President Speech (E) 2016

POLICY ADDRESS OF SDR. MAH SIEW KEONG

NATIONAL PRESIDENT OF PARTI GERAKAN RAKYAT MALAYSIA (GERAKAN)

45th NATIONAL DELEGATES’ CONFERENCE 2016

SUNDAY, 9TH OCTOBER 2016

 

I would like to express our deepest gratitude to the attendants and to welcome you to our 45th National Delegates Conference (NDC).We are also touched by the presence of our comrades from Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties, representatives from foreign missions, NGOs, and friends of the media.I welcome all delegates present and thank all those who have devoted themselves in ensuring the success of this NDC.

A.        CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

A1.      In my address last year, I spoke about coping in a world in turmoil. In the past one year, the challenges have become even more daunting. We are confronted by slowing global economic growth, dip in the prices of commodities, terrorist attacks in Asia, Europe and even the US, the rise of racial and religious intolerance and worsening income inequality. China is also experiencing a slowdown in its economic growth. In the European Union (EU), the debt crisis continues, unemployment remains high, investment is low. The growth rate is projected to dip to 1.6% and member states are still grappling on the way forward.

A2.      Malaysia is not insulated from all these crises and challenges because we are an open economy and an open society closely interconnected to the world with advances in communication and transportation. However, we continue to enjoy a healthy economic growth of 4.1% in the 1st half of 2016. We continue to maintain a trade surplus despite slowing economic growth in our major trading partners. Despite the drop in government revenue we have maintained the fiscal deficit at 3.1% of gross domestic product (GDP). All these reinforced the confidence of the markets in the government’s management of the economy.

A3.      Malaysia has also been shielded from the attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Daesh). Daesh has no respect for our way of life, beliefs and values and they do not represent Islam. However, we must still take this threat seriously. The police have scuttled a number of planned attacks and we owe them gratitude for keeping us safe. Malaysia will continue to prosper because of sound and focused policymaking coupled with the commitment of all Malaysians to ensure our nation remain peaceful and harmonious.

A4.      Regional cooperation in ASEAN and the East Asia Community continues to gain momentum. This is in contrast with the trend in Europe and the USA where extreme right wing movements have gained a foothold for the first time since World War II. The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, driven by the fears of immigration, and the rise of Donald Trump in the USA poses challenges to policy makers who have long championed world trade, regional cooperation, openness and tolerance.

A5.     The growing voices of discord in the so-called more matured democracies and with all political forces, both left and right, moving in centrifugal directions. It is evident that these countries have failed to embrace multiculturalism in a sustainable way unlike Malaysia.

A6.      Opportunities continue to abound for Malaysia and Malaysians because the Barisan Nasional (BN) concept of power sharing and inclusiveness based on moderation remains the best formula for Malaysia. This has been proven to be the solid basis for our growth as a nation so far. Tun Tan Siew Sin and Tun Sambathan, despite being members of minority communities, were holding important posts in our nation’s Cabinet in the 50s and 60s before African Americans in the USA could vote or the Cabinets of Australia, the United Kingdom or Canada had any minority representation. It is time our past record and experiences of harmony in diversity be further enhanced and remain as a model for the world. It is also about time for the West to adopt a look east policy.

B.       MODERATION: DEEDS MORE THAN WORDS

B1.      As the world battles extremism from Daesh and the rise of far-right nationalist parties in Europe, the US and elsewhere, the need for moderation has never been more pivotal. Moderation may sound boring but it is the only way we can survive in the multipolar and multicultural world.

B2.      Gerakan remains steadfast that the implementation of Islamic Criminal Law or Hudud must cannot and must not be part of BN’s agenda. Malaysia will not be able to sustain itself as a united, progressive and modern nation if we have a dual criminal justice system. The division between civil and Islamic law was clear at the time for Independence and must remain so. History reminds us that when religion and politics are mixed together to engender temporary populism, it is a project that is doomed to fail with debilitating consequences.

B3.      Amendments to the Syariah Courts (Jurisdiction) Act 1965 [Act 355] must not be used as a backdoor attempt to implement Islamic criminal law. PAS must be frank, open and sincere and come clean on its attempt to amend Act 355. The amendments of Act 355 proposed by PAS lack clarify and confer near unlimited power of sentencing  and this opens it to abuse. I want to reiterate that we respect Islam as the religion of the Federation but it is also the constitutional duty of all Malaysians to respect the freedom of religion.

B4.      Furthermore, the police must take action against all those who utter insensitive remarks even though they are our supporters, because the rule of law can function only if there is equal application of the law. Anyone who says anything, which can stir up feelings of ill will, must face the full force of the law.

B5.      In this context, I call on all political parties, friends and foes alike, to join us in our movement for a Moderate Malaysia. In the run up to the National Day and Malaysia Day celebrations, Gerakan launched a number of initiatives to encourage greater interaction amongst all ethnic groups. We encouraged the setting up of Facebook groups, Whatsapp and Wechat chat groups of various races, forums and discussions; so that we can learn more about one another and appreciate one another. The work of building and sustaining a united Malaysian nation is the full-time commitment of every Malaysian. We have to practice moderation at home, in the neighborhood, in schools, in the work place, in political parties (a’la Churchill) and in civil society. Malaysia needs more deeds than words when it comes to moderation.

C.       BUDGET 2017: A PEOPLE’S BUDGET  

C1.    Gerakan has made a number of recommendations for Budget 2017. We understand that the government’s revenue base has shrunk due to the drop in oil prices. Hence, Gerakan wholeheartedly supports the government’s efforts to consolidate and optimize government spending but cutting wastage and embracing technology. This will serve us well in the long run.

C2.      Gerakan calls for the formation of a National Scholarship to be financed by raising taxes by 1% on all Malaysians earning more than RM 1 million and companies with revenue of more than RM 300 million. This new National Scholarship must be purely based on merit. We must do all that we can to retain the talent that we have. Recipients of this scholarship must return to serve the government for ten (10) years and they will be the next generation of political, economic and social leaders.

C3.      In order to increase liquidity in the financial system, I believe the government should encourage Malaysians with funds overseas to repatriate their money for investment and consumption and pay a flat tax of only 10%. The increased liquidity generated by this amnesty program will allow banks to offer more loans especially to homebuyers.

D.       BARISAN NASIONAL: A REFORMIST COALITION THAT NEEDS FURTHER REFORM

D1.      The last two years has been difficult for BN. Friends have become foes. Those we trusted with power and reposed our faith in turned out be wolves in sheep’s clothing. Those we once supported are undermining the Prime Minister and government.

D2.      But, now that the drag on BN’s reformist agenda has exited BN, the time has come for us to accelerate our agenda of reform to ensure Malaysia remains on the right footing as we embrace the challenges of the next 50 years. We must not fear big and bold changes because the people will support us if we make the right decisions.

D3.      I believe the first phase of the social, political, economic and government transformation programmes have already wielded encouraging results. Our economy continues to grow despite the global slowdown. Poverty has been reduced. We have introduced a minimum wage and constructed a viable social safety net. We have improved urban public transportation with the MRT and LRT extension. We have brought good roads, water, electricity and housing to the rural areas. Foreign investment remains strong and investors have confidence in our management of the country.

D4.      But beyond all of these, after almost 60 years, BN must have a proper think on how it wishes to be relevant for the next 50 years. One lesson we in Gerakan have painfully learnt to support us is that resting or relying on past successes will not persuade the electorate as they become more informed and more demanding on the government. The rhetoric of the past will no longer cut it as ethnic insecurities give way to greater concerns over livelihood and sustainability. As such, we must construct a new vision for Malaysia.

D5.      A vision that will be vibrant, progressive and ambitious. A vision that will burnish the reformist credentials of BN and give people confidence that our best days have yet to come. In this vision all Malaysians must have a part so we can collectively build a future that we will share together. So I call on the government to form the National Consultative Council comprising of experts from politics, academia, government, social organizations and the corporate sector to sit down and draft this new charter. It is time we thrash out our differences sincerely and seriously building on commonalities and converting our diversity into real strength.

D6.      Also, we need to have urgent consultation on the consolidation of BN. We must have a frank debate on whether the race-based political model is still relevant after 59 years. Ethnic differences must yield to national aspirations. Malaysian nationalism is the future for Malaysia, not ethnocentrism. There are the hard truths that we must grapple with as we seek to ensure our continued political relevance now and in the future.   

E.       PAKATAN HARAPAN RAKYAT: SELLING FALSE HOPES LEADING TO FAILURE

E1.      Despite making valiant calls for “Competency, Accountability and Transparency” or “CAT”, the DAP-led state government of Penang’s second term has been synonymous with scandals and a clear governance deficit. From balding hills to dodgy tunnels, Penang is witnessing a steady decline under the aegis of Lim Guan Eng. House prices are so high the average Penangite can no longer own a home. Environmental degradation due to wanton development and unbridled reclamation is ruining the flora and fauna, threatening Penang as a mainstay tourist attraction. Many electronic factories have closed shop and moved elsewhere or reduced production because Penang is not the easy place to do business as it once was.

E2.      Penang is no longer the shinning pearl of the orient. Gurney drive is disappearing while the hills of Penang are being wantonly desecrated. The previous Gerakan-led state government ensured sustainable development in Penang and our great successes include ensuring the push towards affordable housing, the UNESCO World Heritage listing of Georgetown and high tech industries. CAT has been completely shattered by the actions of DAP’s own leaders and not by any extraneous force. Today, Penang is much worse off.

E3.      In Selangor, highways are being built at the expense of established communities and cutting through a forest reserve. Garbage collection and sanitation have deteriorated, all these point to an overall drop in the quality of life for the people. Gerakan has not been silent. We have been at the forefront in criticizing the state governments of Penang and Selangor. Our leaders have been slapped with lawsuits but I assure you we will not be cowed. We will speak without fear or favour in the interest of the Rakyat.

E4.      But as I said earlier, although we take pride in our achievements, we cannot rest on past glory. We must construct a new narrative. Gerakan as the leading party in BN Penang will continue to champion the causes of the rakyat but at the same time introduce an alternative narrative that will focus on sustainable development, education and innovation, affordable housing, environmental protection and youth empowerment. This will be the key thrust of our strategy in Penang, towards building a brighter future for the people of Penang.

F.       THE 14TH GENERAL ELECTION: GERAKAN’S SEMINAL MOMENT

 

F1.      The 12th and 13th General Elections were very tough for Gerakan. We lost our traditional power base of Penang and most of our seats elsewhere. Our leaders had to readjust themselves to being in opposition in Penang and Selangor. It has been very difficult, as it required a lot of patience, understanding and fortitude. But it is a wake up call. We lost because we were out of touch and we did not make the right choices and noises. Furthermore, we allowed ourselves to be trapped by the negative and divisive propaganda of the opposition parties.

F2.      If there were one lesson from the 12th General Elections that we have learnt, our good work alone would not convince the people. We need a good and effective communication strategy especially in this day and age where social media has transformed the flow of information.

F3.      As such, in preparation for the 14th General Election will be Gerakan’s seminal moment. We cannot afford the repeat of the huge losses of the 12th and 13th General Election. We must fight back with every ounce of energy and passion. We must champion the causes of the people and offer ourselves as the alternative to the Pakatan Harapan Rakyat especially in Penang.

F4.      Gerakan was the first party to identify its candidates three years before the due date of the next general election. My reason for doing so is because we need to be prepared in advance and the candidates must familiarize themselves with their constituents. As usual, there will be those who seek to lobby or cause mayhem because they are not chosen. Then it is better that we sort it out early, so that we do not jeopardize our chances just before and during the election campaign.

F5.      All the potential candidates were given briefing and guidelines on how to organise their campaign teams, conduct analysis on their respective constituencies and build up their support base on the ground. I have given a strong directive to all of them to get ready in the next three to six months. Hence, I urge all of you to work hard, to do your very best and to show sincerity and commitment. You will be assessed periodically from now on. Those who failed to perform will be dropped.

F6.      I urge party members at all levels to give support to our potential candidates. I also appeal to the people to give Gerakan a chance. In Penang and Selangor, Gerakan in the opposition pledges to provide the checks and balances in and outside of the legislative assemblies. In the Federal Government and the other states, we pledge to play our positive, pro-active and effective roles to serve the people through the government, as we have done in the past.

G.       CONCLUSION

 

G1.      Dear Saudara-Saudari, I have been in politics for 21 years. The Prussian statesman Bismark said, “Politics is the art of the possible and the next probable.” He meant that anything could happen in politics. But in Gerakan, we have always practiced principled politics anchored on the values of justice, equity, fairness and mutual respect.

G2.      Gerakan is not a political party in the conventional sense but we are a movement of the people. In two (2) years, we will celebrate our Golden Jubilee (50th Anniversary) and I am proud we have a lot to show the people. We have contributed to Malaysia’s development story, especially in Penang. At the national level, the late Tun Lim Keng Yaik was the longest serving Minister of Primary Industries. I now serve as the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities and it is a homecoming. Gerakan also contributed to the establishment on twinning programs for colleges and assisted with the enactment of the Education Act 1996 that has protected vernacular education.

G3.     Yes, it is true we have done our best and achieved quite a lot. But the reality of politics is that there are always ups and downs. There are good times and bad times. So we have to renew ourselves and remain committed to the founding ideals of the party. We cannot waver in adversity and have to handle and overcome the challenges we face.

G4.     But we must also think long and hard about the future of our party. The youth and wanita wings have to recruit more members and widen our membership base. We will form strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations and continue to push for a moderate Malaysia.

G5.     We must also differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Gerakan is a solution-based party. We have always been at the forefront in sharing our ideas on political funding reform, the budget and economy, education and innovation and the law and human rights. At times we do not get all that we fight for but politics is also an exercise of compromise. Working together in the national interest is an honour and a duty.

G6.      As I end my policy address, I once again thank the Prime Minister for his special video-message and all of you for joining us today for your continued support and understanding. To all the Gerakanists, stand tall and proud, always remember we are a party of good people doing our best for the Malaysia we love unconditionally. And to all Malaysians, let us unite for progress and prosperity, for a moderate and modern Malaysia.

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