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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 24. 26th September 1973

Right-wing crash in MSA elections

page 3

Right-wing crash in MSA elections

The political struggle among Malaysian students on campus reached a high point on Saturday when right-wing forces were decisively [unclear: de-eated] in an attempt to regain control over the Malaysian Students' Association (MSA).

The Annual General Meeting of MSA was one of the liveliest and most chaotic meetings on campus this year. The lights were switched on and off, paper darts of meeting papers were [unclear: thrown] round the room and frequent booings [unclear: and] procedural wrangles interrupted the [unclear: debates]. But underneath the childish atmosphere [unclear: an] intensive political battle was fought out as the retiring president of MSA, Steven Oh was forced by the right-wingers to defend almost all his executive's actions over the last year.

MSA was set up four years ago as a breakaway group from the Malaysia-Singapore Students' Association. As Krishna Menon shows in an article in this issue there is a lot of evidence that this move was the result of pressure from the Malaysian High Commission, aimed at strengthening the links between the High Commission and Malaysian students.

For most of its existence MSA has been con trolled by right-wing Malaysian students who have tried to get all other Malaysian students to join it. Because ordinary membership of MSA has been restricted to Malaysians the association has not been affiliated to VUWSA.

Last year MSA moved slightly away from the right with the election of Steven Oh and his supporters to the association's committee. Stephen Oh showed that his frequent statements that MSA was an independent body were more than phrase-mongering when he criticised the Malaysian High Commissioner's allegations about "communist subversion" of Malaysian students in New Zealand.

In his presidential report to the AGM Steven Oh repeated this criticism and stated bluntly that "the sincerity of the Alliance Party (which governs Malaysia) can be manifested only by its willingness to listen to the Malaysian people and not to just its supporters." The right-wingers questioned him closely about these remarks. What was wrong with the High Commissioner telling students not to take part in communist activities, asked Michael Lim, a former president of MSA. The High Commissioner didn't attack MSA, said Thomas Iboh, one of the leaders of the right-wing group standing for the MSA committee and a former secretary of the association. "All he did was to express his concern."

Steven Oh stood his ground and refused to let his opponents force him to take an anti government position. He repeated time and again that he was concerned about the High Commissioner attempting to infringe students' rights of free speech and action. The majority of students present strongly supported this stand. They rejected an attempt by Thomas Iboh to water down the critisim of De Silva and howled down another member who claimed that the High Commission was the guardian of Malaysian students.

One of the most surprising decisions of the meeting came during discussion of the association's finances. A motion to donate $200 to the Vietnam Aid Appeal was carried with over whelming support despite Thomas Iboh's cry that it meant giving money to the 'Viet Cong'. A furious debate about constitutional law followed when Michael Lim attempted to make the resolution binding on the incoming committee.

The question of the association's links with the High Commission was again brought up during the discussion on finance, when right-wingers attacked the committee for receiving assistance from High Commission staff in the preparations for MSA's recent ball. Steven Oh admitted that the High Commissioner had donated $100 to pay for the band and that members of the High Commission staff had helped with the cooking. Replying to Michael Lim's claim that it wasn't proper for the association to censure the High Commission after asking for its help, and another suggestion that the MSA Ball should have been called the High Commission Ball, Steven Oh said the High Commission staff had acted as individuals not as representatives of the Malaysian Government.

Although the right-wingers dominated most of the meeting they lost heavily in the elections for the MSA committee. A group of independents, supported by Steven Oh, were elected to every position they stood for, and only three candidates on the right-wing ticket were successful (they were elected unopposed). In the election for president Ken Lim got 121 votes (60% of the members present) to David Cheung's 53 (about 25%). Ken Lim promised that MSA would resist political interference from the High Commission (or anyone else), that it would not try to dissolve MSSA, and that it would immediately seek affiliation to VUWSA. To this end the meeting amended the MSA Constitution to remove a clause which discriminated against non-Malaysian members.

When the Malaysian High Commissioner made his outburst about "communist subversion" of Malaysian students in New Zealand he no doubt expected that he would frighten the majority of them into obediently toeing their government's line. It is ironic that the after- math of the controversy De Silva created should see the liberals firmly in control of both MSA and MSSA.