Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 38, Number 25. 2nd October 1975
Prime Minister cornered
Prime Minister cornered
A heated exchange developed between the Prime Minister (Mr Rowling) and the President of NZUSA (Alick Shaw) at a forum in the Union Hall last Thursday. The exchange took place after a Malaysian student asked Mr Rowling to state the Governments position on co-operation with the Malaysian government.
The student asked the Prime Minister why the NZ Government was taking a partisan stand in the internal affairs of Malaysia and indirectly aiding the political repression by training Malaysian police and troops, providing police dogs and machines and helping the Malaysian Government in military projects.
He also asked Mr Rowling to clarify the NZ Government's stand on political asylum for Malaysian students who had expressed open opposition to the Malaysian Government.
The Prime Minister was clearly embarrassed by these questions. He replied that NZ did not interfere in the internal affairs of Malaysia and clumsily avoided answering any of the student's points in detail. He quickly went on to talk about the second question saying that "Regarding political asylum. no applications have been made to me since I became Prime Minister. . ."
At this point Alick Shaw strongly interjected. Leaning over a balcony and pointing straight at Mr Rowling, he yelled "That's a lie!" He then outlined two cases of students who feared persecution if they returned to their country, and who were refused asylum here.
Mr Shaw accused the Government of failing to give Malaysian students adequate protection. He then pressed home his attack.
"Every member of the Parliamentary Labour Party is aware that two Malaysian students have been thrown out of this country, after having made applications for permanent residence on the grounds that they feared political persecution when they returned home."
One student had been "Thrown out" after the Malaysian Government refused to renew his passport and had issued him a one-way travel document to Malaysia. The Malaysian Government informed him that he had broken Malaysian laws while in NZ and so "NZUSA had to go to the Australian Government on our bellies and ask them to pick up the pieces of the affair left by New Zealand kow-towing to Malaysia."
The Prime Minister remained silent as Mr Shaw went on: "It is undeniably true that the New Zealand Government knew full well, and it had been asked by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to help him. It declined "
"The other student's case was not so clear, but it was still bloody good. This is an area where the Labour Government has consistently failed.
"You and your Ministry of Foreign Affairs knew these students were in danger and you have consistently failed to protect them."
Mr Shaw sat down to a burst of applause Then Mr Rowling began to reply, slowly and deliberately: "Mr Shaw should appreciate that this government, no matter what his bias may be in relation to any particular case, does not kow-tow to any government."
The local paper the "Evening Post" commented that "It was one of the relatively few occasions when Mr Rowling was really put in a corner by the questions. . ."
It was clear to the students that the Prime Minister was trying to evade discussing the real issues raised by the Malaysian student by saying that New Zealand was not interfering in Malaysia's internal affairs and by saying he was not personally aware of the political asylum issue.
'After Mr Shaw had finished his criticism of the Government's policy, the question about interference in Malaysian affairs was put to Mr Rowling again. The Prime Minister gave the same answer, followed by an embarrassing silence.
When NZ's foreign policy is examined it is patently obvious why Mr Rowling was unable to give a straight answer to the question. The NZ Government has provided military training for Malaysian troops, $7000 financial aid expressly for the 'internal defence of Malaysia', material aid in the form of police dogs and machines and assistance in military projects such as the East-West highway in Malaya.
The New Zealand Government takes a clearly partisan stand in its relations with Malaysia. It is one of the members of the Five Power Pact (with Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Australia) and NZ troops were engaged in military action in the country in the late 1950's and early 1960s. Mr Rowling himself served in Malaysia as an army education officer.
During the Vietnam war, NZ and Australia faithfully helped the US war effort and backed the corrupt Thieu regime. While the Vietnamese people have fully achieved national liberation, NZ has yet to learn the lessons of their struggle. Our Government continues to follow the neo-colonial path of interference in the internal affairs of Malaysia and helping the corrupt Malaysian Government against the progressive forces of that country.
The late Norman Kirk once said that New Zealand should take a moral approach in its foreign policy. But it is still evident that the immoral approach is preferred.