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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 23. 23rd September 1973

The President Said today

page break

The President Said today

Drawing of Peter Wilson

Since there is very little possibility that Truth will do so, I would like to nominate the Malaysian High Commissioner in New Zealand, Mr J. ("call me Jack") De Silva as both man and mouse of the week.

This is not intended to be a personal attack against Mr De Silva simply because he has recently taken to publicly describing me as "a bourgeois liberal with a chip on his shoulder". In fact, this charge is faintly amusing considering that it was only a short time ago that Mr De Silva was offering me dinner at his place any time I wanted it and a free trip to and from Malaysia.

He made these offers following a function held by the Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China at which I had the misfortune to be subjected to his attempts to commit a sort of diplomatic carnal knowledge on me. Now, apparently, Mr De Silva has changed his tack slightly. But his latest antics cannot be lightly dismissed as the actions of a court jester tempting though this may be.

Behind his smiling facade Mr De Silva has been conducting a quite vicious campaign of political intimidation against Malaysian students in this country. Alleging that Malaysian students are being "subverted by Communist propaganda" Mr De Silva has unilaterally declared his intention and right to step in and protect Malaysian students from their own political thoughts. This, of course, is an insult to all Malaysian students in New Zealand and to their ability to think for themselves. But, in particular, his statements are directed against Malaysian students whose political views do not accord with his own or which do not suit the taste of the government he represents.

De Silva initially alleged that a "foreign power" was involved in the "subversion" and "Chinese chauvinism" he sees. As an obvious smear on the Peoples Republic of China Embassy in New Zealand De Silva's charge has still not been strongly condemned enough by the New Zealand Government. Though a statement issued by Mr Kirk made it impossible for De Silva to continue to press the "foreign power" charge, a joint delegation from VUWSA and NZUSA saw the Prime Minister on Tuesday 18th, and asked for stronger action to be taken against De Silva.

At the present time in addition to VUWSA and NZUSA, both the Malaysian Students Association and the Malaysian Singapore Students Association have condemned De Silva's intimidation. So too has the Acting Vice-Chancellor, I.D. Campbell, and it only remains to get the public endorsement of Campbell's stand from the Vice-Chancellor, Dr Taylor, upon his return this week.

Apparently De Silva did not expect the tide to run quite so strongly against him. At least that is the impression one gets from the fact that he handed a closed envelope to I.D. Campbell just before they went on the radio programme "Checkpoint" telling him that he wanted to discuss Campbell's behaviour with the real Vice Chancellor immediately upon his return. Since then De Silva has also refused to appear on a "Gallery" programme to debate his accusations with the President of NZUSA, Stephen Chan and myself. So it appears that De Silva may have retired to rearm with toothpaste. It is therefore important to stress that De Silva's recent actions and statements are not a "oncer" since they express the normal attitude of the government he represents towards political tendencies other than its own. And that tells us a lot about the repressive nature of Malaysian society.