Speech by Lim Kit Siang at the DAP Cheras SSS
(Support, Sympathy and Solidarity) Dinner for Teresa Kok at Hee Lai Ton
Restaurant, Kuala Lumpur on Friday, 19th September 2008
Will the proposed Race Relations Act
enable and empower a major breakthrough like the Barack Obama phenomenon
to take place in Malaysia?
When the Home Minister, Datuk Seri Hamid
Albar announced yesterday that the Cabinet has approved the proposed
Race Relations Act to strengthen ties among the different races in the
country, I immediately thought of two matters.
The first is the “penumpang” controversy set off by the Bukit Bendera
Umno division chairman, Datuk Ahmad Ismail as part of Umno’s most racist
and inflammatory campaign in the Permatang Pauh by-election, which was
decisively rejected by the voters from all racial groups uniting as a
pioneering Bangsa Malaysia to give a thumping victory to Datuk Seri
Anwar Ibrahim to return to Parliament in triumph after an enforced
absence of a decade.
The real fall-out from the “penumpang” controversy was after the
Permatang Pauh by-election, where for two weeks, Ahmad was allowed to
assume “hero” status among extremists and communalists for his
provocative, inflammatory, insensitive and racist reference because of
the abdication and bankruptcy of the moral and political authority of
the Cabinet and the Barisan Nasional leadership in tailing to immediate
action to strike down such divisive and destructive outbursts.
Ahmad’s grandparents migrated to this country
from India. Why should a Malaysian who is a second-generation locally
born in the country be so irresponsible, provocative and racist as to
question the loyalty of a Malaysian Chinese like seventh locally-born
generation Tan Siok Choo, daughter to Tun Tan Siew Sin and
grand-daughter to Tun Tan Cheng Lock – whose ancestors came to Malacca
237 years ago in 1771?
Even up to now, Ahmad is totally unrepentant
and immune from any police prosecution for his incendiary utterance –
while the Sin Chew reporter Tan Hoon Cheng who had professionally
reported Ahmad’s speech was detained under the draconian Internal
Security Act but saved from the full iniquity of the ISA because of
instantaneous nation-wide and international outrage.
What is the use of a Race Relations Act in Malaysia if the Ahmad Ismails
enjoy immunity from the law being able to get away scot-free for their
inflammatory, offensive, insensitive and racist utterances without fear
of having to face criminal reprisals from the police and the
Attorney-General’s Chambers for their seditious utterances?
The second matter that comes immediately to mind is about political
developments the other side of the globe – Barack Obama’s presidential
candidature in the United States.
Only 220 years ago, the Negroes are slaves in America, totally deprived
of all political, economic, social and human rights. Today, an American
black is one of the two contenders for the American Presidency in
November – marking a historic breakthrough in race relations in the
What has Malaysia to show in race relations in similar field after 51
years of nation-building?
When we achieved Independence in 1957, the Merdeka social contract and
the Malaysian Constitution is unambiguous in providing equal citizenship
status for all Malaysians, as in stipulating that any Malaysian,
regardless of race, religion or class, can aspire to the highest
political office in the land to become the Prime Minister.
The only condition for anyone to be Prime Minister is that he commands
the confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament.
During the first premiership of Tunku Abdul Rahman from 1957 to 1969,
nobody would raise an eyebrow at the assertion that any Malaysian,
whether Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban and regardless of whether
Muslims, Chrisitians, Buddhists, Hindus or Taoists, can become Prime
Minister of Malaysia.
Half a century later, under the fifth Prime Minister, Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, anyone who makes the assertion in public place
that any Malaysian, regardless of whether Malay, Chinese, Indian,
Kadazan or Iban, and regardless of religion, whether Muslim, Christian,
Buddhist, Hindu or Taoist, would be looked askance and even deemed to
have made an most “insensitive” statement.
There would even be groups in the country who would feel justified to be
“provoked” by such a straightforward statement to launch vociferous
protests up and down the country.
Why is this so, despite the Vision 2020 objective of creating a Bangsa
Malaysia out of the diverse races in the country, which was proclaimed
17 years ago in 1991?
Will the proposed Race Relations Act resolve these knotty problems of
Malaysian nation-building, or is its purpose to further institutionalize
racial segregation and discrimination which have surreptitiously crept
into various aspects of Malaysian life and taken deep and subversive
Will the proposed Race Relations Act open the way to enable and empower
a major breakthrough like the Barack Obama phenomenon to take place in
Malaysia or the reverse?
Kit Siang, DAP
Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor