Hamid Tuah and landlessness

Speech by DAP Secretary-General, Mr. Lim Kit Siang, at the general meeting of the Kuala Klawang DAP Branch at 3 p.m. on Saturday, 31st July 1971 in Negri Sembilan

Hamid Tuah and landlessness

In Parliament yesterday, the Minister for National and Rural Development, Inche Ghafar Baba, in attempting to justify the detention of peasant leader, Hamid Tuah, under the Internal Security Act, said that the government could not allow people to open up land without government permission.

He said: “If this were allowed, only the rich would become richer. The poor could only open up land with their bare hands whereas the rich could clear vast areas in no time because they had money.”

This is a most flimsy excuse and a deliberate avoidance of the problem of land hunger and rural poverty.

The rich who should go round and open land illegally should be prosecuted in the courts of law, for they are motivated by anti-social intentions such as greed. But the poor and landless who open up land without government permission are people who are compelled by social necessity and survival to do so, and are in no way motivated by anti-social purpose.

The former should be dealt with summarily and mercilessly. But the latter, the landless poor, should be helped.

There are hundreds of thousands of Malaysians who are landless, poor and downtrodden.

What is the government doing to help them? They find themselves the dispossessed in a country rich in land with 30 million acres suitable for agriculture.

Why won’t the government implement a ‘land for the tillers’ policy for all landless in this country, and not just for a very small percentage who are settles on FLDA schemes?

Hamid Tuah and his landless followers applied through the proper channels for land, but the official authorities refused to heed their plight, poverty and suffering.

Instead of detaining Hamid Tuah for championing the cause of the landless in Malaysia, I earnestly call on the government to immediately release him unconditionally, and enlist his help in trying to solve the problem of land hunger in this country by popularizing on a national scale a ‘land for the landless’ policy.