A Stone Wall In Student Freedom

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A response to Batu 5 who tried to justify the existence of the UUCA.

Batu 5 had put on his debating hat and presented a justification for the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) that was better than any I have ever seen. If he was in Parliament, he would put to shame most of our current representatives. However, I still cannot agree with the arguments given and therefore, in the interest of intellectual masturbation, here I will provide a reply to the arguments posed by Batu 5.

I understand that his article was focused solely on the provision in the Act which does not allow students to join any political parties and the reply shall only revolve around this point. Let it be known, however, that the UUCA has many other provisions that I do not agree with. These include provisions that curtail student autonomy.

Batu 5’s first justification for the UUCA is a paternal argument which says that it is to protect students, the very people who will be our future leaders, from being exploited as they possess gullible and impressionable young minds. The writer further explained that young people are the ones mostly involved in anarchist, anti-establishment organisations, skinheads or neo-Nazi groups.

The whole notion of protecting the students from harm and exploitation does no good in the long run. Once students leave university, there is nothing to protect them from the harsh realities of life. How do we expect to have first-class graduates when they are only allowed to learn this on their own when they are dumped into the real world where the consequences of failure could be disastrous? During their days in campus, mistakes on the part of students should be allowed as a training ground for the future.

Now, there is nothing wrong with them looking for an identity or a group to belong to as it is part of growing up. It is a right to join a political party or organisation of one’s choice. If they are to join racist parties such as the very famous ones here or something more ridiculous, like Parti Bomoh Progresif (PBP), so be it. They will learn from whatever it is they are doing, whether one deems it a mistake or not.

If the State really wishes to protect them, then what they should do is allow for every kind of party or group to come into campus to present their ideas and debate it with students so that a culture of healthy discussion, debate and dialectics could take place on campus. This way, every voice will have a chance to be heard and students can come to their own conclusions, subscribe to the presented views or just whack the hell out of everyone.

A certain kind of education which is based on the principles of freedom should also be given to the students. This would include educating them, through the student press and other channels, about what they should be aware of in making a decision to join a party or cause. This way, students will come to more mature decisions and whatever exploitation of them would be effectively minimised.

Students must be able to spot exploitation and manipulation, and this can only be done not when laws are in place to prevent such acts, but when students are taught to identify them. The law does not and cannot be the answer to everything. Here is one such instance. Furthermore, laws other than the UUCA that already restrict freedom to join groups or parties are aplenty, we have the Sedition Act, Societies Act, Internal Security Act and others. Can we not add another?

Batu 5 also does not see any other way for policies to be formulated, except by way of accepting certain stereotypes. I fully disagree. It is absolutely dangerous to suggest or legitimise stereotyping for the formulation of policies. Injustice and discrimination would be a direct result of this as we have seen from many other systems such as the Nazi regime that discriminated Jews and this was as a result of taking stereotypes too seriously. The law must take into consideration the “minority”, which in Batu 5’s context, would be the more mature and less gullible students. This would mean that the law or policy in question should allow for enough freedom for those bound by it to maneuver their way around as to optimise their potential and pursue their own legitimate goals.

We must not, on the contrary, restrict everyone from joining political parties or organisations just to protect certain groups in the student population from being easily exploited. One day they will realise and find themselves working deep inside a mine with a ball and chain attached to their legs with a party flag on their chest trying to figure out what the hell happened. Further, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that the easily exploited, gullible and immature minds are the majority among students and would justify the stereotype.

Ivy League universities in the United Kingdom for example, allow their students to join political parties and organisations, and campuses hardly witness any trouble. In fact, they always find themselves in the top-half of international university rankings whereas the same cannot be said about our local varsities.

The biggest problem I find with Batu 5’s justification is that from his arguments, it seems like he views political parties as inherently evil and destructive. Batu 5 claims that being a member of a party would no longer make a student impartial as he would be biased and his beliefs and support would be entrenched. I must assert here that there is nothing wrong with being partial or biased towards a belief system or cause of a party. If independence of mind is what Batu 5 is rooting for, need I remind you that the whole Perak crisis was caused by maverick party members with “truly” independent minds – independent of honesty, that is.

In truth, students may leave a party at any time and if they do not, good for them for finding something they really want to do. Maybe, just maybe, the cause and work of the party is that good. It may be hard to believe, but there are such parties around. If Mandela had not stuck to the African National Congress, the apartheid regime would probably still be around today and Shakira would have had to sing her last World Cup song, locked up on Robben Island. I wouldn’t mind being in that prison though. Waka Waka Eh Eh.

Ironically, the mindset which views political parties with that kind of distaste demonstrates the effectiveness of UUCA. It is exactly the State’s intention to popularise apathy amongst students by regarding political parties, which are an essential part of the political arena with such pessimism. While I do not doubt that it would do well for everyone to be critical of parties, causes and politicians, we should not have a view that regards all political parties as bad. If students carry on weighing, exchanging and debating ideas without joining something they consider worthy, students will continue to observe without ever being agents of change.

There is of course activism that does not associate itself with party politics but no matter how I or others like myself dislike it, the reality is that party politics has made a lot of difference and has helped shape our history to what it has become today. Interestingly, the UUCA does not only restrict students from joining political parties but prevent them from joining any organisation, group or trade union without the Vice-Chancellor’s written consent. That would mean – PERKASA = Yay. KOMAS = Nay.

Since many of our rallies, protests and demonstrations are also associated to organisations and parties, students can be easily caught and even expelled if they take part. (Remember the ISA7?) Direct action such as this is completely illegal under the UUCA. Inaction is exactly what they desire. Let us not hand it to them.

If there is still a worry of them being forever “contaminated” with a party’s ideology, again, educate them in schools and on campuses the value of reason and independent thinking. It is high time for reform of our education system anyway.

I wholly agree, universities and campuses should be politically neutral, but this should not apply to students. They are different and cannot be regarded as one and the same. University students must be allowed to take a stand and take sides. At the end of the day, no matter the justification, WE, the students know why there is such a draconian law in existence – the State fears us. And rightly so.

In the lead up to the 1969 General Elections, a bunch of student activists from Universiti Malaya went around the country in a rented bus to share their “Student Manifesto” which witnessed thousands of citizens coming out to hear these great young men and women speak on current political issues. The effect of this was tremendous as most of the candidates – the constituencies of which the students conducted their rallies – that endorsed this manifesto won in that election. Most of them were from the Opposition. However, this achievement was overshadowed by the May 13 events that took place that year. We must remember that this story was one of the reasons why the UUCA was enacted – to eliminate the threat that students can bring.

Sure, the law is only as good as those who administer them. Unfortunately, this law is absolutely terrible to begin with. There is a dire and urgent need for us, students, to wake up from this slumber and threaten the status quo with truth, freedom and justice. As Victor Hugo once proclaimed, “There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Well, fellow students and friends, the time has finally arrived.

If you are a student, no matter from which university or college, come and join the Perhimpunan Mahasiswa Negara organised by the National Union of Malaysian Students on the 11 January 2011 for student unity and solidarity.

The Worried Student a.k.a. Haji Lou Reed is a student from a local university that is exclusive to non-citizens and bumiputeras, ignoring about half of the nation’s very own people.

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Posted on 6 December 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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16 Responses to A Stone Wall In Student Freedom

  1. Jackson

    Hahaa… don't pay attention him. First of all, we don't even know if this Ali Davidson chap is using his real name. Secondly, listening to all his bullshit, I'm pretty sure he's either living in a different country or one of BN's cyberdogs trying to coax out the identity of the author. Before we waste anymore time with you, Ali, why don't we see you at one of the many rallies or upcoming demonstrations with your full name? We do have the utmost respect for those who put their lives on the line when going against the tyrant for us. But for those who are not as courageous, you can still contribute, and that is to vote, to voice out through alternative media and spread the word. That is the very least we can do. We can however do a lot less with your kind, Ali Davidson.

  2. The Worried Student

    correction : "This particular means of using a pseudo is justified by a particular end we have in mind"

  3. The Worried Student

    Thank you so much for taking up all that time to Wiki it. So even wiki says that direct action is not necessarily anarchism. Hmm.

    I tried getting it up there once, felt quite good but was advised not to do it again. This particular means of using a pseudo justify a particular end we have in mind. And that, is enough.

  4. Ali Davidson

    The Worried Student,

    I think a simple quote from Wiki would be enough

    "In general, direct action is often used by those seeking social change, in some cases, revolutionary change. It is central to autonomism and has been advocated by a variety of marxists and anarchists, including syndicalism, anarcho-communism, insurrectionary anarchism, green anarchism, Marxist Humanists, anarcho-primitivist and pacifists."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direct_action

    So, please….read up homie! Even if it were Wiki.

    Organising your people? Dude, if you're gonna organise your people and inspire courage in them, the least you could do is be honest to yourself. You are a walking piece of self deceit the moment you put on a pseudonym, so really, save yourself from further embarrassement and take your "direct action" and direct it up your ass!

  5. The Worried Student

    @Will go to uni next year : Of course. Students in private unis/colleges should take advantage of that fact. For some reason, the state is so much more focused on the activities of the public uni students. So much so that they have employed 'spies' on campus.

    @Hafidz Baharom : Lol. Probably just a picture they put up to show rebellion towards the oppressive establishment.

  6. AND PS LOYAR BUROK PEOPLE:

    That picture up there? Is a citizen, not a student.

  7. Will go to uni next

    Would it be easier to speak or write openly in a private university/college compared to public ones?

  8. The Worried Student

    Ali Davidson,

    Direct action = anarchy? Read up, brother. Mandela and Gandhi organised their people too. And we are doing exactly that.

  9. Ali Davidson

    The Worried Student and Beatnik,

    I’m sorry guys/gals, the idea of shying away from being punished is a concept I don’t think will get you anywhere.

    Like I said, if you believe in your freedoms and think they are irremoveably yours, then object to it openly.

    Sure, there are punishments. Just as Nelson Mandela was subjected to it, just as Mahatma Gandhi was, just as everyone else who believed in something and regarded repressive laws as redundant was.

    But if you’re more concerned about getting into assembly the next year, then don’t fucking waste your time trying to be this pseudonym using-subversive-direct-action-anarchy-wannabe, you just make yourself look like an immature idiot who in fact can’t handle the realities of political life.

    If you want security, you will never get your freedom.

  10. I do believe that it is important for the UUCA to be truly abolished because by far, the cons of it, particularly its bias towards authoritarianism breeds a lack of transparency.

    However, that being said, there is also a need to ensure that students do not put their primary focus into politics, as they are, in fact, students in universities that the government subsidises university costs using the taxpayers for tuitions and student loans that are in jeopardy.

    Herein lies the major difference between the Western world, where such activities are accepted due to the fact that we don’t have such freedoms due to money being that of the taxpayer.

    However, that being said, there is a need to allow students to participate in politics. The freedom of association, for one. The freedom of speech for another.

    The case of the UKM4 goes to show that neither are being respected by universities on the basis of UUCA, and that is disappointing.

    To say that the current student body is politically biased is not a major issue. Everyone has their bias. The issue would remain just how open minded they are in accepting critique and counsel. This is also limited by the UUCA, causing the students to miss out on being able to express a differing opinion or cause.

    While I do want the student population to thrive, I don’t want them to be drones. This was the case with the UUCA, where once students left universities, political apathy and the need for political awareness and its consequences are lacking which leads to re-education via the masses and media.

    This leads to misinformation due to the fact that university spoonfeeding leads them to believe whatever they read with no research into details, also caused by the UUCA and the education system.

    In that sense, we not only need an abolished UUCA, but education needs to play a major part in ensuring the UUCA is seen for what it truly is. A gag and chain around the neck of the students.

  11. beatnik

    Ali Davidson,

    I think you meant well, and the comment on using pseudonyms is very much valid. Yet I’d have to say the line of reasoning you’ve taken in criticizing student writers is very much ignorant. You question whether the fear of getting expelled is warranted or not, and being a student in a local uni I’ll assure you that the risks are real.

    (If) you’re a student and haven’t experienced any such threats by the uni admin, I suggest you test the waters by writing/openly speaking out yourself and if there’s no setbacks, please do tell us which uni you go to. The only institution I know of that doesn’t persecute its students for being vocal is Unisel and I’ll be glad to know if other unis are following suit.

    Really, it’s not that the students haven’t tried being upfront. We have, and have been met with hostility every time. But it doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped trying. I’m certain the recent surge in student activism demonstrates that “docile” is hardly a fitting adjective to describe the students who risk their degrees everyday by choosing to be involved in countless means of direct action; the UKM4 included. If that’s not standing up for what we believe in, I don’t know what else is.

    And oh yes, the authorities do give a fuck. Why’d you think the UUCA was enacted in the first place?

  12. The Worried Student

    Dear Ali Davidson,

    It seems that you have been ignorant of happenings in the local public universities. Internal regulations are so repressive in nature that students have been punished for much less.

    Instead of telling us to do something you believe we should be doing, maybe you should assist the causes you believe in actively as well. By all means, please do criticize, but when you refuse to understand the situation these students are in, then you will fail to find a solution.

    And you still haven’t answered the point on students taking part in direct action; those students protesting are also ones who write under a pseudonym. It is better that some students continue to write with pseudonyms, rather than having an apathetic student population that would not even spend a minute of their day to just, you know, care.

    May I also remind you that the UKM4 did not want to get caught, they were just at the wrong place,at the wrong time. And if any of these writers whom hide behind pseudonyms got caught too, i trust that they would act similarly to what the UKM4 have done.

    No matter, we will soldier on into the next student assembly in January, pseudonyms or not.

    Dear Thhsrjl,

    Yes, the pseudo policy is very strict to protect writers who may face harsh action by the authorities. And thank you for your kind support

  13. Ali Davidson

    The Worried Student,

    I still remain unconvinced. This is not about being radical. This is about standing up for what you believe in. There is no point in making all noise behind closed doors.

    And is it really the case that WRITING on political issues can get you expelled? Where is this written?

    My point is simple: you know the authorities want you to be exactly this: docile, passive and to cowardly hide behind false names and pseudonyms.

    Why are you doing just that? You think the authorities really give a fuck about what you’re doing? They’re completely unconcerned with you or anyone else if you don’t put yourself as an aggrieved student – one with a name, a life and a story.

    This is what made the UKM4 boys and girls such important avatars for freedom. They are real individuals and most importantly, they were courageous to put themselves out!

  14. Thhsrjl

    It’s message thats important. I am told LoyarBurok has strict pseudo policy and only exceptionally will allow pseudo. AUKU is one hellavu oppressive law so what you expect students to do? Look at ukm4- it’s already a progress batu and ws have written – so support tem

  15. The Worried Student

    Ali Davidson,

    Writing on political issues, especially AUKU, can get students expelled from the University. If the presently small number of student activists all wrote with their name, there would be no one left to work in campus and organise the students. Yesterday, at the Syabas Water Rights Protest, Students made up almost half of the participants. We hid our faces behind scarves, towels and shirts, but we still took part in direct action to be one with the people. Were you there?

    Sure, be radical, but be pragmatic too.

    And all this hot air you claim we speak of, dear friend, have contributed significantly to the recent rise of student activism.

  16. Ali Davidson

    How to have Freedom for students when students themselves are a bunch of cowards? Too afraid to even put their names down and have to rely on lame pseudonyms.

    “Batu 5” and “The Worried Student”….need I say more?

    Unfortunately, we don’t have bright and courageous students with conscience. We just have fellas who hide behind pseudonyms and talk hot air. Walk the walk baby!