Student Movement in Malaysia, 1967 - 74
The student movement in Malaysia has its origins before the
second World War. In the early 1930s, teacher trainees from
the Sultan Idris Training College established the KMM or Kesatuan
Melayu Muda (Young Malay Union), which opposed British colonialism
and desired independence.
the fifties, students at the University of Malaya (established
in 1949), then located in Singapore, enjoyed close relations
with the anti-colonial movement, including nationalist journalists
university students were actively involved in the struggle
for independence. The development of the student movement
at the University of Malaya in Singapore continued until the
university moved to its Kuala Lumpur (K.L.) campus from 1959.
In the early K.L. years, the character of student activities
focussed instead on campus issues, especially in connection
with student welfare matters. The emergence of the social
and political dimensions of the student movement began around
events during that year distinguish it as a year of transition
in the history of the student movement. From 1967, the student
movement gradually advanced once again. In the following years,
as it became more vocal, it became a force to be reckened
with in the political upheavals of the country.
more universities were set up from 1969, a development which
helped to strengthen and increase the influence of the student
movement, The universities formed were Universiti Kebangsaan
Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Universiti
Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and Universiti Pertanian Malaysia
increase in the number of universities meant an increase in
the nurnber of university students. At the same time, more
and more students from poor and rural backgrounds obtained
places in universities.
students were to play an important role in the student struggles
in the years to come.
: The Year of Transition
is regarded as the transition year for the student movement
as students began to raise vital issues relating to the lives
of the people.
the historic Teluk Gong landless squatter struggle, both the
University of Malaya Students Union (UMSU) and the University
of Malaya Malay Language Society (PBMUM) were directly involved.
1967 also, a symposium on problems faced by rural communities
was held at the University of Malaya.
fact that this symposium was sponsored by the PBMUM is significant,
as prior to this, the PBMUM had mainly confined itself to
issues of Malay culture and language.
addition to this, 1967 saw the founding of the Socialist Club
of the University of Malaya, the only political club in the
founding represented a new era for the student movement, and
its influence on the Ma.laysian student movement was not insignificant.
1967, the student movement was still concentrated in the University
of Malaya, though teacher-training colleges had their own
can be explained by the fact that conditions in the University
of Malaya differed from the conditions in these colleges.
student bodies were to be found in the University of Malaya.
The largest of these was UMSU, which represented all students
of the University of Malaya.
virtue of this, it had members from all racial groups. Other
important student bodies included the PBMUM, th.e Chinese
Language Society (CLS), The Tamil Language Society (TLS) and
the University of Malaya Islamic Students Society (PMIUM)
all of which were affiliated to UMSU.
the Socialist Club maintained autonomy. In 1967 too, several
student bodies were led by progressive individuals like Syed
Hamid Ali, who became the Secretary General of UMSU, and Sanusi
Osman, who became President of the PBMUM. Both were also members
of the Socialist Club.
Teluk Gong Struggle
students listening to Sharifah Mahani Syed Hamzah talking
about the oppression of the peasants inTeluk Gong.
Teluk Gong struggle began as a struggle by poor landless peasants
to obtain land. In 1967, the peasants, led by Hamid Tuah,
cleared some forest land in the Teluk Gong region of Selangor
where they tilled the land and built houses.
long afterwards, the government destroyed the crops and demolished
the houses of the peasants. Hamid Tuah and his followers were
cruelty inflicted by the government upon the poor peasants
of Teluk Gong was angrily denounced by the students of the
University of Malaya.
UMSU and the PBMUM came out in open support of the unfortunate
peasants. Several lecturers followed suit and also supported
the struggle of Hamid Tuah and the peasants.
involvement of students in the Teluk Gong incident was an
important event in their struggle to uplift the poor, though
their awareness of the life of the poor had previously been
expressed in the form of seminars and symposiums.
Teluk Gong incident enabled them to come forward to declare
their stand. The Teluk Gong events clearly and dramatically
highlighted the problem of rural poverty.
which had its roots in landlessness or land hunger captured
the attention of students, and became an important issue in
the student struggle in the years to come.
: National & International Issues.
important national issue raised in 1968 was the National Education
Policy; the PBMUM held a symposium on this subject.
the PBMUM and many Malay students, the struggle for the sovereignity
of the Malay language and the National Education Policy were
important dimensions of their struggle.
1968, while the PBMUM was involved in the above causes, UMSU
the National Union of Malaysian Students (PKPM) and the Socialist
Club to raise such issues.
invasion of Czechoslavakia by the Soviet Uniori in 1968 was
met with widespread international opposition.
students of the University of Malaya joined the protest and
staged a demonstration outside the Soviet Embassy in Kuala
Lumpur. Being the first demonstration by the students outside
the campus, this was a historic event.
the first time too, students were confronted with police brutality
and tear gas. Undeniably, events outside the country contributed
to increasing political awareness amongst students.
revolt of French students against De Ganlle in 1968, for example,
had a big impact on students all over the world.
it was to be that in the years that followed, international
issues were raised by students from time to time.
1971, the oppression of Muslims in Pattani was championed
as was the Palestinian issue in 1973.
A Year of Upheaval
became increasingly involved in national politics from 1969.
In the months of April and May, before the May General Elections,
PMUM held several public rallies throughout the country.
many as 13 rallies were held, with a total attendence of 100,000
people. Over 100,000 PMUM manifestoes were distributed at
contents of the PMUM manifesto for 1969 are important as they
represent the issues that students were then championing.
was an important element in the manifesto as students wanted
the people to be more involved in the decesion-making processes
and for national politics to be truely based on democracy.
demanded that freedom and justice be guaranteed, an improvement
of the economic status of the people, land reform and a truely
national education policy.
also demanded the unconditional release of all political detainees
and called for the withdrawal of foreign military bases on
demands of the 1969 PMUM manifesto clearly reflect the progressive
character of the student movement then, which had also become
a political force to be reckoned with.
government was unhappy over the good response the rallies
received in several big towns, and disallowed students from
holding rallies in towns, particularly on the East Coast.
rallies organised by UMSU were an important development in
the history of the student struggle. It involved a direct
involvement by students in the political process in Malaysia.
raised the issues of democracy and social justice, and STUDENT
MOVEMENT TODAY 5 denounced political parties that capitalized
on racial issues. Students who were socialists formed the
backbone of these UMSU rallies.
May 13 : The Campaign to Topple the Tunku
period after May l3th was one of great challenges. In the
aftermath of May l3th a campaign to replace Tunku Abdul Rahman,
the Malaysian Prime Minister erupted.
this heated campaign, students particulary Malay students
urged the Tunku to step down. The students were
forthright and brave in their demands.
series of demonstrations were held within the campus as part
of this campaign. UMSU, led by Syed Hamid Ali, and the PBMUM,
led by Anwar Ibrahim, played important roles in this cam~paign
against the Tunku.
efforts of the students were not in vain, and finally the
Tunku was forced to relinguish his Prime Ministership. Historically,
the fall of the Tunku was connected in no small way, with
the opposition of students to his continued leadership.
fact Syed Hamid Ali and Anwar Ibrahim had different reasons
for wanting to see the last of the Tunku Anwar Ibrahim's opposition
was mainly based on the Tunku's and not on the weaknesses
of the system of government led by the Tunku.
felt that the Tunku had conceded too much to the Chinese Community
and had not endeavoured enough to overcome the problem of
the Malay Community. He saw the Tunku as failing to advance
the status of Bahasa Malaysia sufficiently and the implementation
of the National Education Policy.
at no time actually opposed the system of government led by
the Tunku. Syed Hamid Ali and the Socialist Club, on the other
hand, were particularly opposed to the Tunku's political,
and economic, and social policies.
socialist students opposed the capitalist system, which they
saw as being the root cause of poverty.
were opposed to the influx of foreign investment, which still
dominated the economy and wealth of the country and left the
majority of the rakyat living in poverty and misery.
also felt that it was his leadership that had led to racila
riots. Students And University Autonomy On the 29th August
1969, police invaded the University of Malaya campus with
the intention of disrupting an anti-Tunku demonstration. This
was the first time that the police had ventured on to the
campus to disrupt student activities. Several students, involving
Syed Hamid Ali, then UMSU president were detained. The students
protested against the police action, emphasizing that it was
a violation of university autonomy.
the years following, students have always opposed attempts
by the government to encroach upon university autonomy.
: The Malay Language And The National Education Policy
struggle by the Malay students of the University of Malaya
to advance the Malay language had been underway from at least
it was only in 1970 that the issues of the Malay language
and the National Educational Policy emerged as central issues.
twin issues also caused a racial rift, among students at the
university. Even the PMUM and PBMUM differed on these issues.
struggle to secure the position of the Malay language as the
National Language and the National Education Policy have to
be viewed in a wider context.
language issue was symbolic of the opposition to the rule
of the Tunku, who was deemed to have failed in improving the
lot of the Malay community.
raising the question of language and education, it was easy
to draw the support of the Malay students and also of the
Malay community at large. In 1970, the National University
of Malaysia (UKM) was founded.
setting up of this university was viewed as the culmination
of efforts to ensure the sovereignity of the Malay language
and the implementation of the National Education Policy.
: The University Act
growth of the student movement in the campuses threatened
those in power. In 1970, two new universities - the Science
University of Malaysia (USM) and the National University of
Malaysia (UKM) - were set up.
was a general increase around this time in the number of universities
and institutions of higher learning in Malaysia, many of which
were concentrated around Kuala Lumpur: The implications of
this for the growth of the student movement alarmed the political
government began to fear student opposition to government
policies as had happened in 1969, and felt that its position
would be threatened if the student movement was not curbed.
1970 the post-1969 National Operations Council (NOC) formed
the Campus Investigative Committee. The results of the investigations
carried out by this committee became the basis of the University
And University Colleges Act, 1971.
other things, the Act sought to control and weaken the various
student organisations. On l8th March 19?1, the UUCA was passed
by the Parliament.
rose in unison from all communities and universities, to oppose
the Act. They criticised the government for promulgating an
Act that underrnined the principles of democracy and freedom
students were not alone in their bitter opposition to the
Act. Opposition political parties too opposed the Act from
within and outside parliament.
felt that their basic rights were violated by the Act. Even
after the UUCA was implemented as law the students continued
to protest against it.
opposing the Act were held within the campus in 1971, 1972
and again in 1973. In 1971, the Act was openly challenged
at a massive demonstration to oppose the Thai government's
oppression of Muslims in Pattani.
l4th June 1971 Demonstration The demonstration of l4th June
1971 was the first one to be held outside the campus after
implementation of the UUCA.
was also the first major demonstration of the 1970s. On that
day, 2,000 predominantly Malay students - from the National
University of Malaysia and the University of Malaya campuses
demonstration was to protest the visit of the then Thai Prime
Minister, Thanom Kittikachorn, who was due to arrive that
who were involved charged the Thai government with responsibility
for the ill-treatment of Muslims in Pattani.
protest were a sign of their support for the struggle to liberate
Muslims in Pattani. The students waited for the Thai Prime
Minister on the main roads outside their campuses.
historic demonstration was organized by the PMIUM, and hence
not many non-Malay students were involved.
demonstration enabled students from the University of Malaya
and the National University of Malaysia to show their unity
for the first time.
demonstration saw students in physical confrontation with
the police. More than 12 students were injured, and 19 were
arrested at the University of Malaya.
was the first time a university student demonstration in the
country had resulted in injury to the students involved.
demonstration of June l4th continued the following day, when
students demonstrated against police brutality and demanded
that the government immediately release all the detained students.
: Crisis Within UMSU and the PKPM
1972, UMSU and the PKPM were in a state of turmoil. The crises
within these organisations were the
The Teluk Gong struggle began as a struggle by poor landless
peasants to obtain land. In 1967, the peasants, led by Hamid
Tuah, cleared some forest land in the Teluk Gong region of
result of a lack of basis for unity.
the absence of rallying points, in-fighting emerged as students
tried to capture power in their respective organisations.
Whatever the setback caused by this turmoil, it showed that
the democratic proses was alive and well in the student movement.
l9th June 1972, the l4th Council of UMSU, under the leadership
of Sim Kim Chiew, was toppled by the Council members themselves.
conflict between the l4th Council and the editorial board
of the UMSU newspaper, Mahasiswa Negara, represented a serious
setback to the student left of the university, as many council
members were members of the Socialist Club as well.
students who opposed the l4th Council used racial issues to
garner support to topple the council.
the fall of the l4th Council was tantamount to a defeat for
the student left. In 1972, the left failed to maintain leadership
of the PKPM.
Rais, a dynamic leader of the student left, who had become
the Secretary-General of the PKPM, was replaced in, 1972.
the PKPM had been led by student leaders from the University
of Malaya. However, with the establishment of more universities
in the 1970s, many student leaders from other universities
came to the fore and broke the previous UMSU monopoly in the
also saw the decline in the influence of the Socialist Club.
Many of its important members left the university on completing
their studies, and at the end of 1972, the strength of the
club was at its weakest.
in early 1973, the club was thoroughly reorganised after a
membership drive. The drive strengthened the club with new
and dedicated members, and the Socialist Club emerged once
again as an important force in the University of Malaya campus
emergence of the Socialist Club was evident in the UMSU elections
of 1973, when many Socialist Club members were elected into
the Council and Hishamuddin Rais became UMSU Secretary-General.
also saw growing co-operation among student orgarrisations
from the various universities. Student bodies from UM, UKM,
USM, UTM, UPM and ITM united to oppose the government on issues
such as corruption and the UUCA.
: Anti-American Demonstration
student opposition to U.S. imperialism has long been strong.
Students from different political tendencies could unite to
oppose U.S. imperialism, as happened in 1973.
Arab-Israeli war erupted in the Middle-East in October 1973,
drawing the attention of the whole world. The struggle of
the Arab and the Palestinian people to regain Palestinian
and Arab territories occupied by Israel was supported by the
people of Malaysia.
Malaysia, students were the first to express their support
for and solidarity with the Palestinian and Arab people.
was openly supported by the U S.A., the great imperialist
power. U.S. support was opposed not only by the Arabs, but
also by all freedom-loving people in the world, including
l3th October 1973, students from the University of Malaya
under UMSU's leadership, staged a demonstration in front of
in Kuala Lumpur to oppose the U.S. role in the Middle-East
war. The police broke up this peaceful demonstration. Tear
gas was fired at the students, forcing them to withdraw temporarily.
l6th October, three days after the peaceful demons tration
had been dispersed, 4,000 students demonstrated again outside
the US Embassy: As this demonstration was much larger than
the one preceding it, the police did not dare interfere.
PLO representative in Malaysia addressed the students at this
historic demonstration, following which students took to the
streets and headed for the Lincoln Cultural Centre.
students charged that the Lincoln Cultural Centre was actually
a CIA centre involved in espionage, and urged the government
to close it down.
demonstration on 16th October clearly showed the hatred of
the students and the people of Malaysia towards U.S. imperialism.
students threatened to burn down the centre if it was not
closed down. Not long afterwards, the US Embassy changed the
location of the Cultural Centre.
must be noted that students from various universities and
institutions of higher learning participated in the anti-U.S.
is interesting to note that on one occassion the police were
too afraid to take any drastic action against the students.
The Peak of Student Activism
is regarded as the peak year for Malaysian university student
activism in the 1970s as students were increasingly invol-
ved in the people’s issues.
slogan, “Students and People Unite”, became a reality.The
National Front — comprising a coalition of political parties,
including some which had previously been in the opposition,
i.e. PAS, Gerakan and the PPP — won the 1974 General Elections,
many of the former opposition parties were now on the side
of the government, the ranks of the opposition in Malaysia
various student organisations filled this vacuum that had
been created by the withering of the parliamentary opposition.
organisations emerged as a pressure group and were highly
critical of government policies.Perhaps because of their non-partisan
approach towards issues, they were able to draw the attention
and gain the support of the population at large.
was also a year of great hardship for the people of Malaysia.
Inflation had increased rapidly from 1973 and the price of
rubber had fallen to record low.
livelihood of rubber small holders was seriously threatened.
The people faced many difficulties as the prices of basic
necessities soared. Shortages in housing and jobs further
exacerbated the situation.
1974 Tasik Utara
Tasik Utara incident occured in September 1974. It involved
poor, predominantly Malay squatters who openly opposed the
in the case of Teluk Gong, the Tasik Utara incident virtually
invited student involvement. Tasik Utara is situated about
three miles from the centre of Johor Baru where housing is
a serious problem.
houses in the town are expensive to rent, which workers cannot
afford. As the government had not taken any steps to provide
low-cost housing for the urban poor, many of them were forced
to become squatters.
long before the General Elections of 1974, several poor families
set up squatter houses in Tasik Utara. They were not stopped,
not even by Land Office officials.
of this spread and not long afterwards, more poor families,
including factory workers,
"we want justice,we want land"Tasik Utara demonstration,1974
labourers, hawkers, taxi and lorry drivers, moved in.
Nasional leaders canvassing votes at Tasik Utara assured the
squatters that their homes would be protected. The 134 families
who set up their homes in Tasik Utara called their village,
Kampung Barisan Nasional.
after the Barisan Nasional emerged victorious in the General
Elections, the leaders appeared to forget the promises they
had made to the squatters.
residents of Kampung Barisan Nasional got a rude shock when
they received eviction notices from the land office warning
them that their homes were to be demolished.
residents appealed to the government against the demolition.
They called upon the government to provide them with an hering
of the parliamentary OPPO alternative site on which they could
build their homes.
appeals fell on deaf ears. In despair, the squatters got in
touch with UMSU hoping that UMSU would come to their aid.
The hopes of the squatters were not in vain.
soon as UMSU received the telegram from the squatters, several
students, including UMSU leaders, made their way to Johore
the morning of September 15th, several police trucks arrived
at Tasik Utara. The squatters homes were demolished.Students
of the University of Malaya led by Hishamuddin Rais pleaded
with the authorities to call off the demolition, but their
protests were in vain.
people, including Syed Hamid Ali, the Secretary General of
the People's Socialist Party of Malaya (PSRM), were arrested.
They were released the following day however after interrogation.
the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel and the demolition
teams had departed, the squatters rebuilt their homes.
on l6th September, the FRU and the demolition squad descended
once again on the kampung and demolished the rebuilt homes.
They carried out their work with brutal efficiency.
and posts were split so that they could not be used again
as building materials. They destroyed the atap (roofing material)
and were rude to the squatters, who included women and children.
students personally witnessed these brutal actions with their
own eyes. On the l6th of September, after their homes had
been demolished for the second time, the squatters - 60 families
and about 300 people consisting of men, women, children and
a baby camped outside the Johore State Secretariat Building,
where they picketed day and night.
put up banners, one of which read "We demand justice.
We want land." At 3.15 a.m. on the l9th of September,
the police and the FRU quietly entered the camp site and arrested
who were detained included: Kaliman Jaya, a squatter leader,
Hishamuddin Rais, Secretary-General of the PMUM, Yunus Ali,
an exco member of the PMUM, Syed Hamid Ali, Secretary General
of the PSRM, and Mohammed Amin Ahmad, Secretary of the PSRM,
just struggle of the squatters was supported by student organisations
in all the campuses. UMSU, PMUKM, KSITM, PMUSM, PMUPM, the
Socialist Club and the CLS of the University of Malaya all
released press statements in support of the squatters.
University of Singapore Students Union(USSU) also came out
in their support. Students in Malaysia and Singapore collected
funds to aid the unfortunate squatters of Tasik Utara.
detention of several student leaders on l9th September provoked
and deepened the students' struggle, particularly in the University
the 20th of September, more than 2,500 students from the University
of Malaya demonstrated outside the Prime Minister's Department.
urged the authorities to release Hishamuddin Rais, Yunus Ali
and the others who had been detained in Johore Bahru. This
demonstration was indicative of widespread student supporf
for the struggle of the Tasik Utara squatters.
their demands fell on deaf ears, the students planned to demonstrate
again on the 21 st of September. More than 2,000 students
took to the streets peacefully, making their way to Kuala
FRU confronted them on their journey and fired tear gas. They
also fell upon the students with batons, and many were injured.
More than ten students were detained, but they were released
soon afterwards, as the authorities were afraid of growing
Power Struggle In The University of Malaya Following the brutal
action of the police, UMSU called for an emergency meeting.
meeting held on 21 st September was attended by all the Residential
College Committees and other component bodies of UMSU.
an in-depth discussion, it was unanimously agreed that to
avoid further police aggression, demonstrations would be held
within the campus.
students also decided to take over the administration of the
University of Malaya. The students formed a co-ordinating
body called the Majlis Tertinggi Sementara (MTS) or Provisional
2.30 p.m. on 21 st. September the MTS officially took over
the UM administration in a peaceful and organised manner.
On the same afternoon, however, several self proclaimed `patriotic'
students met at the Arts Faculty and formed a `Majlis Tertinggi
Nasionalis (MTN) (Nationalist Supreme Council).
opposed the UMSU decision to form the MTS to take over the
university. At 8.30 p.m., members of the MTN advanced to strategic
positions held by the MTS, including the UMSU secretariat,
the university gates and the security office.
of the MTS were forced to leave the UMSU secretariat. They
used iron rods, bicycle chains and nailed sticks in their
attack. The UMSU president and several other MTS members were
kidnapped and forceably taken to the Dewan Tunku Chancellor.
MTN leaders tried to divert the attention of the students
from the real issue at hand. Even the vice-chancellor of the
university attempted to break the unity of the students by
playing up racial issues.
though the leaders of the squatters and the students had been
detained, the squatters of Tasik Utara continued to picket
in front of the Johore State Secretariat building.
5.30 p.m. on 22nd September, the FRU surrounded the picket
site and arrested 41 squatters and 7 students.
squatters and students demonstrated in front of the Johore
court-house to protest the arrests. At this demonstration,
3 more students were arrested.
was to pay a high price for its involvement in the Tasik Utara
incident and their decision to take over the university administration.
government which for a long time had been trying to crush
the student movement now had an excuse to act against UMSU.
days after USMU took ovesr the campus, the government suspended
the Tasik Utara incident was the prelude, the Baling incident
"The people suffer,the rulers forget their obligations"
surely the climax of the student struggle in the post-1969
period.While Tasik Utara is in Johore, in the south, Baling
is up north, in Kedah.
Baling events are important not only in relation to the student's
struggle, but also in relation to the history of the present
struggle in Malaysia.
Baling events began on l9th November 1974, when more than
1,000 peasants demonstrated.
demonstrations continued on the 20th and 21 st November. On
the 21 st, more than 13,000 people from Baling and the surrounding
areas of Weng, Bangar, Lanai, Pulai, Kupang, Tawar, Parit
Panjang, Kuala Pegang, Siong and Sungai Lalang staged mass
demonstrations, which converged on Baling.
did the farmers in Baling demonstrate? the answer lies in
the misery and suffering they were facing. Inflation from
1973 had caused the prices of food and other basic necessities
which had cost only 30 cents a kati, cost 60 cents; the price
of flour rose from 20 cents to 50 cents.
these prices increased, the price of rubber was falling; affecting
a majority of the residents of Baling distriet, who were mostly
price of a kati of rubber could not purchase half a kati of
sugar or flour. As a result of their hardships, the peasants
were forced to voice their sufferings.
bravely took to the streets to protest and urge the government
to raise the price of rubber and lower the price of food and
other necessities within 10 days.
it became clear that the government was not going to act positively
on the demands within the given period, 30,000 people demonstrated
in Baling on the 1 st of December 1974.
people were angry indeed. The struggle of the peasants was
supported by students from the universities and other institutions
of higher learning throughout the country.
big demonstration by 5,000 students was held on 3rd Decernber
1974. At a rally held on the same day at the Selangor Club
padang in Kuala Lumpur, the students made several demands
on the governrpent including.
the government must solve the problem of inflation immediately.
the price of rubber must be raised to reasonable levels.
all corrupt ministers and chief ministers must be exposed
and punished. The government ignored the demands of the students.
authorities used the police to disperse the demonstration,
and students who had gathered peacefully at the Selangor Club
field were attacked with tear gas.
students retreated to the National Mosque, but the FRU even
fired tear gas into the mosque and entered it. Altogether,
the FRU arrested 1,128 students.
arrest of the students reignited the students' strug,gle.
On the campuses, students continued to demonstrate, and this
went on for a few days until the police entered the campuses
early in the morning of the 9th of December 1974.
of the student leaders were arrested. At the same time, the
government also apprehended university lecturers who had supported
the struggle of the students and the peasants.
those detained were Prof. Syed Husin Ali from the University
of Malaya, Anwar Ibrahim, a youth leader; Kamarulzaman Yacob,
UMSU President, Ahmad Kamal Selamat, President of PMUSM, Ibrahim
Ali, President of KSITM, Rahman Rukhaini, President of PMUKM,
and Adi Satria, UMSU's Assistant Secretary-General.
to the University and University Colleges Act, 1975
resistance did not end even with the arrest of so many of
its leaders. However, pressure from the government in the
form of threats and manipulations and the use of racial issues
to undermine student unity resulted in the weakening of the
government capitalized on these weaknesses and vulnerability
to table new draconian laws in Parliament. The 1975 amendements
to the UUCA 1971 were passed by Parliament.
protests from students and opposition parties,the amendments
were bull-dozed through Parliament. With the enforcement of
the Act, all student organisations were dissolved.
marked the end of an era when the student movement in Malaysia
grew to become an important social and politacal force.
a substitute, the government set up Student Representative
Councils, student bodies which have little power, freedom
in the Student Movement
movement has its weaknesses; the following were some of the
weaknesses of the MaIaysian student movemerit which was crushed
in the mid 1970s:
race problem has always been a factor weakening the Malaysian
student rnovement. This was paiticularly evident in the case
of the universities which have a large multiracial student
population, like the University of Malaya. Despite this, there
were many issues on which students from the various races
united. Such issues incIuded the struggle for university autonomy,
opposition to U.S. imperialism, and popular stntg,gles such
as Teluk Gong, Tasik Utara and Baling.
tradition of students struggte in Malaya is still young. Hence,
students have Iacked experience in facing challenges that
have come their way.
the length of courses of study i.e. over 3 or 4 yearss limited
student involvement. When good leaders graduated on completion
of their studies, continuity and experience were often lost,
and not easily replaced.
of Contact With the People
the student movement championed peoples' issues from 1967
to 1974, a close study would reveal that the contact
After the demonstrations
students and the people, particularly those in the ruraI areas,
was far from being close or intimate.lt was only in 1967 ,
1973 and 1974 that efforts to bridge this gap were given more
clear weakness of the Malaysian student movement was its heavy
issue-orientation, such that activities were only organised
as issues came up. Thus, much student activity was spontaneous
in nature, and not well-planned. Leaders seldom planned activities
with a long term perspective. Many students and their Ieaders
were prone to complacency and many developed a care-free,
and sometimes even irresponsible attitude. This may be due
to the fact that student movements are, by nature, not well-disciplined
organizations. This lack of discipline contributed to this
negative feature of the student movement.
of Support from Intellectuals
student movement seldom got support from academics and intellectuals.
While it cannot be denied that there were lecturers and intellectuals
who supported the students' struggle, their numbers were smalI.
The majority of intellectuals were silent and were usually
unwilling to be vocal. Because of this lack of involvement
by the inteIlectual community, the student movement was unable
to analyse issues with sufficient depth.
extent of the contribution of the student movement to society
at large is a difficult question.
this, the importance of a strong student movement must be
recognised, especially in a young country like ours, where
a large proportion of the people are poorly-educated and poor,
and where political consciousness is rather confused.
cannot deny that Malaysian students have a social responsibility.
At the zenith of their strength, they emerged as champions
of the people.
present curbs on the student movement also stand in the way
of the development of an independent, progressive intelligentsia
in our country which can contribute to solving some of our