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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 25. 3rd October 1973

Cultural Concerts in Malaya

Cultural Concerts in Malaya

Dear Editors,

De Silva's attack on the Eastern Cultural Concert is only one of the many attempts of the Malaysian Government to suppress the development of Chinese and Indian cultures in Malaysia. I want to report to you and your readers a recent incident that happened on the campus of the University of Malaya, which provides another example of the suppression of other cultures in Malaysia by the Malaysian government and its puppet organisations. The Information was, provided by a friend of mine who studies in the University of Malaya and actively participated in this incident.

The University of Malaya is the largest university in Malaysia and has a student population of more than 10,000. About half of the students are Malays and the other half consists of Chinese and Indian students. The admission system provides a special privilege for Malay students who may be admitted even if they scored poor results in their Higher School Certificate examinations. For the Chinese and Indian students the University sets out a quota system which limits the number of entries each year and in order to qualify they must have gained very good results in Higher School Certificate. As a result competition was very keen among the Chinese and Indian students. Those who are not able to enter may lose their chance of having higher education, or, if their families can afford it, go overseas for further studies.

The Malay students mainly study subjects like arts, islamic studies and a few are studying engineering, science and medicine; while the Chinese and Indians study mainly the latter subjects. Within the campus a student association, which consists of pro-government students, claimed to represent all students. There are other clubs like the Malay Language Club, the Chinese Language Club, the Indian Language Club, Socialist Club, Engineering Club, etc, which represent some factions of the student population. Among these the Malay, Chinese and Indian Clubs are very active in promoting their own cultures. The Chinese Language Club, however, not only promotes the Malaysian Chinese culture but also the cultures of Malays and Indians. This was shown by a number of concerts they put out in various places in Malaya, which reflect the realistic life of the majority of the population, the Malay rice grower and fishermen, the Chinese mining workers and pineapple planters, the Malay, Indian and Chinese rubber tappers, hawkers, construction workers, and harbour and railway workers. In some performances, the Indian Language Club assisted in putting some performances on which reflect their own culture. Because of some extremists, the Malay Language Club does not give a hand.

Probably incensed by the successful performances of the Chinese Language Club the Ministry of Culture directed its agents in the campus student association, to organise a conference on 'National Culture' in order to introduce and implement regulations to limit the activities of Chinese and Indian Language Clubs. Before the student association invited the Malay, Chinese and Indian Language Clubs to participate in the conference the student association, by consulting with the Malay Language Club prefixed the definition and scope of the conference subject. In their view National Culture is Malay Culture, other cultures can only act as subsidiary cultures to promote the Malay culture. What they were interested in at the conference was how to fix rules so that the activities of Chinese and Indian Language Clubs were limited only to promote the 'National Culture'. They then invited the Chinese, Indian and Malay Language Clubs to participate in the conference on July 22 this year. This conspiracy was immediately known by the Chinese and Indian Language Clubs committee members. In order to safeguard their activities from being suppressed by the rulings of this conference the Chinese and Indian Language Clubs refused to participate in this conference and put out a statement that the numbers of student bodies invited to participate in this conference were too few, it was therefore not democratic and that any ruling passed by the conference would not be accepted. The student association ignored their protest and carried out the conference with only the Malay Language Club in participation. Because of this the Chinese and Indian Clubs, with the support of the Engineering Club and Non-hostelite Organisation, staged a demonstration in the campus which consisted of 700 students. They marched towards the conference chamber where the conference was held and successfully shut down the conference which was in progress. When the conference reopened in the afternoon, the four demonstrating student bodies sent delegates to the conference and, with the support of many students, voted down all regulations which were not reasonable.

On July 23 the Malay Language Club staged a counter demonstration and claimed that during the demonstration on the previous day one of the demonstrators had insulted the Malays by shouting "all Malays go back to Kampongs (villages)" and they warned that if the Chinese and Indian Language Clubs did not identify the person who shouted that slogan they would take legal action to sue the clubs for raising a matter which could cause racial disharmony in the country (which is prohibited by the constitution and punishable by life imprisonment). In fact, as my friend told me, the person (an Indian student) who was most wanted only shouted "Menteri Kebudayaan (Minister of Culture) go back to Kampong!" As the back-stage organiser of the "National Culture" conference was the Ministry of Culture the slogan made by this Indian student was most justified. On July 24 the student association organised a general students meeting at Speaker's Corner in the campus, which was attended by 700 to 800 students who supported the Chinese and Indian Clubs stand and roughly similar numbers that supported the Malay Language Club stand. Tension was high at the meeting and violence could have happened at any time. Fortunately the student association president and the presidents of the Chinese and Indian Language Clubs sensed this danger and asked their members to disperse and the meeting was called off. My friend stopped his letter at this point. Probably the matter was still unresolved.

It appears to me that racial tension is still high even five years after the May 13 1969 riot. The ruling government continues to use racial tension to strengthen their rights, political power and to increase the hatred among the Malays, Chinese and Indians so that the people will not be able to unite together to topple the unjustified rules that govern our country. The De Silva affair and the "National Culture' conference were only two examples. In doing so they will remain in control of the capitalist government and increase the wealth of foreign capitalists. This conspiracy will certainly become known by the people and one day the majority of the Malays, Chinese and Indians will unite and stand up to expose this ugly conspiracy.

To end this communication I would like to quote the comment made by the president of the Socialist Club of the University of Malaya, a Malay student, on the "National Culture" conference held in the university. "We middle class members of the society, in fact, have no qualification to talk about "national culture" The true national culture comes from the working masses, comes by evolution and not by resolution. Our present culture is bourgeois and colonial culture."

An Awakened Malaysian