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

A patriot jailed

A patriot jailed

NZUSA first invited Hisham to visit New Zealand for the national conference on Malaysia held in Wellington on August 31. Unfortunately he was unable to tum up. NZUSA learnt after the conference that telephone calls and letters had not reached Hisham, and that the air tickets for his trip had been held for several days in the Quantas office in Kuala Lumpur without Quantas informing him that they were there. It all seemed a strange coincidence, but now the explanation for these 'coincidences' is obvious.

The arrest of Hishammuddin Rais shows that the Malaysian Government is becoming desperate in its attempts to stamp out its political opposition. Hisham is a Malay. One of the Malaysian Government's main tactics in its attempts to divide and rule the exploited masses in Malaysia has been to make out that it is working in the interests of Malays by suppressing the Chinese and Indians. For that reason the government has had to be very careful in clamping down on progressive Malays. By arresting Hisham, a well-known Malay student leader, the Malaysian Government has admitted to Malaysians and to the world that its talk of democracy and of working to further the interests of the Malays is a complete sham.

Drawing of hands in handcuffs behind bars

Last month the Malaysian Government held national elections. Not surprisingly the ruling National Front was easily re-elected — most of the opposition parties had been incorporated in the Front of their leaders had been locked up. Unlike the 1969 election there were no riots or inter-racial strife. Many political commentators said after the elections that Prime Minister Tun Razak was firmly in control. page 2 But Hisham's arrest shows that the Malaysian Government is so uncertain about its control over the people that it has to step up political repression and lock up Malay student leaders.

Photo of Hishammuddin Rais

Hishammuddin Rais

Another reason for Hisham's arrest is that he had embarrassed the Razak government by speaking out against its political repression and its subservience to Anglo-American imperialism overseas. Hisham attended the Asian Students Association biennial conference in Melbourne in July as part of the delegation from the National Union of Malaysian Students (PKPM), and spoke on several Australian campuses before he returned home. Then he went to another international conference of youth and students in Japan.

It's fairly obvious why the Razak government didn't want Hisham to come to New Zealand and Australia. It has become very worried about the growing opposition among Malaysian students in New Zealand and Australia to its fascist policies at home and its attempts to practise these policies on Malaysian students abroad.

Hisham's visit would have helped to develop the united front of Malaysian students inside and outside Malaysia, and New Zealand and Australian students in opposing the fascist Razak regime. Razak himself had planned to visit New Zealand and Australia this month. He called the trip off because he was afraid that demonstrations of Malaysian students and their supporters against him would dent his government's reputation.

As one of the NZUSA representatives at the Asian Students Association conference in Melbourne I had the privilege of meeting Hishammuddin Rais and hearing him speak. No doubt the Malaysian Special Branch (secret police) will accuse him of being an "anti-national element" and a "subversive", Razak's representatives in New Zealand will try to weaken the unity between New Zealand and Malaysian students in this country by attacking NZUSA for protesting at Hisham's arrest.

It is ironic to think that Hisham will be labelled an "anti-national element" because he spoke out strongly against Anglo. American and Japanese domination of the Malaysian economy, and the continuing presence of British, Australian and New Zealand troops in his country and in Singapore. When he spoke against neocolonialism in Malaysia he spoke as a true patriot, supporting the aspirations of all the people of Malaysia to control their own affairs.

It is also ironic to think that Hisham will be labelled a "subversive". When he spoke against the Malaysian Government's attempts to smash the student movement in Malaysia and the efforts of the Malay ruling class to divide the people on racial lines he spoke as a democrat, defending the rights of all Malaysians to take part freely in political life.

And as Neil McLean, the president of the Australian Union of Students pointed out in a statement on September 20, the Malaysian High Commission in Canberra recently cited Hisham's statements criticising the Malaysian Government as proof that Malaysia is a democratic country.

"If one student leader is suppressed,' Hisham said while he was in Malaysia in July, "it means also that the ideals of all students have been suppressed " Hisham's arrest is an attack not only on the Malaysian student movement in Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand but also on the Australian and New Zealand student movement as a whole. It is another attempt to intimidate us into silence. There can only be one way to reply to this attack. We must strengthen our efforts to defend the democratic rights of Malaysian students in this country and in Malaysia and serve notice on Razak's fascists that they will never succeed in their attempts to crush democracy in Malaysia or anywhere else.

—Peter Franks