Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Volume 38 Number 8. 1975
Malaysia Special — No. 4 — Mass demonstrations
Starvation in Baling
'In 1970 — and the picture today is substantially unchanged — about 60% of the share capital of limited companies was owned by foreigners. In agriculture and fisheries, it was as high as 75% and about 72% in mining and quarrying. In commerce and manufacturing, foreign ownership amounted to about 63% and 59% of the total share capital respectively'. Straits Times, 21-2-74.
'A farmer, selling rubber at less than 40 cents a kilo, making about $28 a month. Yet he is paying more for rice than he is being paid for rubber, and his family eats twice as much rice as he can produce rubber.................... they were forced, by privation to eat wild yams proved to be poisonous'. (Auckland Star. 13-1-75)
'A wang, the owner of a rubber small-holding in a village in Baling, northern Malaysia ......A wang's earnings averaged M$ 1.20 a day............ Most of A wang's money is spent on rice. Baling is located in a region which does not get rice at the subsidised price of between 45 and 47 cents a catty (l.3lbs.)
'To live at a minimum level of comfort, the smallholder would need $3 a day. To live just above the subsistence level, A wang needs $1.50 daily. He is one of the 545,000 smallholders all over [unclear: Peninsular] Malaysia...........
'Awang had heard of some tenant farmers families in smallholdings who were forced to eat yams and other low-quality foods instead of rice. He had heard too of three four deaths of people who had eaten jungle yams ...' (Far Eastern Economic Review 10-1-75).
Dungeon of Horror
How many tears been shed,
every minute, every hour
in this dungeon of horror!
How much blood has flowed,
countless broken bones
scattered on this mute floor
in island Singapore.
Its ominously serene.
The air is unclean,
a foul odour hangs about
with no way out.
My mind's eye sees
Exulting, these savages
imagine victory it their's.
Hear them laughing?
Every drop of tear,
every clot of blood,
every piece of bone,
Instead of oblivion
into revolutionary seeds
they are transformed,
into a gigantic force.
They will grow
to wipe out these savages,
and the people will
fear no more.
By Said Zahari who Has been jailed without trial by Lee Kuan Yew since 1963.
Peasants' Demonstrations and Their Demands
The explosion came in Mid-November 1974 in the Baling District. Most of the people in Baling are rubber-tappers. While they hear the authorities bragging about prosperity, the rubber price plunged to 25c-30c a catty. During this rainy season when they cannot work the Baling people are literally at the brink of starving, surviving on tapioca leaves and roots and eating a meal a day. Such living conditions had already claimed three lives in Tanjung Pari. When petitions to the authorities could not draw any sympathy from the authorities, the Baling people are left with the alternative of mass demonstrations. The starving people held a hunger march to protest against the authorities irresponsibility and to demand for their fundamental rights to live.
- On 19-11-74: About 1,000 people from Kg Weng and Kg Bonger demonstrated peacefully but armed FRUS violently despersed them with tear gas.
- 20-11-74: More than 1,000 people from Parit Kanai and Parit Panjang held a peaceful demonstration.
- 21-11-74: About 13,000 hungry people, old folks, children, women, the sick, from Baling district, some as far as 12 miles away, held a hunger march march in Baling. The march spread over a distance of six miles. About another 5,000 gathered in kampongs around Baling but were prevented from participating in Baling by police and the security officers. The Kedah state Chief Minister was forced to meet the people and promised them a solution in ten days time.
- 1-12-74: About 25,000 people again gathered in Baling.
Students Demonstrations and Their Demands
Although newspapers and other mass media conveniently blacked out news of the protests, the news did reach the several universities. This almost spontaneously sparked off mass student demonstrations throughout the country.
- 3-12-74: More than 8,000 students from all the institutions of higher learning held a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur to protest against inflation, poverty and corruption. On the same day, similar demonstrations were also held in Penang and Ipoh. The Malaysian Federal Reserve Units fired tear gas to disperse the students. 1169 students in K.L., 38 in Penang and 3 in lpoh were arrested and charged with 'unlawful assembly'!
|1)||Effective measures by the government to fight inflation.|
|2)||Eradicate corruption (e.g. corruption of Selangor Chief Minister).|
|3)||Reduce the allowances of MP's to its former level (a Bill was then passed to double the monthly allowances of MP's to $1,500).|
|4)||More stringent controls over multinational corporations.|
|5)||Stop making empty promises which have been unfulfilled for 17 years (e.g. Land reform).|
|6)||Guarantee the availability of essential goods and services at reasonable prices.|
|7)||Effective agricultural and other socio-economic reforms for the benefit of the majority of the people and not just a few capitalists.|
'Ghazali-isms' — 'Once and for all Cleanup'
In desperation to suppress the dissentment, the Malaysian Government used various methods such as threats of withdrawing scholarships and reducing university funds. The 'kill' came from the Home Affairs Minister's 'Once and for all cleanup'. Most of the student leaders and four lecturers were detained under the notorious Internal Security Act. Even an American lecturer in the University of Malaya's law faculty was deported for his support to the students.
Academic Staff Support and Their Demands
The students' protests received support from a large number of the academic staff. 'The University's Academic Staff Association said if believed the issue of poverty raised by students in recent demonstrations was reasonable'. (Straits Times, 11-12-74).
|1)||The immediate withdrawal of police from in and around the universities.|
|2)||The immediate and unconditional release of all detained students and staff.|
|3)||Refraining from further arrests of students and staff.|
|4)||Allowing the councils and senates of the universities to exercise their legitimate functions....' (Straits Times. 13-12-74).|
|1)||The overwhelming majority arrested were Malays, including a few of royal blood. It is important therefore, to view the Baling issue, among others, as a class issue. The struggle of the Baling people is the struggle of the people of all nationalities and not confined to any particular 'race' as frequently amplified [unclear: y] the Razak's regime.|
The true background to the spontaneous explosion of student dissentments is as a Malay leader puts it:
It is the poverty and hardships of their families and friends that urged the students to stand up.
|3)||The Baling epic had revealed the ugly face of the Malaysian system. The Government mobilized and whole state machinery (police, FRU, etc.) to sabotage the just struggles of the peasants and students. The mass media (newspapers, radio, TV etc.), which are controlled by the Government, went all out to distort the fact.|
|4)||The starvation problem is but a significant aspect of the more embrasing problem faced in Malaysia:
|5)||In the consecutive 11 days of struggles the Malaysian students have shown their active concern for the oppressed majority by massive demonstrations and boycotting lectures. It is an unprecedented epoch in the history of the student movement in the Peninsular.|
|6)||The struggle of students against social injustice will undoubtedly gain the support of progressive students all over the world.|
|1)||Cheap labour: Working hours not less than 8 hours a day and workers' pay as low as $1.00 a day. If they are sacked, taw forbids them to strike. In order to provide 'political and social stability' for the foreign investors, suppressive policies are imposed and therefore the majority of the people suffer.|
|2)||It is an empty promise. In fact empty promises just like the intimidation of people is a way of life of the Malaysian Government.|