Wealth Creation And Wealth Distribution Are Just As Important As Democracy And Social Justice

Opening Speech
During The DAP National Leadership Strategy Conference
Lim Guan Eng

(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): We gather here today to set out the framework of ideas that are compatible with our ideals for the next three years. The timing is appropriate as DAP prepares to celebrate our 40th anniversary next year. 

For nearly 40 years, DAP has stood almost alone in the forefront promoting and defending democracy, freedom, human rights and public accountability. DAP has burnt brightest with our willingness to apply the same standards we demand and forgo our personal liberties to uphold our principles.  

Our steadfastness and commitment to these values were rewarded by our selection as the largest parliamentary opposition for 31 out of 39 years of political existence. We continue the battle this year with our Restore Local Government Elections Campaign under Sdr Tan Kok Wai to revive grassroots democracy and return power to the people.  

Even though this latest campaign for democracy has attracted much interest and support from many sections of the public, we can not afford to remain complacent. We must assess our past failures and successes to plan our way forward. 

In the past, the accent has always been primarily focused on political and social rights. Such focus was in accordance with the contemporary climate where political ideology was the main engine of nation-building. In short, every issue was subsumed to politics. Political rights, freedoms and democracy were the dominant issues, especially in relation to educational and economic opportunities forcibly curtailed by the government.  

When economic issues were addressed, it was always in relation to these restricted opportunities and how corruption caused losses to the nation. The impregnable DAP urban fortresses and expanding electoral gains made by DAP up to the 1990 general elections, when DAP almost captured Penang with 14 state seats, testifies to the people’s thirst for social justice and freedom.  

Times have changed. Now nearly everything is driven by economic considerations and pragmatic applications that results in wealth creation. Even a communist country such as China or Vietnam is subject to this global trend.  But this does not mean that social justice and democracy are no longer important. All forms of religious and racial extremism that seeks to exclude rather than include are rejected.  

The right to mother-tongue education and discriminatory policies that divide Malaysians against Malaysians are relevant issues that still matter today. Witness how unhappy the Chinese community was against the Prime Minister for saying that building more Chinese primary schools was not in the national interest. The Chinese community was unhappy because it felt betrayed after supporting him during the 2004 general elections. 

Equally important as democracy and social justice are wealth creation, wealth distribution and its benefits. Only political parties that can articulate the aspirations of the people towards wealth creation and a better life has a chance of getting their support.  

For that reason curbing corruption and the need to establish accountability and transparency in our financial mechanism to reduce economic losses have assumed greater significance in our country’s economic management. Failing to address “pocket-book” issues that affect the public’s livelihood is no longer politically acceptable.  

Pocket-book issues do not relate only to an average Malaysian’s wages and expenses but also his/her economic expectations of a better or worse future. Economic management and competence are the key requirements. Whether it is minimum wage, educational and health care costs, protection of consumer rights or environment, DAP leaders must continue to expose financial mismanagement, abuses of power or corruption whether in corporate or government sector. 

The public has developed an interest in economic issues ranging from ringgit peg to the dismal performance of the EPF as compared to Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera(LTAT). If LTAT can declare a dividend and bonus of 15.75%, why is it that EPF declared only a 4.75% dividend for the year 2004? In 2003 when the economic growth was 5.3%, EPF declared a dividend of 4.5%. Something must be very wrong when in 2004 the economy grew by 7.2%, an extra 2%, but EPF declared a dividend of 4.75%, only an additional 0.25%.   

There must be equal opportunities in education and employment to face the challenges of globalization. Malaysians must be encouraged and rewarded for hard work. Unless we are good enough we will not be able to compete internationally. We must liberate human resources and potential – for all people, not just a privileged few. Human resources, more so than natural resources, is the nation’s key both in economic and social progress.   

The people should therefore judge the government’s economic performance in terms of competency and management, not on whether, “Are we better off now than before?”. But on the real question, “Should we not be much better off than we are now if the government was clean and competent” 

To succeed we need to do three things. One, present our social democratic philosophy of using the democratic power and abilities of all for the good and benefit of each. Two become people-oriented by being familiar with their problems and articulating issues that matter to them. Three improve our organization, finances and attract more new members. 

Let us then offer Malaysians a new and vital commitment to democracy and accountability within the institutions that govern us; a recognition of the multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural society in which we now live; a belief in social equality and freedom through human rights practices and rule of law; and a commitment towards wealth creation and wealth distribution by means of good governance, social justice, public ownership of essential services as well as private enterprise that protects the interests of workers, consumers and small businesses. 


* Lim Guan Eng, DAP Secretary-General