Denzil Peiris

How, for instance, was it that despite the cosseting and pampering of the Malay students by the Government, the privileged, favourite offspring became the prodigal son?

Among the evidence offered of communist subversion was the seizure of "toy rifles" - presumably power comes from the barrel of a pop gun.

But the biggest hole in the document was that it did not touch on the demonstrations by the students of the Universiti Kebangsaan (National University).

Unlike the multi-racial University of Malaya, UKM is almost entirely Malay. Many of the girls there dress in the traditional, conservative Muslim style.

Between 70%-80% of its students are peasants' offspring. They preserve Islamic tradition. The universities' participation in the Baling protests came from a congruence of several factors.

There is pervasive and intense student dissatisfaction with the Government's failure to deal with corrupt politicians. The complaint is that, as in the case of the Selangor Chief Minister Dato Harun, investigations have been made but no information is available on their outcome. Students are disappointed, too, in the leadership, especially with UMNO's "Young Turks," Dr Mahathir, the Minister for Education, and Musa Hitam, Minister for Primary Industries, who were expected to give politics a new look.

As in Singapore, the students resent the Government's way of talking down to them. They find most objectionable the Government's "Big Daddy" mentality: The Government knows best - "leave us alone and let us get on with the job."

The students were supported by a large number of the academic staff. Several of them - one, a Malay aristocrat - were arrested.

They share the students' resentment of the Government's elitist approach. Both students and staff are united in their detestation of the illiberal atmosphere in Malaysia.

Academics and students are perturbed by the Government's failure to tackle inflation and other economic difficulties. But the most compelling factor was that rural poverty struck a responsive chord in the Malaysian student.

Apart from the high proportion of students from the rural communities in Kebangsaan and other universities, about 1,000 students in the University of Malaya are "sons of rural people," according to its Vice-Chancellor, Ungku Aziz.