Speech by Lim Kit Siang on the motion to revoke the three Emergency Proclamations of 1966, 1969 and 1977 in Parliament on Thursday, 24th November 2011:
I have been waiting for the revocation of the three Emergency Proclamations for the past 30 to 40 years
I stand to support the motion by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to revoke the Emergency Proclamations of 1966, 1969 and 1977.
I have been waiting for the revocation for the past 30 to 40 years.
The Barisan Nasional MP for Tangga Batu Datuk Idris Haron who just spoke misled the House when he said that Barisan Nasional stands for consistency.
This is because the byword of Barisan Nasional and UMNO is not consistency, but inconsistency and hypocrisy, particularly on the issue before the House – the revocation of the Emergency Proclamations of 1966, 1969 and 1977.
On 28th and 29th June, 1979, my motion to repeal the four Proclamations of Emergency of 1964 (concerning the Indonesian Confrontation), 1966 (Sarawak political crisis), 1969 (May 13 Riots) and 1977 (Kelantan political crisis) was debated in Parliament for two days but all the Barisan Nasional MPs spoke and voted against it.
But today, all the Barisan and UMNO MPs are supporting the revocation of the Emergency Proclamations.
Who is being inconsistent?
But first of all, let me ask why the Proclamation of Emergency of 3rd September 1964 arising from the Indonesia Confrontation had been omitted from the revocation list.
In Parliament from the seventies onwards in the past four decades, I had repeatedly spoken of the need to end the permanent state of emergency and revoke the four Proclamations of Emergency as the situations giving rise to their issue had long ceased to exist.
For instance, my motion in Parliament in June 1979 referred specifically to the revocation of four Proclamations of Emergency and no Minister had ever raised the point as now, that of following a 1971 judgment that the 1963 Proclamation of Emergency had ceased to exist as it had been superseded by the 1969 Proclamation.
This is a new position taken by the government. If this is the position of the Attorney-General, what happens if there is another Attorney-General who does not agree with this point? Will we find one day that the 1963 Proclamation of Emergency still exists?
Instead of claiming that the revocation of the Emergency Proclamations is testimony that the Barisan Nasional government is always ready to reform in keeping with the times, Barisan Nasional and UMNO leaders must explain the long delay in repealing the Emergency Proclamations – 45 years in the case of the 1966 Proclamation to topple the then Sarawak Chief Minister, 42 years in the case of the 1969 Proclamation arising from the May 13 riots and 34 years in the case of the 1977 Proclamation to topple PAS control of the Kelantan government as the emergency situations causing the Emergency Proclamations to be made had long ceased to exist.
As I said in my 1979 motion in Parliament to repeal the Emergency Proclamations: “The perpetuation of a Proclamation of Emergency, when the emergency condition for which it was made had ceased to exist, is certainly an abuse of power and unconstitutional”.
This is also symptomatic of the arrogance of power which had long afflicted UMNO and Barisan Nasional.
The Emergency Proclamations would not have been revoked if not for the political tsunami in the 2008 general elections which deprived BN and UMNO of its two-thirds parliamentary majority and the need for the Prime Minister to create the image that he represented reform and the promise of the “best democracy in the world”.
But is the long overdue revocation of the Emergency Proclamations sufficient to signify that Malaysia is on the road to become the “best democracy in the world”?
Far from it. The revocation of the Emergency Proclamations is a small step in the direction to make Malaysia a normal country.
If the Prime Minister is sincere in wanting to make Malaysia the “best democracy of the world”, there is a long list of reforms he must do.
For a start, he should restore the Merdeka Constitution provision on Article 150 on Emergency Proclamation to provide effective check and balance against undemocratic and authoritarian government, as the Merdeka Constitution has been amended totally beyond recognition as to allow am arbitrary multiple permanent state of emergency to exist for over four decades.
In 1979, the DAP had wanted to challenge the legality and constitutionality of the continuation of the 1969 Emergency Proclamation, for instance a Privy Council decision striking down the Security Cases (Regulations) made under the 1969 Emergency Proclamation as unconstitutional and null and void. DAP MP for Bukit Glugor Karpal Singh was the lawyer who took the case all the way to the Privy Council.
The DAP plan was foiled however when the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority was again abused with the amendment of the Constitution to place Emergency Proclamations under Article 150 beyond the pale of judicial review by making them non-justiciable, making a total mockery of the doctrine of separation of powers.
Is Najib prepared to return to the Merdeka Constitution provision not only to restore the powers of judicial review to ensure that there is no abuse of power in the exercise of Article 150 provision on Emergency Proclamation, but also to subject Emergency Proclamations to meaningful Parliamentary review and control, as providing in the Merdeka Constitution:
“A Proclamation of Emergency and any ordinance promulgated shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament and, if not sooner revoked, shall cease to be in force –
(a) A Proclamation at the expiration of a period of two months beginning with the date on which it was issued;
(b) An ordinance at the expiration of a period of fifteen days beginning with the date on which both Houses are first sitting,
unless, before the expiration of that period, it has been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.”
Malaysia is not a normal country when there is a permanent multiple state of emergency in the country since the sixties – symptomatic of the systematic erosion of democratic values and human rights in the country, resulting in the multiple crisis of the rule of law and public confidence in the independence, professionalism and integrity of key national institutions.
There are numerous instances why Malaysia is not a normal country in all aspects of national life, for instance the million-strong best and brighest of Malaysian talents who have migrated overseas and the rampant abuses of power as in the Cattle Condominium scandal where a Minister's family could easily get RM250 million public funds as a soft loan misused to buy two luxury condominiums while the ordinary cattle breeders are denied similar help.
Malaysia must make valiant efforts to become a normal country.
The Prime Minister has made many grandiloquent promises of government transformation, economic transformation and now political transformation – which have so far been mostly empty slogans.
The revocation of the long-overdue Emergency Proclamations will not open a new page of political transformation and democratisation in Malaysia.
What is needed is a full blueprint for democratisation and political transformation, as in the overhaul of the arsenal of draconian laws like the Internal Security Act, Police Act, Printing Presses and Publications Act, Official Secrets Act, Sedition Act and a whole new mindset of democratic values and commitment by the Najib administration.
Why for instance has the Peaceful Assembly Bill presented by the government attracted such widespread opposition and protest.
The Peaceful Assembly Bill is patterned after the Queensland Peaceful Assembly Act 1992 in many parts, but the big difference is that the Queensland Assembly Act clearly facilitates and promotes the right to freedom of assembly while the Peaceful Assembly Bill tabled in this House has the very opposite effect giving the police arbitrary powers to restrict the right to freedom of assembly as in the onerous and unreasonable 30-day notice for an assembly, the ban on “street protests”, the host of restrictions which could be imposed by the police for any assembly at a time when the public have no confidence in the independence and professionalism of the police as it has no concept of “democratic policing” but is still obsessed with “upholding the regime” as its primary task.
I fully agree with the Parliamentary Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim that the Peaceful Assembly Bill should be withdrawn, or at the very least, when the Prime Minister moves the second reading of the bill later today, he should refer the bill to a Parliamentary Select Committee for full consultation of all stakeholders who have vested interest in the proposed legislation.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh TimorTimor