Is the jailing of former Prime Minister Najib Razak the tipping point for the Malays, who form the dominant majority in Malaysia, to realise that we must all become Malaysians First and not Malay first, Chinese first, Indian First, Kadazan first or Iban first if Malaysia is to succeed as a world-class great nation?

Since the jailing of Najib Razak for the monstrous mega 1MDB financial scandal with the dismissal of his appeal by the Federal Court on 23rd August 2022, I have been wrestling with the question:

Whether the jailing of former Prime Minister Najib Razak is the tipping point for Malays in the country, who form the dominant majority in Malaysia, to realise that we must all become Malaysian First, and not Malay first, Chinese first, Indian first, Kadazan first or Iban first if Malaysia is to succeed as a world-class great nation?

The DAP has two tasks, firstly, to convince the non-Malays in Malaysia to be Malaysian First – not to surrender their ethnic and cultural identities, but to be Malaysian First and Chinese, Indian. Kadazan or Iban second. This commitment can revert back from Malaysian First to Chinese First, Indian First, Kadazan First or Iban First and it essential that this commitment of Malaysian First remain unchanged and unswerving.

But this is inadequate or insufficient if we cannot persuade the Malays, who enjoy dominant majority, to be Malaysian First.

Then we come to the second task, to convince the Malays in the country to be Malaysian First and Malay second.

We have succeeded in the first task but so far failed in the second task.

“Tipping point” has been defined as “the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change” or “ a time during an activity or process when an important decision has to be made or when a situation changes completely”.

It is too early to say whether Najib’s jailing is the “tipping point”, but there is no doubt that after 30 months of black despair and hopelessness that Malaysia can ever change for the better, the jailing of Najib Razak and the conviction of Rosmah Mansor have given Malaysians a new hope as they see light at the end of the tunnel.

It is now possible to believe that Malaysia can be saved from becoming a kleptocracy, kakistocracy, a rogue and failed state if we achieve a reset of our nation-building principles and policies as set out in the Malaysian Constitution and Rukun Negara namely constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, separation of powers, rule of law, good governance, public integrity, meritocracy, respect for human rights and national unity from our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural diversity where there are no first-class and second-class citizens whether based on race, religion or region.

In the early years of nationhood, Malaysia nearly became a Tiger economy. Since then, we have been losing out to one nation after another – whether Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong or Vietnam.

From all indications, we are slated to lose out to more countries, with China about to overtake Malaysia in the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) before the end of this decade, and unless we quickly buck up and declare an unremitting war against corruption, Malaysia is also likely to lose out to India and Indonesia in future TI CPIs.

DAP, with the Malaysian Malaysia objective, has always been a Malaysian First political party. This does not mean that the Malays, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan and the Iban ethnic groups give up their ethnic and cultural identities, but while preserving our ethnic and cultural ties and identities, we recognise we have a common and overarching identity and bond among the different ethnic groups as Malaysians.

In the early years of the DAP, we rejected the cultural policy of assimilation and fought for an integration policy as our diversity of races, languages, religions and cultures should be a strength rather than a weakness.

Although the UMNO government had openly given up the assimilation policy in the nineties, there are pockets of extremists who have not given up the assimilation objective.

I recently came into possession of a declassified document which showed that DAP leaders had been consistent and loyal to their ideals and beliefs.

This was the statement I made to the police while in police custody at the Kuala Selangor Police Station lock-up under the Internal Security Act after I voluntarily flew back to Malaysia on 18th May 1969.

I was asked about my political views and plans and this was what I told the Police in 1969 as stated in this declassified document:

(a) Malaysia is a multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural society and a viable Malaysian nation can only be formed if all the races and groups in the country are given an equal stake under the Malaysian sun.

(b) In a multi-racial society like Malaysia, violence and any ideology of force, as for instance advocated by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM ) can only lead to the disintegration of the country because it quickly degenerates into racial conflict. I therefore deplore force and violence of all forms.

(c) In a multi-racial society, if any racial group feels it is backward, either educationally, economically, culturally, linguistically or politically, then racial antagonism will be created. Every attempt must be made to remove these imbalances between the races and groups.

(d) Poverty is not a communal problem. It is a socio-economic problem. To regard poverty as a racial problem is to increase racial antagonisms in this country.

(e) Democratic socialism can close the gap between the haves and the have-nots of all races.

(f) I want a clean, honest, efficient, incorruptible and effective government.

(g) Only parliamentary democracy can prevent a racial clash. Any other form of government will only lead to racial mistrust.

(h) Communism is unconducive in a multi-racial society like Malaysia.

I was asked by the police about my political beliefs and plans. This is what I said 53 years ago:

(a) Every citizen, regardless of his race, language or religion, regards himself as a Malaysian first and his racial identity secondary;

(b) Malaysians of all races have more in common with one another than with their ‘blood brother’ counterparts be they in China, India or Indonesia. Unless we can achieve this, Malaysia cannot be said to have become “a Nation of Malaysians”.

I said that inside and outside Parliament, my and DAP’s theme would be:

i) all Malaysians must be Malaysian conscious;

ii) to work in unison to make Malaysia an united, harmonious and prosperous nation.

I am now 81 years old. I believe that in the last 53 years since 1969, I have lived by these ideals and commitments. When I contested in five states in Malacca, Selangor, Penang, Perak and Johore in parliamentary elections in the last five decades, it was to advance these political goals and objectives.

When I stood in Tanjong parliamentary seat in 1986, it was to make Penang the frontline state to achieve an united, democratic, free, just and prosperous nation.

I confess that I had not fully realised that this was a political battle which will span several general elections and even generations as it was only in 2008 that we captured Penang State Government.

Tonight, I call on the people of Penang to continue to be in the forefront in the coming decades to make Malaysia a world-class great nation by making everyone in Malaysia, whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans to be Malaysian First and their ethnic and cultural identities second – the recipe for Malaysia to be a world-class great nation.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri