Peristiwa Baling, Kedah pada tahun 1974 yang menunjukkan kebangkitan rakyat dalam menuntut keadilan harus dihayati dan dijadikan iktibar oleh semua masyarakat, kata Ketua Umum PKR, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Beliau berkata, walaupun peristiwa Baling merupakan suatu sejarah terpencil, namun ia mampu membangkitkan suara dan pandangan rakyat bahawa sistem pimpinan kerajaan pada ketika itu adalah ‘rosak’.
“Upacara memperingati peristiwa Baling harus dijadikan acara tahunan yang perlu disebarluaskan supaya anak muda tahu apa yang berlaku dari kebangkitan rakyat era 70 an.
Hadir sama, Senator Dr Syed Husin Ali, aktivis Prof Gurdial Singh, bekas Presiden Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya, Kamarazaman Yaakob, Syed Hamid Ali dan Ketua AMK Pusat, Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin.
Pada 1974, Anwar melancarkan demonstrasi besar-besaran apabila ada laporan media yang menyatakan bahawa penduduk di Baling mati kerana kelaparan akibat kemiskinan.
Hasil demonstrasi tersebut, beliau ditahan di bawah Akta Keselamatan Dalan Negeri (ISA) selama 22 bulan.
Bagaimanapun kesan daripada itu, Kerajaan Umno-BN secara sembunyi terpaksa mengambil tindakan proaktif untuk membangunkan masyarakat luar bandar.
Dalam pada itu, beliau turut menegaskan bahawa soal kepedulian rakyat harus diutamakan dan tidak boleh ditolak ansur.
Menurutnya, seseorang pemerintah itu perlu menegakkan keadilan yang saksama untuk rakyat bagi mengurangkan amalan ‘kronisme’ yang diamalkan Kerajaan Umno-BN sekarang.
“Memacu pembangunan itu adalah suatu kemestian, namun kita tidak boleh izinkan kelompok kecil memunggah kekayaan seperti yang berlaku sekarang. Kita tidak boleh izinkan penyelewengan dan rasuah,” katanya lagi.- selangorku
Rural masses can spur change, says Anwar...
Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has said that the rural masses can be the catalyst for change in the country such as in the case of the 1974 Baling peasants protest against poverty, which eventually snowballed into a nationwide revolt.
The opposition leader says that the 1974 Baling peasants protest against poverty which led to a nationwide revolt proved that rural masses can spark change.
At a forum here last night to commemorate the protest in Kedah which led to several activists including Anwar being detained under the Internal Security Act, he brushed off notions that only the middle-class and educated could bring about changes.
He said when the farmers in Baling decided to rise up against the authorities, it was because they were ridden with poverty, coupled with the lack of agrarian lands and the nosedive of global rubber price.
“The special branch and Umno thought that we the students and urban people were the ones who instigated them to protest, but it wasn’t the case. Uprising doesn’t only come from the middle class and the educated, it could be led by the rural masses,” he said.
The forum was organised by PKR Youth and featured speakers such as PKR senator Syed Husin Ali, PKR member Syed Hamid Ali, environmentalist and academician Gurdial Singh and activist Kamarazaman Yaakob.
Syed Hamid Ali addressing a gathering during the Universiti Malaya Students’ Union road tour in 1969.
While there was no official record of the incident, Syed Husin in his memoir “Dua Wajah”, noted that the uprising started with Baling peasants staging a hunger strike on Nov 22 and Nov 25, 1974 to highlight their plight.
Rumours soon spread to the capital city that a peasant’s child had died after consuming a poisonous jungle yam, triggering a wave of emotions among students, NGO activists and intellectuals.
On the other hand, residents of Tasek Utara, Johor Baru, who were asked to move to the area before the 1974 general election, had their houses demolished by the authorities after the polls. Upset by the action, the residents camped outside of the Johor MB’s office in protest.
The situation was not helped by the decision of the federal government led by Tun Abdul Razak to raise the civil servants’ allowance from RM1,000 to RM1,500, noted Syed Husin in the book.
Syed Husin claimed that police fired tear gas at the protesters and more than 1,000 students were arrested at Masjid Negara where they sought refuge. Anwar and Syed Husin were subsequently detained under the ISA for two and six years respectively.
‘Reject tyranny and abuse of power’
At the forum last night, Anwar said the Baling protest was significant because it involved participation of the masses.
He said that it was more important for people to have the “inner conscience of struggle” against repression and leaders could play a role in imparting the values.
Citing the American War of Independence, he said the late French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville had pointed out that the Americans’ “habits of the heart” were their strength against the colonial master Britain.
“Likewise, our people must accept the fact that we need to defend our freedom, reject tyranny and abuse of power,” he told an applauding crowd.
Meanwhile, Guardial drew laughter from the floor when he recounted his trip to the police station to bail out his students after the mass arrest.
“The police asked me my name. I said Guardial Singh. The policeman said it’s good for me to come to the police station because they had been looking for me for days. Then I was arrested.
“I was put in a remand center with four cells. I slept in one of the cells. The next day when I woke up, I saw Anwar and Syed Husin around me,” he said.
“As long as there is repression, there would be a public uprising. As long as Baling is there, people would keep fighting,” he said in an energetic speech.- FMT