Monday, May 31, 2010

Silence of the Mahasiswas

Silence of the mahasiswas — Lee Lian Kong
May 31, 2010

There is a Bob Dylan song that goes “I used to care, but things have changed”.

Malaysian students used to care. They used to live up to their grand Malay name “mahasiswa”; fresh, spirited, inspired. Now it is a deafening silence or, worse, clueless silence. We have become frightened and leashed. We have surpassed ourselves to become shining examples of obedience. Like dogs. If the dogs bark, the owners whip and yank on their steel collars. If they are silent, they are rewarded with treats. In time, we have forgotten how to bark.

The mahasiswas of today are like those dogs.

Historically, young people were a significant force in the development of this country.

They were heady with the victory for independence. The mahasiswas debated, protested and demonstrated for pro-justice, pro-human rights, justifying their position and manifesting the education they receive in the best institutions of the country.

Back in 1974 during the Tasik Utara issue they were reckoned forceful enough that desperate villagers look towards them to help. Twenty-six years ago, a staggering 5,000 students went to demand for the eradication of poverty in Baling.

Where are they now?

In Pavilion, sipping RM15 cappucino lattes, using a Blackberry to play “Texas Hold ‘Em”. In shopping malls, stretching daddy’s credit card to buy more things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. Apathy, ignorance, oblivion is a pandemic amongst Malaysian youths. One can give the excuse that the mahasiswas of before were spurred by the injustice they saw when they worked as teachers in the outskirts. One can continue by saying it is not our fault that we are robbed of such experience and enlightenment. One can even cite the magic word: Akta Universiti and Kolej Universiti. Such an argument is nothing but a conscience struggling to save some face.

First-class facilities did not rob the students at the University of California, Berkeley and several other universities of their conscience. For months, theirs was a persistent effort to bring together students of all race, gender and opinions to pass a Bill to divest from any investment from companies that provided financial and military support to Israel. Compared to them, we fall short miserably in terms of empowerment, independence and desire.

Sure, AUKU is a reasonable excuse. Being expelled and blacklisted, the possibility of not graduating, not getting a job or, worst of all, the dreams of owning a BMW evaporated are deterrents. However, AUKU is a blatant disregard to Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which advocates freedom of speech, expression and assembly, an insult to Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has successfully played a part to place us at the lowest tier in terms of human rights. We proudly proclaim ourselves university students, in complete awareness of this knowledge, yet though our inaction we blindly accept this insolent law.

Aminul Rasyid, Teoh Beng Hock, Kugan, GST, subsidy cuts, economic burden on the rakyat are only a sliver of the issues insulting basic human rights. An innocent kid shot directly to the head by an irresponsible police officer. Economic terrorism leading to families not even able to have basic amenities such as water, electricity and education. We see, hear and know of all these injustices. Our awareness, if there is at all any, makes our silence all the more embarrassing when compared with our student bodies of 30 years ago, the outspoken student crowds of our neighbouring country, Indonesia, and America’s student unions divestment effort to stop Israel’s crimes towards Palestine.

Have those RM15 cappucino lattes completely numbed our conscience?

Thankfully, all is not lost. There are a few, but not enough, out there who publicly denounce AUKU and have courageously listened to their hearts and conscience, such as the recent famous four from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia caught participating in the Hulu Selangor by-election. To these brave young men and women, I salute you.


Wei Jiet said...

I was hoping you guys will blog about this sooner or later. Well, now that you did, I'm glad and I did blogged about this too. Since it's too long to post it here, if you have the time, feel free to read my opinion on this issue at my blog at this URL:

Niel said...

No more students caught under this Act!

Anonymous said...

kita birukan kampus :)

Sam said...

Don't be too emotional. Think first before you act.

cs said...

I believe local graduates are not apathetic per se. Given the chance to be enlightened, many of our local graduates will appreciate humanitarian thinking, and be involved in humanitarian work.

We are no different than students in UCB in terms of intellect, but we lack their humanitarian emphasis. Some students there were nurtured to give attention to humanitarian literature since young, who later contribute to the humanitarian work in a university. Some students were inspired by humanitarian thinking when they were taking humanitarian courses, taught by experts.

As for our local graduates, where is there such a prime opportunity for involvement in humanitarian work?

With that said, local university courses need to be given a more humanitarian touch. We need to emphasis the importance of humanity, by funding humanity research, bringing in experts in fields of humanity, and have students take serious courses on humanity. Make them think about issues about humanity, make them care.

Local graduates are eager to learn, as evidenced by their ambition to graduate with first class. They just need the right resource to be enlightened.

Anonymous said...

I hav 2 agree on this post an it is epic when i see this word: AUKU. i was like what the article says, 'leashed' by that word. a nightmare 4 any student. hell, even writing in this blog is a risk bcoz of AUKU.. i just want 2 share to everyone that AUKU DO make us quiet a lot.. It is very irritating at some point that our general election is just like Malaysian Idol or worse bcoz we only vote by seeing their faces not bcoz we know he can do works. no debates, no campaign just posters. AUKU i tell ya AUKU. That is why we are so quiet 2 a point that we are just some ordinary school's student. Im sure that nobody cares in my uni coz most of them are busy chasing girls and stuff but AUKU does get on my nerves. so my question are, do we need 2 just lie down doing nothing or we hav 2 issue this thing to higher up (like that gonna work)..