My 62nd birthday wish - that all Malaysians take up Tunku's 80th birthday call 20 years ago to Barisan Nasional leaders "not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State" and to stay true and faithful to the fundamental nation-building principle in the 1957 Merdeka Constitution and "social contract" of Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as official religion

- DAP dinner for his 62nd birthday
by Lim Kit Siang

(Kuala Lumpur,  Wednesday): The VCD just presented by the DAP ICT Bureau on the photographic collection of some of the episodic accounts of my 37 years of political work was also a flashback of the ups and downs, trials and tribulations, breakthroughs and setbacks, joys and agonies, of the commitment, dedication and sacrifices of DAP leaders, members and supporters for close to four decades for a more just, equal, progressive and prosperous Malaysia for all Malaysians.

It evoked in me memories going as far back as some 48 years ago, especially with the opening of the 13th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow.

One memory that came back to me was April 1955, when with two of my Form I classmates, Tan Tik Seng and Goh Chay Foo, we cycled from our hometown Batu Pahat to Muar and Malacca to "see the outside world" - a two-day 60-mile journey on our bicycles.

I remember that the issue which dominated our attention and discussion in our bicycle trip from Batu Pahat to Malacca on April 23 and 24, 1955 was the Afro-Asian Bandung Conference which was held at the same time from April 18 - 24, 1955 and attended by towering leaders of the anti-colonial struggle like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sukarno, Chou En Lai, Ho Chi Minh, U Nu, Gamel Abdel Nasser and Kwame Nhrumah.

The Bandung Conference, which was convened by the five sponsoring countries of Burma, Ceylon, India, Indonesia and Pakistan, and was attended by 24 other countries ranging from Afghanistan, Cambodia, China to Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, was an electric event and defining moment for the peoples of Asia and Africa as it signaled the coming together of the colonized and oppressed peoples of the Third World to liberate themselves and break the chains of colonialism and subjection.

This was one of the formative influences of my students days, and among the other seminal events at the time were Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal on July 26, 1956 which led to the Suez War on Egypt by Britain, France and Israel; Ghana's Independence in March 1957; Malaya's Independence in August 1957; the Mau Mau rebellion and the Kenyan struggle for independence led by Jomo Kenyatta; the Algerian national liberation struggle to shake off French colonial rule, etc.

These were some of the stirring and heady events of my student days, which did not just impact on students but on all idealistic Malaysians who wanted a better world. At the time, one Malaysian was so influenced by the leaders of the national independence movements that he named his new-born son after two African nationalists, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya. This is why we have today the internationally-distinguished economist and academician of Dr. K.S. Jomo - or Dr. Kwame Sundram Jomo. What is disappointing, however, is that some of these towering nationalist leaders, like Kwame Nkrumah, proved later to have feet of clay!

Having devoted the prime of my adult life of some 37 years to the political cause of a more just, equal, progressive and prosperous Malaysia for all Malaysians, I do not know how long more I will be in the political arena.

I will not say like the Kelantan Mentri Besar, Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat that he plans to contest in elections for the rest of his life or like former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Ghafar Baba, who wants to live until he is 100 years old.

I will continue to contribute to the political well-being and national development of Malaysia so long as all three conditions are fulfilled:

  • Firstly, that I believe that I can continue to play a meaningful political role in the creation of a more just, equal, progressive and prosperous Malaysia;

  • Secondly, DAP believes that I can continue to contribute in a leadership role; and

  • Thirdly, that the people and country regard my political contributions as still useful and worthwhile.

DAP has chosen the long, hard and uphill road of political opposition, where leadership and responsibility are a crown of thorns and no bed of roses. This is because we in DAP are in politics not because of what politics can do for us in terms of wealth, material gain, office or title but for what we can do for the nation and people. We are in DAP and Malaysian politics because we are Malaysian nationalists and patriots first and last.

It is easy to despair and want to give up the struggle when faced with the insuperable odds of Malaysian opposition politics -the persecutions and prosecutions one must endure; the voice for justice, freedom, democracy and good governance lost in the wilderness with media blackouts and information deficits as well as the continued public apathy to the critical political choices of the times.

We should take heart however from the phenomenal global people power manifested over the weekend with up to 30 million people in more than 600 towns and cities around the world peacefully demonstrating against unilateral US war against Iraq.

United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Australia and the United States saw the biggest demonstrations ever held in their countries surpassing everyone of the organiser's wildest expectations.

What was remarkable about the global peace protest was that it was never envisaged, its momentum came almost from nowhere, confounding many assumptions about the political apathy and selfish individualism of the Western consumer society with its conundrum of low voter turnouts but the biggest public demonstrations.

We should take heart from the phenomenon of the global people's power over the weekend, for the message and lesson is that we must persevere with our commitment and dedication to build a more just, equal, progressive and prosperous Malaysia for all Malaysians, not because we have anything to gain personally from it but because it is good and right for our beloved nation - and may be, a momentum would come from almost nowhere to make them the mainstream aspirations of the country.

Let me end on my 62nd birthday wish. Twenty years ago, on 8th February 1983, at a grand Barisan Nasional dinner organized on the occasion of his 80th birthday, Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, gave a speech specifically addressed to the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Cabinet Ministers and Barisan Nasional leaders who were all present.

In what could be regarded as his "legacy" speech, Tunku called on Mahathir and the BN leadership "Not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic state".

My 62nd birthday wish is that all Malaysians would take up Tunku's 80th birthday call 20 years ago to Barisan Nasional leaders "Not to turn Malaysia into an Islamic State" and that all Malaysians stay true and faithful to the fundamental nation-building principle in the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, "social contract" and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement of Malaysia as a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive nation with Islam as official religion, but Malaysia is not an Islamic state!


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman