You’re a student. So you read the news, and you decide that the (now-repealed) ISA has been abused for detention of political opponents.

You are upset. You write an opinion in your university newspaper. You plan to organize a forum on the Act as part of the freshers’ orientation programme. You gather a few friends, collect some funds, arrange the requisite logistics.

Just before the election, you travel all over the country with a huge banner reading “Release All Political Detainees”, making your stand clear and attracting crowds at every rally.

Unimaginable? You bet. (“Isn’t the ISA like, the most sensitive issue ever?”) What’s most unimaginable is the fact that this was, indeed, what the Universiti Malaya Students’ Union did back in 1969.

Fast forward to 2013: GE13. Go online, and every social media website is flooded with overwhelming support for or damning attacks on political parties. A lovely photo of a candidate from “our” side? Share, retweet, like like like. A photoshopped funny photo of a candidate from “their” side? Insult with the most derogatory words you can think of in every dialect possible because f*** those b*******.

We split into camps based on political affiliation and display the utmost disrespect (unfriend!) for whoever is on the other side of the divide. We proudly declare, on polling day, “Never have I loved my country so much.”

But we weren’t always like this. We were once civilised enough to declare that on Speaker’s Corner, no topic is to be deemed too sensitive. Concerned enough to question and discuss and invite a variety of speakers to forums. Farsighted enough to look beyond party politics, focus on substantive issues, and come together to demand inter alia a minimum wage.

United enough to find common ground amidst our differences, and determined enough to make our collective voices heard without fear.

We were once mature enough to listen, and mature enough to be listened to.

Mahasiswa jurubicara rakyat, we used to claim. And then, inevitably, we changed.

The transformation was a continuous, flowing process: like a stream, like a song, like a stroll. One step at a time, we moved away from the Student we used to be, our time as jurubicara rakyat gradually relegated into the merciless ash-heap of history.

“The Student” is our imagination of this, and our entry for the UKEC-MSLS video competition. Enjoy.


Wen Zhen is a student who has a crush on some academics, some activists, some journalists, some politicians and many lawyers.

2 replies on “The Student: A Short Film”

  1. When I was in university, there was an initiative to instate a speaker's corner at the campus dataran where students hung out. As far as I can recall, no one ever stepped up to be a speaker and soon, the idea was abandoned.

    I remember thinking cynically and correctly predicting the unsuccessful stint of the speaker's corner. I wouldn't step up to be a speaker there, despite being a public speaker and debater. All that was only as an extra-curricular activity, something I did to earn credentials and friends. It wasn't to voice an opinion. It wasn't to change anything. Why bring unnecessary attention to yourself? Head down, shuffle on….

    How I envy the students of old.

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