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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 14, 5 July 1976.

Come in if Your Mouth's Shut

page 18

Come in if Your Mouth's Shut

Satirist Fred Dagg has called New Zealand's foreign policy "crazy", a mish-mash of attitudes towards Chinese, Russians, Asians, Zulus and Yanks. The Muldoon-Talboys backward leaps in foreign policy have left the Ministry of Foreign Affairs straggling in their wake with requests for information and have become harbingers for even more dramatic change in the future - change that could affect us more directly.

The National Party manifesto in the last elections gave little away on foreign policy.

For South East Asia the National Party promised to:-

"Maintain our close political ties with South East Asian countries and to develop our links with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean)."

Brian Talboys, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, went on a visit to the states of Asean to maintain those ties. In the Philipines he was impressed with the clean up that marshal law had brought to that country. There was "much to be said", for centralised authority, he said.

As the political pilots of the ruling cliques in South East Asia had been closer to the action in Indo China, their understanding of the situation and their necessity to deal with it was greater than the naivity of Talboys.

Thai's Caught in a Bind

Recently the Thai government has cast out all but residual United States forces. This action was based on the tried and proven historical fact that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first send American aid. The former Thai Foreign Minister was attempting to foster relations with Cambodia at the same time as the Thai government was blaming the Vietnamese for causing border clashes with Laos. The obvious intention was to divide Vict Nam and Cambodia.

The New Zealand government, despite itself, had better come to terms with these complexities. Smiling at the Chinese and threatening the Russians is not enough.

For Malaysia in particular, these complexities mean a number of important changes. With the drying up of American capital and already a capacity to absorb as much capital from Japanese sources as they can provide the Malaysian government is now receiving capital from the Soviet Union via such countries as Poland and Czechoslovakia. A few years ago this practice would have been unthinkable as the "thin edge of the communist wedge".

Along with the posture of "coming to terms with communism" is the growing anxiety by the rulers of Malaysia to be self sufficient from foreign assistance; be it military, political, economic or technical. For Viet Nam the process was called "Vietnamisation". The process is enormously risky for it leaves an elite that has the privilege and power in a position very vunerable to the rest of the population in the short term. There are no GIs patrolling the streets anymore.

As a vital part of Malaysianisation (Not Malayanisation) there is required a foreign trained bureaucratic group who will faithfully administer the country along the right lines. The place of the Malaysian student is to learn the appropriate skills and to develop the correct political standpoint.

If something goes wrong with this training the group becomes a potentially volatile and dangerous one. Already the Malaysian students in this country are mostly of Chinese origin while the ruling power in Malaysia is Malay. The United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) are rapidly compromising the minimal differences remaining between them while trying to ensure that peasant, student and worker unrest is still directed along racial directions.

Meaning of Razak's Tour

Razak's tour of New Zealand late last year noticably alarmed the authorities in Kuala Lumpur. What was intended to be a low key visit concentrating on trade and Asean turned into a harrassed Razak scurrying from one demonstration to another. Perhaps most alarming to him were the calls made by the Malaysian student organisations such as the Wellington Malaysian Students' Association who thouroghly condemned the present repressive acts of the Malaysian government.

The clamour coming out of Kuala Lumpur was not surprisingly loud and long. There had been covert and clandestine surveillance of students over here in the past by the Malaysian High Commission but the more reactionary elements in the ruling Barisan National wanted a tighter control over the students before they left and a guarantee from their parents that their offspring would behave. To back this up there was to be a formal extension of Malaysian security laws to cover students in this country.

Just as the New Zealand government had been outdistanced by the Asean governments who no longer denounced the "international communist conspiracy", the New Zealand government is well aware that the New Zealand public will greet the Kuala Lumpur proposals with very little enthusiasm.

The result has been that, even though eight months have elapsed since the first intentions were heard in Kuala Lumpur of changing the laws, the only public statement that has been made by Talboys on this has concerned the use of New Zealand as an "aircraft carrier" from which Malaysian pseudo-students will launch attacks on Malaysia. From Kuala Lumpur itself the conversations between Talboys and the Foreign Minister Rithaudeen brought forth the information that the legislation would only be used "sparingly".

Talboys wrote to NZUSA on the 10 May :-

"With regard to.... the new Malaysian security legislation I was assured by the Malaysian government during the course of my visit to Kuala Lumpur that this law was neither intended to nor would it affect those Malaysian students in New Zealand who took part in the sort of political activity that is normal in our students circles."

It is easy to understand the Malaysian authorities making such glib assurances to Talboys and Talboys passing on the same story. But students need no reminding of the charges brought agianst Khoo Ee Liam in 1974 which included what must be considered "normal" student activity, such as the reading of "left wing" literature and "close association with known members of the New Zealand Communist Party."

The entire gamut of what constitutes "normal" political activity in New Zealand is completely different and often abnormal, or even proscribed by legislation, in Malaysia. The 1973 Amendment to the University and University Colleges Act prevents any association by students with any political group whatsoever and leaves only the right to vote in general elections. Students suffer the possibility of arrest if they try to do any more than this. In New Zealand it is a commonplace activity on campus to be a member of a political party.

Photo of students raising one hand each

Legislation Designed to Scare

The U&UC Act has powers which extend overseas. The constitution also has provisions to cover Malaysians abroad. The Extra-territorial Offences Act 1975 is even more specific in its scope and this stems quite probably from a desire to frighten students rather than to formally acquire new powers which had not been required before. In a country such as Malaysia the formal acquisition of power has never deterred the authorities from taking whatever action their whims desired.

The timing of the Act at the end of Razak's demonstration during his Australasian tour and the failure of any other reasons (fabricated or otherwise) to justify it at that time (such as a spate of aircraft hijackings by expatriate Malaysians or similar events) make it quite clear that the legislation was created to frighten and persecute Malaysian students overseas.

With the passing of this legislation there will be required an intensification of the surveillance programme in New Zealand. If Malaysian citizens are to be prosecuted under its provisions then it is only fair that evidence be given against them. The evidence needs to be provided by agents of the Malaysian High Commission in Wellington. If such agents don't exist then they must be replaced by New Zealand SIS operatives or else there will be no evidence against them at all, except hearsay and rumours. Even the "normality" Talboys-Rithaudeen criteria must be policed to ensure that it is not exceeded.

The "Far Eastern Economic Review" (Oct. 31 1975) quoted a comment made by the Perak State Bar Committee Chairman, on the abuses made possible under the Essential (Security Cases) Regulations 1975:

"Police informers are given rewards for information and some of those informers are people of questionable character. "Informers" will not hesitate in order to get a handsome reward to give false information against innocent people."

The Extra-territorial Offences Act under (2 (1) (b)) applies itself to:- "Any offence under any..... written law the commission of which is certified by the Attorney General to affect the security of the Federation."

Besides the control and surveillance of students in New Zealand the number of students overall will certainly be reduced. Various statements made by Rowling and Razak during the latter's visit here last October indicated very strongly that the number of students from Malaysia would be reduced, though there was no indication of by how much. Talboys talked of "limits" in Kuala Lumpur and wrote to NZUSA:-

'The question of the numbers of overseas students entering New Zealand's universities is currently under consideration by the New Zealand Government. One major aim of offering places in our educational institutions to overseas students is to provide an indirect form of aid to developing countries. The Government is concerned to achieve a better balance between the developing countries in the number of students currently entering our universities. Since the overwhelming majority of overseas students in New Zealand universities are from Malaysia, it is clear that the present review will most affect the number of students from that country. I took the opportunity of my visit to Kuala Lumpur in March to discuss this question with the Malaysian Government, and to explain the need for some type of control. I should also mention that while it is the Government's intention to restrict the proportion of students entering New Zealand from any single country, the number of countries from which we will accept private overseas students is being increased. This will extend the range of experience of New Zealand students, as well as further enrich the educational, social and cultural life of our universities."

Cuts Show Underhand Scheming

This position may sound fine in principle but must be put in the context of four important considerations. The first obvious one is timing. There had not been concern expressed about the number of Malaysians coming to New Zealand until they collectively began to criticise their home government.

Secondly, the situation in Malaysia of monitoring and registering students and their parents is an easier task to accomplish if their numbers are smaller. Also the process will certainly be selective to those the authorities hope are more likely to behave.

Thirdly, the manner in which these cuts are to be considered. A sub committee of the University Grants Committee was established by Act of Parliament to regulate the flow of overseas students to New Zealand and has been doing so every year since 1972. This body the Overseas Students Admissions Committee, in its meeting last year did not express any disquiet about the proportion of Malaysian students. This committee has already been using its discression according to the OSAC Secretary's Report in 1975:-

"As usual, candidates from the developing countries of the South Pacific were given some priority for admission".

The fourth consideration is paramount in that it is difficult to imagine where the students to replace the Malaysians would come from. While the numbers of new entrants into the universities last year was roughly in the proportion of two Malaysians to every other category the competition from other sources was not strong.

The number of countries which were eligible to send students to New Zealand was extended by the government in 1973. Despite this, the overall student quota for 1975 was underfilled by 92.

Of the students who qualified for entry last year 96 were not offered places. Of these 88 were Malaysians, thus leaving only 8 non-Malaysians who couldn't come. Of these five were Fijians whose applications were denied on the grounds that courses of a similar nature were offered at the University of the South Pacific at Suva. Of the remaining three, two were from Singapore which is usually bracketed with Malaysia in OSAC categories anyway. Thus the Talboys concern is on behalf of a great mass of students unable to come to New Zealand because of the Malaysians keeping them out This great mass, for the most recent year in which figures are available, numbers only one.

From our government's lack of response to the threat of the Extra-territorial legislation and the eagerness to cut back on Malaysian student numbers, it is obvious the Wellington and Kuala Lumpur governments are hand in glove. Which is which hardly matters.