Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 25. 25th September 1974

A telegram from the University of Malaya Students Union: — Hishamuddin Rais Sec-General and One Student Leader Arrested by Police Malaysia 19-9-74 3.15 Am Seek your Support President Umsu

A telegram from the University of Malaya Students Union:

Hishamuddin Rais Sec-General and One Student Leader Arrested by Police Malaysia 19-9-74 3.15 Am Seek your Support President Umsu

Only a few days after Hishammuddin Rais contacted NZUSA to say that he was coming to New Zealand and Australia for a speaking tour, he was arrested. Hisham, the secretary general of the University of Malaya Students Union was arrested in Kuala Lumpur at 3.15am on the morning of Thursday, September 19. He and another student leader arrested with him have joined more than 4,000 other prisoners in the jails of the Malaysian fascist regime.

Hisham was arrested while supporting a group of peasants in their fight for a place to live.

In early September over 300 families were squatting on uncultivated land near Johore Bahru. On September 8 the government sent them all eviction notices. The families then attempted to see the Sultan of Johore and the chief minister. At all stages they were refused the opportunity to see either of these people. On September 15 and 16 the Malaysian government began demolition and 200 houses were demolished. One hundred and thirty four of the squatters left because they had somewhere else to go. Sixty-eight families were desperate and had no-where to go, so they moved to camp outside the State Secretariat in Johore. At the same time they contacted the University of Malaya Students' Union to ask for assistance and Hisham and many other students joined them. They camped six days outside the secretariat in very primitive conditions and on Thursday they were flooded by the rains. Two babies contracted a very high fever and almost died. Hisham and four other people were arrested at 3.15 on Thursday morning. The next day two and a half thousand students from the University of Malaya demonstrated in support of the squatters and their demands. On Saturday, September 21, two thousand other students from other institutions demonstrated. Riot police broke up both demonstrations and there were more arrests.

The same day riot police moved in against the squatters themselves outside the secretariat. Eighty of them were arrested.

During the camp outside the secretariat, it had been made clear to the UMSU that the squatters did not wish to fight if there was a peaceful alternative. All they were seeking was somewhere to live. Every night a prayer session and speeches were held. On Sunday morning five truckloads of riot police broke the camp, everyone was loaded into trucks, handcuffed, and taken away. On the morning of September 22 the people of Johore Bahru had a spontaneous demonstration against the arrest of the squatters. Fifty people began at one end of the town and marched to the court house. By the time they arrived they had been joined by 1000 others.

Most of the women and children have now been bailed, but the male squatters and students remain in prison. Bail has been set at $(M)1000 cash, plus the support of $(M)40,000 worth of land or property.

September 17 marks the beginning of Ramadan (Muslim week of fasting). By the time these people had their camp broken by the police therefore, they had been five days without food during daylight, and were rather weak. Rumours have been circulating that these people were not bona fide squatters but were simply trouble makers. Yet no one would force their family to live outside for six days, particularly when they were weak through lack of food. Nor would they risk prison for themselves and their families if they had any alternative.

—Peter Franks