Abdullah cannot do better than to revive the ABC slogan of “clean, efficient and trustworthy” government which was first used by Mahathir when he became Prime Minister in 1981 but had been forgotten for two decades

 launching of the DAP web radio
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Sunday): We are launching  the DAP web radio on the occasion of the 2003 World Press Freedom Day as one of the objectives of the United Nations in declaring the World Press Freedom Day is  to encourage and develop initiatives in favour of press freedom. 

The Malaysian Constitution and the Rukunegara commit Malaysia to a democratic way of life. But for decades, Malaysians have been denied the lifeblood of a meaningful democracy – a  free, independent and vibrant press.

Do you know that the New York-based Freedom House, in its latest survey of 193 countries  entitled  Freedom of the Press 2003  rated Malaysia “Not Free” among the 40 countries with  the world’s worst press freedom record? 

Do you know that the Paris-based  Reporters Without Borders ranked Malaysia 110th out of 139 nations in its first worldwide index of press freedom, behind most Southeast Asian countries and in the company of African  and Asian dictatorships like Zimbabwe, Libya,  Burma and North Korea? 

And do you know that our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has appeared every year  in the international  roll of dishonour as “Enemies of Press Freedom”?  Yesterday, Dr. Mahathir was again named by the Paris-based  Reporters Without Borders in its latest list of  42 “Predators of Press Freedom”, in the company of Robert Mugabe, King Jong-iL,Jiang Zemin,  Fidel Castro and Ariel Sharon. 

If you know, then you belong to a select few, as the overwhelming majority of Malaysians do not know. They are not mentioned in any mainstream media -  newspapers, radio or television.  In Malaysia,  the fundamental human rights of speech, expression, opinion and information are observed in the breach. 

Malaysians do not know that the national education system is undergoing a  far-reaching revamp – who are  responsible for it or  how it is faring. The people do not know the number of cases and deaths in the dengue epidemic last year and this year, which is  why the Health Ministry suffers from a serious credibility problem in its handling of the   new killer SARS virus  outbreak. 

The 10.3 million Employees Provident Fund contributors do not know why EPF has declared the lowest dividend of 4.25 per cent for last year, when the country has registered a higher economic growth than 2001, why EPF had to set aside over RM2 billion for “paper losses” in equity last year which could have been used to declare at least 5.43 per cent dividend  – and whether the EPF is still sitting on over RM10 billion “paper losses” and  even lower EPF dividends in coming years.

When there is no right to information and  no press freedom, and where the cult of secrecy reigns supreme,  there can be no accountability, transparency,  good governance or a clean and honest administration. 

What will be his slogan when Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi takes over as the fifth Prime Minister from Dr. Mahathir in five months time? 

Abdullah cannot do better than to revive the ABC slogan of “clean, efficient and trustworthy” administration and an open and accountable government  which were  first used by Dr. Mahathir when he became Prime Minister in 1981 but which  had been totally forgotten in  the past  two decades. 

The DAP web radio is a small contribution towards expanding the democratic space to move Malaysia from half-light to full light of democracy, but it can be no substitute for freedom of the press and broadcasting, including the opening of the airwaves to the Opposition as  allowing the Opposition and NGOs to have their own broadcasting channels and the enactment of a Freedom of Information Act.   

The Indonesian Parliament has made a commitment to adopt a Freedom of Information law, but there are no signs of such a development in Malaysia. Is this because, as the Deputy Information Minister said a few days ago, Malaysians are more qualified to address the issues of  press freedom because we have “full stomachs” unlike the Indonesians and Filipinos who “don’t even have enough to fill the stomachs”? 

The next general election, which may be held at the end of this year, will be a critical and crucial one as it will decide whether Malaysia can make a new start to restore justice, freedom, democracy and good governance. 

As the next Parliament will be increased to  219 constituencies, the Opposition must collectively win at least 74 parliamentary seats to take the first step to crush  the political hegemony of Barisan Nasional government  by ending its two-thirds parliamentary  majority and  stranglehold   to unleash the suppressed creative energies of the people.  

It may seem  quite a tall order, as at present there are only 42 Opposition MPs in Parliament, but it is  achievable.  DAP must aim at the next general election to get 25 to 30  DAP MPs elected, as our contribution to achieve the historic first in Malaysia to end  the Barisan Nasional’s unbroken two-thirds parliamentary majority – and to make a clean, honest and accountable government meaningful and exciting again in Malaysian politics.

Such a DAP parliamentary target is also of  paramount importance  to achieve the other great objective in the next general election – to defend the 46-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone in the Merdeka Constitution, the social contract and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive Malaysia with Islam as the official religion but Malaysia is not an Islamic State, whether ala-UMNO or ala-PAS.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman