schools from Std. One next year; and secondly, a Gerakan-sponsored study which concluded that the Multi-media Super Corridor (MSC) is a failure compared to other similar initiatives in Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai and that the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDC) which was established to play the catalytic and co-ordinator role to develop the MSC, had  performed below expectations, undermining investor  confidence in the MSC. 

The Gerakan-sponsored study had very adverse findings on the competencies of the MDC,  whether in terms of “timely and speedy execution”, the availability and quality of K-workers, ease of hiring of foreign K-workers,  education and training, to the extent that “MSC run the risk of being marginalized if it continues with the present way”. 

If UMNO leaders and Utusan Malaysia do not agree with the Gerakan’s position, whether on the proposal to use English to teach mathematics and science in primary schools from Std. One or the Gerakan-sponsored study about the dismal performance of the MSC and the MDC, they should be prepared for a public debate and a battle of ideas – and not to resort to the irresponsible traditional gambit of mortgaging Malaysia’s future by trying to fan ethnic feelings and sentiments. 

Gerakan President and Minister for Primary Industries, Datuk Dr. Lim Keng Yaik said yesterday that he was “disappointed with the increasingly less room for public discussion and debate on issues these days”. 

It is an even bigger disappointment to Malaysians that Keng Yaik is not aware all these years of the ever-diminishing space for public debate,  dissent and  democracy in Malaysia – for which he is one of the authors in having been a senior Cabinet Minister of the Barisan Nasional Government for the past two decades.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman