STUDENT MOVEMENT IN MALAYSIA,
1970 : The Malay Language And The National Education Policy
The struggle by the Malay students of the University of Malaya to advance the Malay language had been underway from at least 1966.
However, it was only in 1970 that the issues of the Malay language and the National Educational Policy emerged as central issues.
These twin issues also caused a racial rift, among students at the university. Even the PMUM and PBMUM differed on these issues.
The 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.
The 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.
By 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.
The 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.
1971 : The University Act
The 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.
There 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 elite.
The 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.
In 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.
Among 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.
Students 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 of speech.
The students were not alone in their bitter opposition to the Act. Opposition political parties too opposed the Act from within and outside parliament.
Students 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.
Demonstrations 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.
The 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.
It 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 - demonstrated.
Their demonstration was to protest the visit of the then Thai Prime Minister, Thanom Kittikachorn, who was due to arrive that day.
Those who were involved charged the Thai government with responsibility for the ill-treatment of Muslims in Pattani.
Their 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.
This historic demonstration was organized by the PMIUM, and hence not many non-Malay students were involved.
The demonstration enabled students from the University of Malaya and the National University of Malaysia to show their unity for the first time.
The demonstration saw students in physical confrontation with the police. More than 12 students were injured, and 19 were arrested at the University of Malaya.
This was the first time a university student demonstration in the country had resulted in injury to the students involved.
The 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.