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
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