Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cultivate Thinkers, Not Mechanical Robots

In a topic that I've been meaning to blog for a very long time (yes, there appears to be many of these topics! :-)), I wanted to look at and review the state of student activisim, intellectual and creative expression at our institutions of higher learning (or rather, the lack of it). Readers will have to wait just a little longer for me to compose my thoughts on the oft lamented issue. But I'd like to quickly point readers to a petition being conducted by SUARAM.

One of SUARAM's current campaigns is to "Restore Campus Democracy & Student Rights" in Malaysia. They have set up an online petition to request the Ministry of Higher Education to review the deplorable state of campus democracy and student rights at our local varsities.

You may add you name to the peititioners online here.

For those unfamiliar with SUARAM, it's a non-governmental organisation (NGO) with a vision to "work for a society that is peaceful, free, equal, just and sustainable by a process of empowering people and building a mass movement to uphold human rights."

The petition, addressed to the Minister of Higher Education states that the petitioners are:
...deeply concerned of numerous reports of misconducts by the authorities of the 17 local public universities in the recently-concluded campus election. We are also disappointed with the subsequent persecution against students who have been struggling for campus democracy and calling for free and fair campus elections.
And it calls upon the Malaysian education authorities to:
  • To investigate allegations on the flawed campus elections and malpractices by the university authorities

  • To immediately withdraw charges/disciplinary actions against pro-democracy students
I've signed the petition. It's your turn. :-) For fellow bloggers, add the link to your blog too!

Thanks to reader Chew for the heads up. I'll have more comments on this issue later.


Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is the government only want thinkers who think like them. Its the same with democracy, they want democracy so long as they chose them as the political party. They want minorities so long as that minority are not better than the majority. They want a check and balance in government so long as the check and balance does not threaten does not cause damage to their power.

With many countries notably Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, China and many other countries achieving development without a free thinking student population, the government cannot why it has to change given the historical political agitation of the students and the Answar history with it.

The crime here is that the government in Malaysia is aping what it does not understand well or at least making a convenient choice that has further repercussion to us than others. Singapore for example is now realizing that its oppressed educational policy has produced uncreative minds that cannot produce dynamic ideas for the economy it needs in the future. Countries like Singapore, Taiwan, Korea always had a limit to its oppression of students and invested heavily in quality of technical education. Those government recognized that it needs to engaged the students even if it restrict their freedom. They never had an incompetent empire-building deans/VCs that is hell bent on propagating their views.

Malaysia government is usually guilty of aping others when its too late or when it not exactly the same circumstances and have no idea how to deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Stone-aged politicians who practiced narrow-mind mentality, for personal gains, should be sent out to Ghana.

(Malaysia gained independence at the same year as Ghana……….some jokers said we should be happy, at least we are better than Ghana.)

Have they no shame? If they really believe that University Malaya is world-class, even God cannot help Malaysia!

So much anger so much hatred so much disgust vented by so many citizens. When will these gangsters running our country wake up?

Malaysians, I beg of you, vote wisely! Vote for our future and our future's future too!

Anonymous said...

seriously, i think that maybe our PM has great visions. but he cannot carry out all those changes because (1)He is supposed to protect the M*lays (2)His subordinates are just too inefficient.

i am not sure whether those cry scenes enacted by Dr.M were true. but i think, if i was him, i would cry too. seeing all my own effort down in the drain because i hav to protect my race.

what do you guys think?

Anonymous said...

Yes, more action like these, petitions. That way if people band together they cannot dismiss incidence like these as isolated case. That way we the people will the case against them.


Anonymous said...

Forty-eight years after Independence, the people of Malaysia are still searching for an identity. Are they malays or Muslims first; are they Chinese, Indians or Malaysians first?

This identity crisis is a result of the failure of the BN government, which has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957, later as the expanded Barisan Nasional.

The truth is that the malays of this country partly owe their independence to the non-malays. The reason was that the British refused to give independence without an agreement from the non-malays.

Another argument put forth by the pro-malay special rights group is that, they made a compromise by giving the non-malays their citizenship and in exchange the malays must be given their special privileges.

This argument is the most ridiculous I have heard thus far but in their ignorance some Malaysians still think that citizenship is for a certain race to give. This logic would mean that the minorities will always be seen as foreigners who will never be equal to the malay bumis.

The Chinese and Indians must accept they are immigrants and they were given citizenships in 1957 on the agreement that the malays are given special rights and privileges.

Stretching your logic a bit further, are you also suggesting that in America, the Negroes continue to be slaves to the whites otherwise they give up US citizenship and go back to Africa?

This is stupid idiotic logic. Even if the so-called contract was valid, it was so only in the 50s and 60s.

We are nearly 50 years after Merdeka and all Chinese and Indians have begun citizens. They are no more bound by the so-called social contract which enslaved their ancestors.

Umno is afraid to give up Ketuanan melayu because it is bankrupt of ideas in competing with others in this 21st century democracy.

Umno's warped logic is that it is better for country to be backward so long as malays benefit than for country to prosper, where malays are marginalized.

This warped logic is in fact the beginning of the end of the malays who will never progress and compete with others on equal footing and level playing field, so long as they subscribe to Ketuanan melayu and have crutch mentality in forever relying on special privileges……….

Malays will crumble from internal weaknesses and disappear in era of globalization……….no need for others to colonize them as Mahathir had constantly raised this bogey.

My dad is a racist; so is my mom. Similarly racists are my brother, sister and relatives. All the Malaysian friends I now have are, and those I had were or at the least had been, racists too.

Well, perhaps thanks to all these people, I have become - and remain - a racist as well.

You see, we are the members of a much larger community: Malaysia - the racist nation!

The term community is somewhat misleading. We are not united as such as a nation should be. We are only united by the fact that all of us - at one time or other - had been are or will become, racists......

All of us formally became racists in the year of 1971, when racism was institutionalised in Malaysia. Not that racism didn't exist before: it did; it lurked underneath, which --- as everyone knows --- erupted as the May 13 ethnic riots. Hence came the New Economic Policy, set up to divert the winds off the sails of racism. Ballasting the boat, and listing it in favour of the economically disadvantaged malay-Malaysians may lead to Malaysians seeing each other as equals, it was thought.

Then came the 80s, which also gave Dr Mahathir.

Still, racism remained somewhat otherworldly to me. All of us practiced racism, on the streets, in shops, in schools and in the house, but racism was never blatant - at least in my life. That changed as the 80s came to a close.


Please tell me, can anyone even imagine a multi-cultural Malaysian nation --- where no one discriminates the other on the basis of race, where everyone treats the other as a brother or sister - being run by the same racist parties that exist now? Is such a future even conceptually possible?

It is time for me to descend to earth and crawl back into my racist carapace, and be a realist again. And heap praises on our nation and on the ideals that are so central to its psyche: long live, racism! Long live, racist Malaysia - the model racist nation!

It is no wonder our civil participation is as backward as it is.

Do you have any idea why Singapore is almost the first world country or 20 years better than Malaysia?

One could argue every country has its own policies and laws that place prejudice on certain parties - yes, that is true, but none so shamefully as those who (Malaysia) not only boast about it, take the credit for the successes of these people whom they slam their discriminatory abuses on, and have no intention to change it (and that said with a smug look on the face).

Bangsa Malaysia? Bah, humbug!

Anonymous said...

Umno, which effectively runs the government, is riddled with corruption and croynism.

Members crave for the award of lucrative government contracts given out under the pretext of the NEP. But the party is filled with bureaucrats with no management skills and no productive economic skills.

In a freely competitive market, they would be in the lower rungs of the public sector or would have lost their jobs altogether.

To maintain their way of life, they have to ensure that the NEP is continued at all costs.

A large segment of the malays are still poor after 35 years of the NEP and on top of this the income disparity between the rich and the poor has widened.

Clearly, the NEP as a method of equalising economic disparity has failed.

The benefits of the NEP to the poor malays is a pittance compared to the benefits to the rich and well-connected malays.

It is in reality a tool and facade for the rich and elite malays - who are in the minority - to continue their extravagant way of life at the expense of the rest of the country.

The cost of the NEP so far include unemployable graduates who are mostly malays, increased racial polarisation, declining education standards, brain drain, bailouts of well-connected companies, an inefficient and incompetent public service, a government which makes decisions first and studies the impact later - just about everything that is wrong in this country!

Anonymous said...

For a multi-racial country like Malaysia, the best way of ensuring national unity is through the education process. If students grow up together under a systematic national education process, they will one day end up loving the country more and respecting their counterparts better.

In other words, Malaysians have to be reminded that if they grow up under too many education systems within the national education policy, they shall end up being further polarised among ourselves.

No matter what the government does to bring about national unity in the country, it would only remain superficial and be a mere lip service if our children are still made to feel that they are being alienated by race, religion or origin.

Unfortunately, not many entrusted to ensure an impartial education policy to all Malaysians realise this fact. Some are too zealous and nationalistic in feelings that they only feel for their own kind and that only their group of people should be made to progress better in life at the expense of all other Malaysians.

As a result of this divisiveness in our education system, a case in point that has again cropped up is the university entrance debacle. Firstly, students are made to go through two examinations - matriculation and the STPM - in order to seek entrance into local universities.

Secondly, these two university entrance programmes are unequal in terms of duration and the level of difficulty. In other words, there cannot be genuine meritocracy if two benchmarks are used to gauge students' performance - no matter what explanations and reasons the authorities come up with to justify their claims that there is meritocracy in the system.

Hence, this has caused a lot of dissatisfaction among students and parents. Some feel that they are discriminated against just because they do not belong to a certain privileged class of people.

In the long run, therefore, how are these students going to feel about themselves in relation to the others who are more privileged within the nation? There is bound to be perpetual disunity in society.

All students have to go through the same entrance examination and all should have access to any of the institutions found in the country irrespective of race, religion or origin.

Thus, the education system we are practising now, in many aspects has failed to make the people feel that they are all Malaysians - aggravating further the process of national unity……...

Anonymous said...

I wish to refer to prime minister Badawi's comments where he said democracy was working well in Malaysia.

Abdullah's comments bear no credibility or weight. To date, Malaysia has never had another political coalition in government apart from the Barisan Nasional. This is not because the opposition is weak but because information is controlled through a muzzled press and media.

The heavy machinery used by the government to stifle the opposition is not unknown. The various law enforcement agencies, the election commission itself and the media are there to ensure the eternal position of the BN in the corridors of power.

We have seen the full force of the government machinery used upon one man who was defamed, maligned and thrown into prison to rot for many years.

I will agree with Abdullah that democracy is alive and kicking in Malaysia, if and when there is press freedom - when the politicians or their proxies take their soiled hands off media companies and the people are allowed to read the news they want to read.

When the Royal Malaysian Police would act independently on any report irrespective of whether it was lodged by the ruling party or the opposition. When another party is swept into power and there is a smooth transition of power. Perhaps then we can be a beacon of light and a shining example of democracy to all our neighbours.

Can we even dream of this? If the people truly decide to vote in an opposition party could there be a smooth transition of power within the framework of the constitution? Can we as Malaysians, even begin to think of a government not of the BN?

There is a smooth transition of power and there is the respect for their constitution and the laws, which keep peace in the country.

Anonymous said...

If we observe the educational backgrounds of those most zealous Umno leaders who now champions of the 'national' education system, we cannot fail to find that most of them are not products of the system they claim to be the best for 'national integration', 'national unity' and what not.

If they themselves have no confidence in the local or so-called 'national' education system, why do they insist that it is the best for the children and grandchildren of ordinary Malaysians?

Have we forgotten the slogan of 'leadership by example'?

It is sad that mother language education should yet again, be victimised by our ethnic politicians. That Chinese and Tamil medium primary schools are in short supply is patent.

Despite the government's lavish spending on national schools and its zealous denial of vernacular education's contribution to national progress, both Chinese and Tamil schools still thrive.

Given this circumstance - and the fact that the right to mother language education is enshrined in our constitution - the government's present education policy is both myopic and undemocratic.

Even if we ban all vernacular schools in the country, it will not mean that national integration will be achieved. Students would not integrate if they feel they are being denied equal chance to universities or government assistance.

We are tax-paying citizens and it is our right to demand for more schools of our choice. We as parents want to have a say in how we educate our children.

But please don't stop us from choosing what is best for our children. This is something that is very sensitive to the Chinese community and I hope that just as the sensitivities of the malays must be respected, the same would go for the Chinese and Indian communities in Malaysia.

Anonymous said...


I hate to admit this but I do very much agree with you. Malaysia is my home and will always hold a special place in my heart. However, I feel that my future no longer hold in this country due to various reasons, some you have already mentioned and some personal.

I have lived in UK and my heart now is in Europe.

Malay nationalists especially Umno would rather let Malaysia bankrupt than let it progress and prosperous, manage by the Chinese.

They will rather let the people and country suffer than hurting their own ego. That is the fact and this system will remain until Malaysia is bankrupt.

This country is in for very hard times and year 2020 will see the country going down the drain as an even more underdeveloped country.

The NEP is the very reason why I and many of my partners refuse to invest in Malaysia. We know this is a loss of opportunities for us but it is also a loss for Malaysia because it has lost investments and job creation.

For example, we start a business. We take all the risks and do all the hard work. Say, we are successful and have grown sufficiently for us to relax. We do this by listing our shares in the KLSE so that others can share in the fruits of our success.

What happens! The Umno government insists that we reserve at least 30%, for bumis often, at a discounted price. What have the bumis done or contributed towards the success of our company?


They have done nothing towards it! Yet they want to take our success at a discounted price and also have two chances to get the shares. Once at the 30% reserved shares and second, at the general balloting.

Why cannot they buy our shares like all the others? No! Our feeling is that they are robbing us of our hard work and the risks taken by us. To say that this policy is to help the bumis is a lie and rubbish.

It is to enrich the Umno malays only. The poor of all races do not benefit from this at all.

Anonymous said...

Since you all obviously have a lot of angst inside of you, I am hereby posting to comment about Malaysia and its dreadful quota system or how inefficient the country is.

I am a Malaysian and have lived in Singapore very happily the past 6 years.

Every time I go back to Malaysia, my parents can't stop reminding me not to carry a clutch bag out, not to drive out late at night, to go out in groups and never walk alone on the street.

Every time I read the newspapers, I cringe in horror at all the crimes I see in the papers.

Every time I talk to my friends, they tell me about my drug lord friend who keeps having to pay the policemen to keep them away from him.

Every time I walk outside, I cringe at the malays whistling and calling me Amoy despite me wearing a t-shirt and jean.

If you are embarrassed that I don't see what Malaysia has to offer, I am embarrassed you think that we Malaysians living in Singapore should all think like you.

Ignorant and superficial?

Just because I enjoy being able to walk down the streets without having to keep turning around to see if someone's tailing me? Just because I got a good quality degree here? Just because I like order and cleanliness?

If that is ignorance and superficiality, so be it.

You cannot change the system in Malaysia, so if you really hate it that much, emigrate. It is Malaysia's loss, not yours.