TASEK UTARA 1974: STUDENT-SQUATTER SOLIDARITY
The students soon came under ferocious attack from the authorities. Utusan Malaysia (Sept. 28) accused the students of involving themselves in the land problem.
The authorities conducted an overt campaign of vilification through the government - controlled mass media charging that students were manipulated to further the "hideous" aims of some quarters.
On Sept. 18, in just one day, UMSU had collected a few hundred dollars for the squatters. On their way to Johore Bahru, their bus was delayed by the police in Kulai, who tried to prevent them from contacting the squatters Perhaps all the threats and accusations should be used to illustrate the maxim: "It is a good thing to be criticised and attacked by the enemy. It shows that the enemy is truly hurt."
Why the Demonstration!?
The students tried many times to plead and to reason with the authorities hoping that they would not be so blind to the people's plight.
No response. Since the oppressors could not be persuaded with reason, the most effective way out then was mass demonstration. Students from the University of Malaya, Mara Institute of Technology and other institutions as well as other progressive intellectuals, including lecturers, participated in the Sept. 20 and 21 demonstrations to demand:
a) a just solution to the Tasek Utara squatters' problem;
b) the immediate and unconditional release of the five arrested, including Sdr. Hishamuddin Rais and Yunus Ali, both UMSU leaders.
The demonstration led to a statement by Dato Othman Saat, Mentri Besar of Johore that "scholarships of Johore students who participated in the demonstration will be withdrawn." 1
1. The authorities often threatened activist scholarship holders with scholarship withdrawals. They talk as if the scholarship money belongs to them. A statement by PMUSM on Sept. 21, emphasised that the money comes from the people and did not belong to Dato' Othman. To be politically active is a fundamental right of everyone, whether a student or not: T'here have never been any anti-people demonstrations against the oppression and suppression of the people.