The champion of the landless, Hamid Tuah, 77, passed away on Tuesday, 7th January 1997 at about 11 p.m.
For championing the rights of the landless in Malaysia to be given land to eke out a living in their own country, Hamid Tuah was repeatedly placed under restricted residence and detained under the Internal Security Act.
It was during one of the ISA detentions that we came to know and respect each other, when both of us were detained in the same section in the Muar Detention Centre in 1969 and 1970, starting a life-long friendship.
There is no doubt that Hamid Tuah’s campaigns to open land for the landless, which though repeatedly landed him in trouble, was one important factor in the expansion of FELDA as a major land settlement scheme throughout the country.
Even in his final years, Hamid Tuah’s fighting spirit had never been dimmed although his body had become weak and infirm.
In late 1994 and early 1995, at the age of 75, he still followed closely the protests against land acquisition abuses and injustices in various parts of the country, giving moral support to the fights for justice in cases such as in Gelang Patah, Johore; Seremban; Pantai Kundor and Paya Mengkuang in Malacca; Sepang in Selangor; Kerpan and Sungai Patani in Kedah.
Despite his poor health, Hamid Tuah attended a national meeting in Kuala Lumpur on January 8, 1995 specifically to focus national attention on land acquisition abuses and injustices of the government, resulting in the freezing of government land acquisitions for private development until an amendment to the Land Acquisition Act, which has still to be submitted to Parliament.
Malaysia needs more persons like Hamid Tuah, who are prepared to stand up and fight against socio-economic injustices as landlessness, poverty or exploitation regardless of his personal privations and sufferings.
Hamid Tuah had made a great contribution to nation building in making Malaysia a better society and the country should honour his struggle and memory.