Denzil Peiris

One of the students' demands called for the nationalisation of "multinationals" such as Sime Darby. But the attack on foreign investors was peripheral.

Possibly, iX came from the Socialist Club in the University of Malaya. The eye of the storm was the issue of rural poverty, which had seized alinost all students in the several universities, regardless of ideology.

Baling already has its place in Malaysian political history. It was here, in a small mountain village, that Tunku Abdul Rahman, the then Prime Minister, met the communist leader, Chin Peng, on December 28 and 29, 1955, for talks intended to end the insurgency.

Now, Baling has acquired a new significance. It marks a new phase - a qualitative change - in Malaysian politics. The slightly left of centre, slightly right of centre Government of Tun Abdul Razak is being attacked by an extreme right and left of Malays, both waving the banner of social justice.

The most formidabe force in this new opposition to what, in fact, is a Malay Government, claims legitimacy from the principles of Islam.

Its concepts of socialjustice are based on Islamic ideas of the equality of man, the distribution of wealth, and business ethics.

It is a serious threat to the Government of a country so structured that the approval of the Malays is presently the inescapable condition for Parliamentary power.

Hitherto, the opposition was either nakedly communist or based on Chinese dissatisfactions. Whatever "red herrings" were drawn by the Government across the Baling upsurge, it was essentially and predominantly a confrontation between Malays and their Malay Government.

The Baling affair also linked dissatisfactions among the polically-conscious students and lecturers with the problems of the masses outside the campus. Up to now, campus "radicalism" was for student rights.

Now it is associated with rural poverty, and will increasingly be so. Baling also revealed the increasing alienation and disenchantment of the emerging, though small, Malayan intelligentsia with the political style of the Razak Government.

It further revealed the poverty of structures for free debate and the expression of dissident opinion in the Malaysian political system.

The last elections brought Malaysia, through the ballot box, almost to the edge of a one-party state. Both the state-owned newspapers and other media, and the publications in the private sector, operate under controls and directives from the Government.