SIRI PMN 2011: I Went To PMN 2011 (yeay!). But …

PMN 2011

This is the tale of that act of cowardice and the reasons why I did it. I want readers to assume THE position: our position as students in a local public university – the fears we face and the oppression that we have to endure daily.

I went to Perhimpunan Mahasiswa Negara 2011 (PMN 2011) a few days ago. Unfortunately, halfway through that mentally stimulating programme, I got cold feet and ran away. I’m ashamed of that act. But I thought (and still think) it was necessary to do so. It was a Hobson’s choice and I regretfully chose to exit. This is the tale of that act of cowardice and the reasons why I did it. I want readers to assume THE position: our position as students in a local public university – the fears we face and the oppression that we have to endure daily.

Tyranny

Hopefully, you might understand our plight.

Hopefully, you might understand why freedom and liberation means so much to us, who are denied of this right.

Hopefully, you might play your part and support us.

Biarlah saya membuka pekung di dada saya asalkan saudara dan saudari memahami kesusahan kami. (I’m anonymous anyway.)

I went to PMN with two friends, Klatoxx and Sinyu. As a student from a public university (IPTA), I travelled to the venue of PMN situated in KL at the KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall near Victoria Institution by public transport. It took us an hour and a half to get there and it cost us RM10 for a round trip! That was the only option we had. It was a tough decision, but we did it because we wanted to participate at PMN 2011. We wanted our voices to be heard even at a cost of RM10 (lunch and dinner was free anyway). We arrived at the venue around 10 am.

We registered. We met a few of our mates from our IPTA. I was pulled aside by one of those mates, Baxter who told us that there might be spies from our IPTA coming to monitor us. He cautioned us against allowing our pictures to be taken by these suspicious spies. Baxter told us from a legal point of view that there was nothing illegal about this forum and that we should have fun. Sounds contradictory, but … yeah.

I was reciting profanities in my heart after talking to Baxter. Officials from our IPTA just won’t stop harassing us! The night before PMN, we did a cost-benefit analysis on whether we should go to PMN. Of course, there were risks. However, from a legal point of view, this wasn’t a political assembly or a rally. This was just another forum for an intellectual discourse. It was also at a private venue. Apa salahnya? Besides, our IPTA didn’t issue a circular prohibiting us from attending this assembly.

While I was lepaking with Klatoxx and Sinyu outside of the hall, a guy approached us. He had a camera. He looked older than most of us and wore a coat, to appear younger maybe. However, he had a tag which means he must’ve produced a student card at registration. A part-time student? A student, who dropped out a long time ago, did a few odd jobs, repented, realised the value of education and took an undergraduate course? The first thing he asked us was “Korang dari mana?” We told him the name of our IPTA. He asked us what course we were taking and which semester we were in. We answered politely and reciprocated with the same questions. Apparently, he was from our IPTA as well (surprise, surprise). This guy was acting weirdly. Why didn’t he ask our names at all or introduced himself? We didn’t wear our tags yet at that time.

He then told us that he saw a couple of students from a branch campus of our IPTA. He said he was happy to see a lot of students from our IPTA and said he took pictures of those kids from that branch campus. “Nanti aku nak ambik gambar korang pulak yea, boleh?” he persisted. We said later and not now.

“Confirm mamat ni spy,” I whispered to the other two.

“Agak ah,” agreed Klatoxx.

We entered the Dewan and took our seats at the designated spots. I was separated from Klatoxx but I was beside Sinyu. I didn’t register to be a speaker as I wanted to lay low and not be too flamboyant. Takut spy tu rasa I threat. There were many empty seats, sadly. I think there were many people who registered online but were intimidated with the threats by the authorities. The authorities are tightening the screws of repression against us students. Or maybe it was just apathy amongst us. Students, after a long time being ignored (since 1971) just couldn’t care anymore about forums. What a disappointment.

The event was kick-started at 10.30 am by the moderator from UKM. He told us that he wanted to use the word “aku” instead of “saya” as it sounds cooler. We were cool with it. The first agenda of the day was for us students to voice out issues and grievances. Speakers who registered were given 5 minutes to speak. There was a potpourri of students from universities (both public and private) all over Malaysia! Around 30 institutions if I’m not mistaken. There were around 150 students, I think. Students began voicing out issues pertaining matters regarding university life.

These issues were something which we could relate and identify with. The discretionary powers of the Pak Guard, the inefficiencies of the Student Affairs Department (HEP), issues with tuition fees and scholarships, and AUKU (UUCA) were brought up and discussed. There was rousing applause for every speaker. There was an admirable sense of decorum and civility in the way the students conducted themselves (both speakers and listeners) which could put any member of the Malaysian Parliament to shame. This forum was an outlet for us to voice our grievances with fellow students who understood our plight. Since complaints to the proper channels (the bureaucracy) usually fell on deaf ears, what alternatives do we have? None. This Assembly was far from political, it was apolitical.

I saw the spy (let’s call him Spy A, shall we?) writing notes when students from my institution were speaking. He was sitting with two other people, one male and one female. The female (Spy B) looked too old to be a student. The male (Spy C) on the other hand looked young and was feverishly taking notes. All three wore coats. What is it with coats and looking young with these guys? Come on lah.

I also had a chance to speak. I think people didn’t get what I said or agreed to the things I said as there was no rousing applause after I ended my speech. Oh well. Maybe those spies didn’t understand what I said either and would ignore me. I was also firing tweets on Twitterjaya. Apparently on Twitterjaya, famous tweeters were tweeting (and re-tweeting) about the event, encouraging us and even offering suggestions. I didn’t get a lot of responses from my tweets. Oh well.

We ended the first session at 1 pm. Two more sessions to go! Before breaking for lunch, we were divided into four groups. The issues which we discussed in the first session were categorised under four titles. Each group was given a category and was to discuss the issues under that category. You know, like identifying the problem, methods to solve the problem etc. Sounds like fun, kan? Unfortunately, this was not meant to be for me.

While we were having lunch, I saw Spy A conferring with B and C. Then Spy A came up to us (Sinyu, Klatoxx and I), trying to strike up a conversation using bahasa pasar orang muda. I tried ignoring him. I was shaken after the first conversation with him. I didn’t know why. Sinyu on the other hand was having a more cautious conversation with him. At least that kept him at bay. I heard that Spy A and Spy C were Pak Guards from our IPTA. They didn’t look familiar to me. After all, there were many Pak Guards plying their trade by oppressing students at my IPTA. My heart was pounding like mad. Would he remember my face? Did he look at my name tag? Did he take my picture?

I didn’t want to leave due to those flimsy reasons. However, the straw which broke the camel’s back was when I heard from my colleagues that a circular was issued by HEP of my IPTA prohibiting us from attending PMN under the pain of suspension or expulsion. Haram. “Fuck,” I cursed. The circular was issued the same day as the Assembly, during the event. I recalled my administrative law class where my lecturer (a very nice person) was talking about notices and how a notice must be issued within a reasonable time before action can be taken. Administratively speaking the administration was administratively wrong. The grounds for banning PMN were also flawed. This wasn’t a political gathering or a rally. This was like a birthday party or a forum. Sesuka hati je nak larang orang.

Fresh from reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and a bit about Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha, staying on would be a form of civil disobedience. It would be a form of non-violent resistance against these self-righteous nut jobs. However, fear was crippling my spine. I tried to assure myself by saying there is nothing to fear but fear, but this voice is dwarfed by a louder one saying you’re gonna get screwed over man! You see, fear stems from uncertainty. Uncertain of what would happen next and uncertain of your fate.

I knew the circular was wrong and could be challenged. However, I chose to err on the side of caution. The cost of being expelled or suspended was too high. I thought about my mother and father. They cautioned me against entering politics at student level if it meant that I was to be expelled from university. I would just disappoint them. I remember when I received the offer to enter university and the first day my parents sent me to university. It meant the world to them seeing their kid enter university and having a chance to be a somebody one day. They trusted my judgments and supported every activity I entered. To be expelled from this IPTA would crash their hopes. True, my family is rather conservative and result-oriented, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I understood their position. My mother’s father was a rubber tapper while my father’s father had two jobs to sustain the family. Both of my parents had eight siblings. They knew what hardship felt and how education could transform an individual for better. They didn’t want me to be expelled and end up as a nobody. We’re not rich and we cannot afford private tertiary education.

You know, I don’t mind going to prison (after I finish my degree) for my political beliefs. Of course I don’t want to, but if you put it on a weighing scale (yes, the one on BN’s logo), I would rather be in prison with a degree than have my education rescinded. Restrict a man his freedom of movement, he can survive, but take away his education and you rob him of his dignity and his ability to self-actualise.

You see the dilemma that we students in public universities face? We want our voices to be heard but at what cost? Losing your tertiary education? The Government is holding our education at ransom just to ensure we don’t participate in politics which is a right of every citizen. I don’t see any harm (tangible/intangible) if students go to a forum discussing issues which affect our interests. Even if it is illegal, it is a victimless crime. No harm befalls anyone else. What is the rationale for doing this to us? The administration arbitrarily bans PMN without due consideration because they can! I just wanted to scream out loud in anger. Even if participating in politics was such a sin, why must our education suffer? We’re talking about suspension or expulsion people! I can’t believe that this is the mentality which persists among our bureaucrats who ideally believe we can become a world class university. Wow!

I had no ill-will against Spy A. He was just doing his job – just a servant who follows the chain of command. But that feeling turned to anger when I observed his mannerism. There was something malicious about him. It looked like he enjoyed being there picking out students. It seemed like fun. He didn’t seem reluctant at all but pursued his duties ecstatically and earnestly (like all Pak Guards do). I wanted to harass him with questions. Don’t you think what you’re doing is wrong? Is it fair to persecute students who believe in a certain cause? How can you sleep at night if your actions reporting us would lead to our expulsions?

On the way back, I took a hard look of the people around me on the public transport. They were ordinary, average people. Did they know about us and our plight? Do they care enough to take action against the Government?

Who among them would go out and protest with the students to abolish these oppressive laws? No one would. They’re too caught up with their own lives and how to make ends meet. As long as the Government satisfies their lives, why would they go against the Government for a bunch of students?

If the answers to the above were resounding affirmatives, AUKU would have been abolished 40 years ago since its inception. The struggle remains.

Now that you have read this article and understand our grievances, what would you do?

“An unjust law, is no law at all.” – St. Augustine of Hippo

Batu 5 is a law student. He is an active member of Twitterjaya. He feels that there needs to be more social mobility in this country. He also is a dreamer as he plans to establish a company with his girlfriend and which is too big to fail for Malaysia. He believes that Malaysia is in a class war, and his class, the learning/student class is losing out.

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Batu 5 is a student in a local university. He writes under a pseudonym for fear of persecution by university administrators. He feels the suffocating grip of the authorities.

Posted on 16 January 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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18 Responses to SIRI PMN 2011: I Went To PMN 2011 (yeay!). But …

  1. Batu 5

    AgreeToDisagree: Yes I agree with you that these are the essentials to all democracies and something which all politicians need to adhere to. If I may add another litmus test; to allow freedom of thought (so university students are able to have political emancipation as well).

  2. Try the below acid tests :

    1) Freedom from Apartheid/Fascism

    2) Freedom from Religious-Persecution/Religious-Supremacy.

    3) Equality for all ethnicities and faiths in all aspects of policy, Law and Constitution.

    4) Declare Assets

    5) Endorse Term Limits

    ;any politician who cannot abide by these 3+2 items, should not be voted for at all.

  3. Batu 5

    El Che: Thank you very much. I'm glad that there are people who enjoyed my article (terharu). People needs to be aware of the real life situation that us students face. Average people just thinks that AUKU is a normal law. It's not and the effects on students is corruptive. We need to combat this.

    Qishez: I read the article via the link that you give. True, political parties are trying to poach younger voters. So, as younger voters, we need to vote for political parties which promises us freedom and promises to abolish AUKU and this bastion of erratic conservatism we call a university.

  4. Qishez

    They chase us like nuts, wanting us to vote in the general election yet wouldn't hear us.

    They trust us to vote but wont let us put on our thinking cap (in determining the best). Impressive!

    ref :http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2010/6/27/nation/20100627125523&sec=nation

  5. El Che

    For the first time, a real article regarding a common ground that students have being laid down here.

    Batu 5, the intention of u going is good enough to show that u still have faith and trying to make this whole situation better. Regardless for the country, the people or ur class (students). U going back early is truly justified I had the pleasure actually to talk to the spyA and let me tell u this, he looked like a stupid scared dude when i asked him few twisting question.

    Well in the end I think that this is a great write up. Kudos to u Batu5!

  6. Nano

    Batu 5 and the rest of you students, I salute you.

    Have no fear! For the time will come and it will come when you are set free of the oppression and from your fears.

    SALUTE!

  7. Batu 5

    Hi another worried student,

    I understand and share your fears. Most students in local universities share the pain, the anger and the dilemma. The only way I feel that change can happen is through awareness. People needs to know the abuses of the present government. How dire it is and do the right thing during election time.

    They need to know how AUKU affects students psychologically. It becomes our duty to tell as many people as possible. Hopefully, one day, that dream of liberation can be a reality.

  8. Batu 5

    Hi HSB,

    Thanks for your positive feedback. I agree with you. This is the dilemma that we face. We long for the day when we are unchained from the shackles of repression and free to compete with students from universities world-wide.

    I understand, your fears. I was almost pissed in my pants when I was there. We need grassroot support from the everyday man to abolish this law. Presently, people know about AUKU. But they don't know the harsh realities of it. How it instills a climate of fear among students. How it stifles freedom of thought. How it forces us into a corner where we are dependent on the state for information.

    People needs to be aware of its harms. Spread this to your friends at the medicine faculty. Every student counts.

    Cheers.

  9. Batu 5

    Hey SST,

    Thanks for your comments and suggestion. I agree with you that there is safety in numbers. Usually this trick is employed by cunning trade unionists where mass mobilization is done through strikes. Unfortunately, the situation here is different.

    Apathy is a core problem with our fellow comrades. Students have been ignored too long that they just don't care about fighting for their rights. The numbers present at PMN 2011 is evidence of this.

    Secondly, though punishment would be done collectively, the sufferings would be felt individually. What I mean is, if a student is expelled, he alone would feel the ramifications and disappointing with his family members. And this fear is what most of us won't take.

    I'm not brave my friend. I'm even doing this anonymously. Those who went to PMN 2011 and stayed, the UKM 4 individuals, they are the brave ones and our hope for salvation.

  10. HSB

    Hi Batu 5. It is very heart-warming to know that there are still many students of this university that are not "katak bawah tempurung".

    I am from the same university of yours albeit from a different faculty. I have to say that your courage is commendable to have particiapted in PMN 2011.

    Although the anger towards certain governmental policies and mismanagement are huge, there is still an inner fear of persecution that seems to put out the fire. We are bombarded with AUKU, ISA, Akta Hasutan and what other law deemed appropriate by the authorities to charge us. The fear of being expelled is also very real. I dare not join any demonstrations or by elections for the same reason as yours.

    I hope for a better future for students, where we can have academic, mature and intelligent debate of issues affecting our country and the world. I long for a time where we can think freely and choose to believe in what we want, instead of being dictated by certain quarters for their own good. I am sick of AUKU, BTN, hubungan etnik, useless co-curricular activities, and other things imposed upon us by the university.

    We are adults, treat us like one.

    Regards, Faculty of Medicine.

  11. Another Worried Stud

    Batu 5, thank you very much for speaking up for the rest of us who don't even dare to register, let alone step foot into that event. I hate to say this but there is no way we overcome this entire culture of oppression and fear :(

    I'm sorry but most of us are too afraid to do anything about it.

  12. The Worried Student

    I fully understand the reasons behind your decision man. No problem. However, and this i would like to share with all;

    We, the students, will never allow any student to be unjustly victimized by such oppressive laws and we will stand with you, in solidarity, should you be a victim in a system that is corrupt at its core.

  13. SST

    Hi,
    It’s heartbreaking to hear that such oppression is so rife back home. Laws are meant to maintain civil peace but unjust laws need to be identified and changed.
    I have long suggested that the best way to get around these issues is to turn out in numbers. The next time something like this is organised, get 20,30,40 of your classmates with you, and POSE for dear Pak Guard. Let him expel 40 of you simultaneously. Even better, get your whole batch mate with you – let them expel the WHOLE class.
    See if this won’t make the papers. You are weak when you are alone – but go there in numbers – show that you are not afraid. You identified that procedurally, they have not given enough time to inform you that the even was illegal. See if the people in power would dare expel ALL of you when they have not legally done the right thing.
    It is a risk I know, but certain risks are worth taking. And share the risk – then the burden shifts to those in power.
    Thank you for writing about this – you have been very brave. Good luck.

  14. Batu 5

    Hey guys, thanks for the comments!

    Will go to uni this year on 16 January: Yup, this is the kind of oppression and restrictions that we have to face. Have you heard about the dress code yet? I’m glad we don’t have weekly assemblies and sessions of “angkat turun, angkat turun” just to form a straight line! I envy the fact that you’re able to go to a private uni..

    Ruzaini: I understand bro. Sometimes I just wish I could do more. I feel like my life as a uni student has been robbed. You know? When I start working, I won’t have the time for activism, protests, fighting for my beliefs or even weaving articles. Now should be the most memorable moments of my life but I’m just squandering it because some administrators knows whats best for us. I envy people who are able to study in UK and enjoy maximum freedom. And get to join Kelab UMNO Luar Negara to boot. haih.

    Azira: Thank you very much. It’s good to know that there are people who understands the position that we’re in. It means alot to me.

    The Worried Student: Thanks for being understanding. It means alot that there are people who are willing to stand up for others (though only a sad minority). I’m angry of the hypocrisy of it all. By the top management who’re doing this for self-interests and to consolidate power at the expense of our liberties. W’re mere pawns..

  15. Azira Aziz

    Batu 5, just keep on fighting the good fight. Your concerns are real, and I emphatize with you wholeheartedly. In the end, we made choices which we believe is better for us in the long run. It is a good call, methinks.

  16. Hi comrade, as a member of the institution to which we are currently belong to I understand your plight. How could not I when the weight of the threat is constantly hanging on the head?

    Just some words of wisdom, be wise in handling yourself. Be as you are now but it is not wrong to lay low in activities. civil disobedience is not solely characterized by your participation in any civil strike; it can also be demonstrated by words.

    You have 4 more semesters, or 2, depending on your chance of getting into LLB Hons, to go. Hold on. You and I have played our parts, there will be others who would play theirs.

    Remember, silence does not mean that we give up and let the oppression rule at the expense of our freedom; sometimes it can be a perfect time for us to find strength and coordinate our strategies.

  17. Will go to uni this

    "It looked like he enjoyed being there picking out students. It seemed like fun. He didn’t seem reluctant at all but pursued his duties ecstatically and earnestly (like all Pak Guards do). "

    Sounds like some of my secondary school teachers who take a joy in cutting students' hair and public humiliation of students. Melayu Cina India semua sama, truly 1 Malaysia. I decided not to go to public U after suffering enough from those xxxxxxxx. I think the university administration will probably have the same mindset as my school. Just doing their jobs.

    I sympathize with you.

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