1974! MALAYSIA'S EMERGING RURAL REVOLUTION
Members meet on Fridays (the Muslim sabbath) and after prayers, political talks are held.
Most of its activists are in the religious institutions of higher learning. Some of the activists are graduates who have returned from similar institutions in Baghdad, Mecca and Medina.
The movement is against corruption and the "decadence" of the West. It argues that the salvation of the Malays is in practising a purer version of Islam.
There are many students in Baling and other parts of Kedah and Kelantan, the traditional Malay states which had been neglected educationally, who have returned from religious institutions of higher learning in Egypt.
ONE of the government's responses to the deteriorating incomes of the rubber smallholders was to buy their rubber direct through state purchasing centres, thus eliminating the middleman.
But the soil for social discontent has not been ploughed over. The problem of rural poverty remains. Ungku Aziz, who has been studying the subject for more than 20 years, says Malaysia has been fairly successful in the technical side of agriculture - higher yielding seeds, double cropping, pesticides, etc.
Progress has also been made in the technological potential for change in productivity. But the Government is still overlooking exploitation.
"You can't persuade a farmer to grow more rice if the additional element from his effort is going to be creamed off by landlords, traders and others," says Ungku Aziz.
"Until this is done, the farmer will not adopt modern technology. In a sense, we have put the cart before the horse." Ungku Aziz believes that, generally, those vrho are borrowing from low-interest-rate credit institutions are not those who most need help.
Less than 15% of the credit goes to the impoverished farmer. There are regulations on tenancy reforms, but most of them are not implemented.
The Treasury Economic Report for 1974-75 confesses that only about 5,000 tenancy agreements had been registered up to the end of 1974, although the basic objectives of the Padi Cultivators Act of 1967 were to provide security of tenure to padi cultivators and to control the level of rent in padi farming.
The disturbing question in Malaysia, as in India and some other Asian countries where similar protective legislation is on the statute books, is whether there is a will to reform among the rulers. After all, landlords are vote-banks. . .
(Source: Far Eastern Economic Review January 10, 1975)