A policy address by MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting at the 51st MCA general assembly. Dewan San Choon, Wisma MCA on Sunday, October 10, 2004 at 9.30 a.m.
ON BEHALF of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), I wish to express my deepest gratitude to YAB Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia and chairman of Barisan Nasional for taking time to open our 51st annual general assembly of the MCA this morning.
I also convey my many thanks to YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Prime Minister and deputy chairman of Barisan Nasional for his presence here with us today.
I also extend my warm welcome to all the heads and leaders of the component parties of the Barisan Nasional, former leaders of the association as well as other leaders of the Chinese organizations from around the country.
This year’s general assembly is a special and historic event for the MCA as this represents YAB Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s maiden opening at a MCA general assembly as Prime Minister as well as chairman of Barisan Nasional.
Also on behalf of the MCA, I take this opportunity to relay our congratulations to YAB Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on their twin victories as Umno president and deputy president, respectively and for securing full mandates in their posts during the latest Umno general assembly.
Exceptional record of Barisan Nasional
Barisan Nasional is currently at one of its strongest positions since its formation in 1974, following an exceptional victory at the last general election where we won an unprecedented 90% out of the total number of seats we contested.
Barisan Nasional secured a resounding victory because the rakyat granted its full confidence in Barisan Nasional as well as the government under your leadership, Mr Prime Minister.
The rakyat places high hopes under your leadership to maintain stability and unity among Malaysians of diverse races. It is also the hope of these Malaysians that the government continues to pursue healthy yet balanced economic developments, and bring about positive changes that would spur our nation to greater heights of success.
In the Budget 2005, the Prime Minister has reinstated a number of crucial initiatives as his objectives. This includes dealing with tough issues such as corruption, reducing bureaucratic red tape, and improving the delivery system.
He also dealt the country’s finances and other resources with sufficiency while emphasising the need to provide for the less fortunate.
He also provided specific implementation strategies for the nation to improve its competitiveness such as building human capital by uplifting educational standards, expanding the services sector, modernising the agriculture sector and, encouraging foreign direct investments.
At the same time, he also gave particular importance to improving the uptake of the k-economy, information and communication technology (ICT) as well as biotechnology.
Mr Prime Minister, I wish to reiterate that these objectives are in line with the objectives of our party MCA thus, having the full support of the leaders of the association as well as the Chinese community at large.
We support and stand with you in all your efforts to fortify unity, prosperity and overall well-being of this nation.
General elections 2004
The performance of the MCA in the last general election was extremely commendable as we won 31 parliamentary seats and 76 state seats.
The MCA also won several Chinese-majority parliamentary seats such as PJ Utara, Kampar by bigger majorities. The MCA was victorious in 48 state seats out of 61 seats the party had contested, due to the large number of Chinese voters in those areas. This represents an overall success rate of 79% in the state seats for the MCA.
Overall, many of the parliamentary and state seats contested by the MCA won by larger majorities, compared with the general election in 1999.
In areas where the MCA did not contest, the party machinery extended its assistance to candidates from other Barisan Nasional component partners in order to secure victory for the coalition.
Although we suffered a few setbacks such as Ipoh Timur and Ipoh Barat parliamentary seats to the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the MCA succeeded in defeating the DAP’s secretary-general, prising the Kota Melaka parliamentary seat away from the DAP - seat that had been in the DAP’s grip for the last 35 years.
Two more by-elections followed the general election in March where we also saw convincing victories by Barisan Nasional candidates within Kuala Berang in Terengganu, and Ba’Kelalan in Sarawak.
This shows the increasing confidence that the people have in the leadership of our Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional.
It is also obvious that the people do not support political ideologies that undermine social stability.
Activities such as holding street demonstrations, conjuring racial hatred and other forms of extremism are not acceptable to the people of Malaysia. The people now believe, without a doubt, that Barisan Nasional can bring them meaningful changes to their lives and the lives of their children.
At the same time, I wish to remind our MPs and MCA leaders that we cannot afford to betray the trust that our voters have given us.
We must appreciate the people’s support and use the mandate they have given us appropriately, or else I assure you, we will suffer the consequences of our waywardness.
Performance of elected representatives
The rakyat of Malaysia, while they entrusted their faith in us to run this country, are not without recourse in ensuring that we deliver our promises.
Voters monitor and evaluate the performance of elected representatives.
Our supporters will also benchmark our honesty as well as our loyalty to them.
As such, the MCA in keeping with the wishes of the Barisan Nasional has made it mandatory for every elected representative to submit a performance report the MCA and Barisan Nasional headquarters on a three-monthly basis.
All elected representatives are also required to submit a five-year service and development program for their respective constituencies. This is to ensure that the services and projects meant for the people’s benefit are implemented, accordingly.
While I understand the numerous sacrifices that all of you have made for the people, I also wish to say again that all party leaders and elected representatives are to work hard and to deal with the people in an honest and sincere manner.
Take on the aspirations of our people as our own; "The wishes of the people are always close to my heart."
I believe that the efforts of the MCA new leadership to reinforce solidarity among party leaders and members have renewed the strength of the MCA at all stages.
I sincerely thank all MCA leaders and members for their cooperation and support.
Unity and stability in the MCA must be given constant priority, for the sake of Barisan Nasional and the Chinese community.
In-fighting in the party will not only weaken the MCA, but impact negatively on Barisan Nasional in general, and the Chinese community in particular.
Therefore, I urge all the leaders and members of the MCA to focus their time and energies only on agendas that are set by the party, the community and the nation and to relegate their own interests to the last.
We are rakyat Malaysia, spirit of Malaysia
Now that I have touched on the importance of solidarity and unity within the party, I wish to elevate the idea to a higher plane that is, national unity.
This brings me to the focus of my message to you today. We are rakyat Malaysia and the spirit of Malaysia. Malaysia is respected because its strength comes from unity in diversity.
History has shown that diversity is no obstacle to national unity. Diversity has enriched our cultures, way of life and forged a plural Malaysian mosaic that is all at once colourful, dynamic and a stunning veritable, "mini Asia".
Our communities participate in the struggle for independence, in economic advancement, social development, as well as collective endeavours in nation-building.
Malaysians’ spontaneous response and display of love for the nation in defence of national sovereignty in the face of external threats pour forth naturally. All these clearly show that Malaysians truly possess the Malaysian spirit.
The majority of Malaysians share the same history and the same sense of belonging of being Malaysians.
Malaysians of various ethnicities have lived, worked and struggled together for a long time.
The hopes that rest in diversity and the rights of all the ethnic groups are enshrined in the Constitution and have been translated into reality.
This historical and time-tested status quo must be maintained undisturbed.
The younger generations of all the communities must fully understand the background of this history and tradition.
Barisan Nasional has ensured that the success of this unique multiracial societal system and structure continue without being threatened by any extremist individual or political party that tries to push extremist ideas to alter the spirit of the Constitution or suggest assimilation through coercion.
The Barisan Nasional coalition practises the concept of power-sharing, consensus, integration of the people of various races through the emphasis of universal values and similarities among the races.
Barisan Nasional’s recipe for success has enabled the Barisan Nasional Government to bring the nation forward successfully.
Malaysians with a genuine Malaysian spirit not only love the country and always come out in defence of the country’s sovereignty and good name but also always adopt a respectful attitude towards this nation’s diverse make-up in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.
Thus, Malaysians who possess a genuine Malaysian spirit are those who are respectful, full of goodwill and insightful, constantly contributing to racial solidarity and national development.
I believe that rakyat Malaysia is Malaysia’s everyday success story. Malaysians are not just a group of people living together through some accident of geography.
What binds us to each other is fundamentally a strong sense of belonging to this country, beyond politics and debate. It is who we are.
We should no longer debate on our differences rather focus on promoting continual harmony. This has been Barisan Nasional’s recipe for success and the very ground that the Coalition has been able to lead this country towards unprecedented progress.
"Rakyat Malaysia" is a humble term that refers to something enormously powerful; the shared experience of being Malaysians, It tells us who we already are, not just who we are trying to be.
The Malaysian Chinese Association can help manifest the rakyat Malaysia concept by encouraging and supporting the following two initiatives.
1) Student integration programme
One of the traditions in our country is that the use and study of mother tongues of the various ethnic groups are allowed and guaranteed under the Constitution.
Because of this, the existence of SJK (C) and SJK (T) has become part of the country’s education system.
The MCA, realising the necessity to integrate pupils of the various races in the primary schools, fully supports the student integration program that is the brainchild of our honourable Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he was Education Minister in the 1980s.
The MCA had decided to pool resources together with the Chinese community and help the Education Ministry make a success of the program throughout the country.
This can be achieved by organising non-academic activities that would encourage pupils of the three streams to interact and mix with one another.
Our honourable Prime Minister already had the vision and foresight when he was Education Minister then.
The MCA felt that this student integration program was practical and would not be costly, as it did not involve building new schools.
The government had only to organise co-curricular activities in existing schools.
The MCA, for its part, would play the role of obtaining the cooperation of parents and organising activities to make the program a success.
2) National service programme
The national service programme that is being implemented as another effort at integrating the youth of all races from all corners of the country has been a success generally and well-received by the majority of the participants.
There have been some teething problems which I am confident will be overcome.
Our Honourable Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Sen Najib Tun Razak as a responsible leader has provided effective leadership in this national programme.
I myself sit in the National Service Cabinet Committee headed by YAB Datuk Seri Najib and have found him to be a Barisan Nasional leader who is fair, thinks strategically and full of vision.
We all know that YAB Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is giving his best to leading this nation and the people towards a future of excellence, glory and distinction.
He is very determined to carry out various action plans effectively. As he has to shoulder so much responsibility, it is vital that the Prime Minister has a Deputy Prime Minister who is capable, supportive and a trusted team player.
YAB Datuk Seri Najib definitely meets all these prerequisites as deputy in the Prime Minister’s team whose objective it is to bring the nation to greater heights of success.
The education agenda is an important and continuing agenda in the MCA’s struggle.
Thus, the MCA has gone to great lengths to help society and the government raise educational standards of the country and to provide more education opportunities to our young generations.
Education plays a very vital role in national development because the quality of our people is a deciding factor in our nation’s continuing success in various fields.
The MCA contributes to this process by helping to produce a young generation of quality by encouraging our young people to pursue their studies up to tertiary level.
The MCA has poured in much energy to establish two institutions of higher learning namely, the Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) and Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman (Ktar).
To date, Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman has produced more than 120,000 graduates.
Most of them are professionals serving in myriad fields in our country.
Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, set up just two years ago, will produce 2,000 graduates next year to meet demands of the marketplace.
The MCA has worked hard to fulfil the pledges of Barisan Nasional to help the development of national-type Chinese primary schools [SRJK (C)], especially pertaining to construction and relocation.
The Chinese community is increasingly supporting Barisan Nasional because the coalition-backed Government has kept its promise to build several new SRJK (C) schools and allowed those that are under-enrolled to move from remote areas to urban centres where the demand for places in such schools is rising.
The aspirations of the Chinese community will continue to be given attention by the MCA and Barisan Nasional.
Once again, on behalf of the MCA, I would like to express our deepest appreciation to our honourable Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and other leaders of the government for their support and assistance rendered to the Chinese community in matters relating to their children’s education.
Before I leave you today, I would like to impress upon you the concept of lifelong learning.
As most of you are aware, the MCA officially launched its "Lifelong Learning" campaign two days ago.
This is in keeping with the efforts of the government to raise the competitiveness of our country and confront the challenges of globalisation.
This campaign is aimed at cultivating a culture of lifelong learning in all strata of society irrespective of their race, age or background.
This campaign will be conducted with the collaboration of various quarters as strategic partners. They include organisations, centres of higher learning, non-government bodies and the general public.
The campaign incorporates various aspects, including encouraging members of society at large to keep on learning, whether through formal or non-formal education and in a wide range of subjects, for instance, human resource and social development; culture, arts and heritage; living skills; with emphasis on positive values and national integration.
(Details of this campaign are found in the text of my speech that I delivered at the launch two days ago and will be distributed to delegates.)
A safe city
I would also like to raise some concerns that I have on some of the social issues affecting our society today.
Crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, snatch theft and drug abuse and moral decay have been spreading, causing concern among numerous quarters, especially parents.
The Government obviously takes a serious view of social problems and has taken measures to address the situation.
The police, despite facing shortages of personnel and equipment, have declared an all-out war against crime. Everyone must support this effort.
The "Safe City" concept, introduced by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is currently implemented in all urban centres by municipal councils, in order to provide wider protection to the people, in particular women.
The MCA feels that social problems will not be checked with legislation and protective measures only. Of importance, too, is balanced spiritual and physical development of the minds and attitudes of the people.
Our increasingly materialistic society has produced a generation whose pursuit of a comfortable and luxurious way of life prompts them to do anything to achieve that objective.
Such an outlook on life is one factor contributing to social problems. Parents, for their part, must instil positive values in their children so that they will hold to the right philosophy on life.
The causes of social problems have a definitely clear link to family background.
An individual brought up in an environment filled with negative influences will likely create problems for society.
The family institution, as the foundation of a nation, must be strengthened to help the young generation ward off negative elements.
2004 looks like a bounty year for all Malaysians, having emerged from the effects of the Iraq war and SARS in 2003.
The country is projected to chalk up an estimated 7.1% gross domestic product (GDP) growth by the end of the year.
Our growth has largely been balanced and broad based, boosted by a recovery in the world economy, higher commodity prices and windfall gains for Malaysia from higher oil prices.
These favourable economic conditions have helped push unemployment down to around 3.5%.
Per capita national incomes improved by 12% from RM14,343 in 2003 to RM16,098 in 2004.
It is also encouraging to see that our socio-economic indicators are reflecting better living standards and improved quality of life for Malaysians.
Our overall poverty rate has declined to 5.1% while our life expectancy has increased to 73 years, and the literacy rate now stands at 94.1%.
Last month, our honourable Prime Minister and Finance Minister presented the Budget 2005.
In it, he outlined his vision, plans and implementation strategies that would help prepare our nation for the new millennia.
He emphasised the need for a strong government that is built on efficiency and competitiveness.
He also stressed the need to push our country to a higher value-added economy while nurturing a healthy, confident, well-educated yet adaptable workforce that can take on the challenges of globalisation.
While the Government works out the plans and directions, it is the participation and efforts of all Malaysians that will eventually make these achievements a reality.
In 2003, our Federal Government deficit was 5.3%.
This is expected to narrow to 4.5% in 2004 and further compressed to 3.8% in 2005.
Although our deficits are entirely financed domestically, our Government is targeting at reducing public sector investment share of GDP from 18.4% in 2003 to 16.1% in 2004, and a further 13.9% in 2005.
This is so to allow private sector investment to flourish without being "crowded out" by the public sector.
We feel that Malaysian companies have long become too dependent on government contracts.
This trend cannot continue without putting our economy at risk of being overwhelmed by the public sector.
Our companies are beginning to profit from prudent investment. Painful lessons learnt from the last economic crisis should already forewarn us of the perils of "get-rich-quick" investment philosophies.
I would like to urge Malaysian Chinese enterprises to venture into more strategic joint efforts with non-Chinese partners to penetrate international markets in China, India, Indonesia, the Arab countries and West Asia by taking advantage of what we already possess.
This can be achieved because we are rakyat Malaysia, who possess various languages and wide ranging knowledge due to our diverse cultures/religions.
The honourable Prime Minister has set out an unambiguous manifesto for all Malaysians.
Malaysia will become a more open and liberalised economy.
It is also clear that it will be an economy that is driven principally by the private sector.
The role of the Government is only to ensure that a stable business environment is maintained and its delivery system is credible and efficient.
At the same time, the Government also recognises that Malaysia is a small country and, hence, needs provide help to smaller companies and communities in order to cope with the rapidly changing environment.
A national council for small-and-medium enterprises (SME) development has been established to coordinate overall SME development programmes.
As outlined in Budget 2005, the Small-And-Medium Industry Fund 2 will be increased by RM1.5bil to RM4.5bil while the New Entrepreneur Fund 2 will also be increased from RM550mil to RM2bil.
The Budget also made provisions to enhance our local companies in the area of marketing and promotional capabilities by providing a range of incentives.
I strongly encourage companies to explore the facilities made available by the government for SMEs.
The revival of the agriculture sector is another important initiative undertaken by the Malaysian Government.
Although Malaysia is recognised as an efficient producer of several agricultural commodities, the potential for food production has yet to be fully exploited.
Special incentives and grants have also been allocated for agriculture projects, particularly those in the smallholdings.
At this point I would also like to raise a point that the agriculture sector will only expand if adequate loan facilities are made available to this sector.
By and large, banks have not taken in the Government’s initiatives to modernise the agriculture sector. Nor are they supportive of the k-economy in terms of funding.
Banks need to diversify their lending base in general, which is currently almost exclusively centred on the property.
Banks will need to play a more meaningful role in broadening our economic base and at the same time, to help the various sectors to meet global demands.
The global economy compels the Government to use new approaches and adjust its policies so that the nation may be in a better position to compete and remain relevant.
Globalisation and its attendant challenges require all Malaysians to change their mindsets and do everything possible to help their nation to stay ahead.
In globalisation and the advent of the k-economy are challenges that must be met head-on by all Malaysians.
It is my hope that we make these achievements as a group, as a nation, as rakyat Malaysia, in the spirit of Malaysia.
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