On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Open minds make sharper future leaders

Idealism is something positive.  University students like to believe they can
bring positive  changes to the

It's nothing new. The student 
representative councils in our 
universities have always been 
dominated by PAS-influenced 
leaders, particularly those from 
the east coast.

Anti-government sentiments,  however,
have become stronger  since the sacking
of Datuk Seri  Anwar Ibrahim from Umno
and  the Government.

There have been proposals to  enforce the
University and University Colleges Act against students and lecturers for their
involvement in politics.

Umno Youth has gone a step  further,
saying it was preparing  a report on the
alleged involvement of vice-chancellors and 

There must be a meeting point  here. Our
leaders must understand that dissenting views are  part of democracy.

Our students must be allowed  to sharpen
their minds and to be  exposed to all

Lecturers should freely expouse their political views in  class as long as they do not penalise
students who do not share  their

During tutorials, where marks  are given
for participation, they  should be open
to sound arguments from students. That is 
what academia is all about.

On the other hand, students  and
lecturers must be open to  the views of
those who are pro establishment. If our campus 
community talks about opening 
minds, then they, too, must not 
shut their minds to the views of 

It is here that government  youth leaders
are tested. They  must be ready to
convince our  students the path taken by
the  Government is correct.

It is better for Barisan Nasional to convince our young  minds than to punish them for  refusing to support the party.

The student movement during  the 60s and
70s was actually  stronger. For example,
the role  played by Universiti
Malaya's  Socialist Club and Islamic  groups.

These groups took up popular  causes such
as joining in protests by rubber peasants in Baling and fighting for the
Tasek  Utara squatters in Johor in

In 1967, Universiti Malaya students raised the issue of the  landless in Teluk Gong. In 1969,  then student leader Anwar Ibrahim played a
key role in calling  for the replacement
of Prime  Minister Tunku Abdul

We must always recognise the  need for a
strong student movement and the importance of political consciousness.

It is imperative for the development of young minds which, in  the end, will make our students  better future leaders.

If leaders have not gone  through the
baptism of fire, so to  speak, it is
unlikely they will be  able to take up a
fight with the  opposition.

At the same time, our students  must
never have the illusion that  they are
the only champions of  the people.

Fighting for popular causes  may be their
social responsibility but they also have a responsibility towards the nation,
taxpayers and their parents, to do well 
in their studies.

It is no secret that many of our 
undergraduates have mediocre 
results in university exams.  Many
cannot even string a sentence in English, let alone write a  report in the language.

As a result of our education  system and
the attitude of our  students, the
Foreign Service,  for example, has
inherited the  problems of its officers
having  poor command of English.

At international forums, Malaysians are no longer looked  upon to draft communiques involving
international issues.

Those who advocate the  growth of
progressive thinking  must also be
willing to be critical  of conservative
and orthodox  thinkers, who stand in the
way of  modernisation.

One cannot help but be suspicious of those who consider  themselves as liberals but yet  readily work with forces which  attempt to put up institutions  that stand in the way of liberalism.

Surely, we do not allow democratic institutions to be torn  down simply because we do not  agree with our leaders.

These are fundamental concerns we need to bring to the attention of students,
who should  be equally critical of what
PAS  can offer to a multi-ethnic and  modern Malaysia.

Our students have been a  lucky lot.
Unlike Americans and  Europeans, our
students never  have to work part-time to
pay for  their studies. With
scholarships  on offer, our students are
free  from economic pressures.

There are many others who  would love to
take over their  places in universities,
lest they  forget.

But we must never use the slegehammer treatment. Bureaucrats in bush jackets
must not be  allowed to take over the
roles of  academicians.

The campus should be a vibrant place for lively debates  and differing views. We must  never allow intellectualism to be  stifled by narrow political interest.

After graduating, young people are on their own and will  have to prove their worth at  work. Their future employers  won't assess them on the number  of reformasi demonstrations and  ceramahs they have attended.

Likewise, the minute academicians take off their gowns to become politicians,
their objectivity ends. They are just like any 
other partisan politicians who 
have to prove themselves to the