The recent ‘Listen’ fiasco has exposed the sad truth that under Barisan Nasional rule, a systematic brainwashing exercise has taken root in every level of our national universities, says DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY) University Affairs Secretary Chow Yu Hui. Various university programs such as orientation, hostel gatherings, and talks in faculties are used to demonise opposition political parties and student movements.
It is a common tactic by speakers to show video clips of a certain nature to scare students away from getting involved in any politically related activities. Their objective is to stifle political thought and curb dissent, or even basic curiosity of restless youths. With such spoon-feeding and anti-creativity culture, it is no wonder local graduates have acquired a reputation for being passive.
Chow points out that to counteract the large scale university brainwashing “syndicate”, there are three evils that must be weeded out in order for a culture of freedom and openness to return:
1. Abolish the University and University Colleges Act
The University and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) has been a subject of contention as its provisions have been used to curb university and college students from taking an active part in politics.
After years of activism, the Act was finally amended (section 15) to allow university students limited political participation. However, the battle for academic freedom is far from over, with students and lecturers still under close scrutiny as far as academic research or discussion topics are concerned.
The system is engineered to breed conservative thinking, conformity, and deference to authority – particularly the ruling government. Independent thought, critical thinking, and activities unsanctioned by authorities are frowned upon.
On 12 October 2009, six Universiti Malaya students involved in the Chinese language debate society were summoned to a disciplinary inquiry. Their crime? All they did was to invite a few politicians to act as judges in a debate on the recent political developments in the country.
For too long, the mantra of “shut up, don’t speak up” has been the easy route to anesthetize universities and give the government greater control. There is a dire need to abolish the UUCA, put an end to the ‘white terror’, and decentralize the power of the university Board of Directors over lecturers.
Cutting this link will remove the pressure on lecturers to fulfill Barisan Nasional interests to earn promotion. Universities will then be free and unencumbered to pursue academic excellence with professional motives.
2. Abolish the Student Affairs Department (HEP)
The infamous ‘Hal Ehwal Pelajar’ (HEP), or Student Affairs Department is a notable opponent of student activism. All students’ activities are closely monitored and scrupulously regulated. On the basis of disbursing university funding, students must obtain university approval for all campus activities.
The closer the student organizers conform to the HEP ‘agenda’ (set by the higher powers behind the scenes), the more likely it is that their activities will be approved.
Getting rid of the ‘nanny department’ will return the responsibility or control for the campus back to the hands of the students. This is the only way to stop the powers that be from interfering with student affairs and feeding young minds with government propaganda.
Looking at our close neighbors, Indonesia is known for its powerful student activism bloc which has been pivotal in the political history of the nation. Even straitlaced Singapore allows national televised student debates on topics of interest.
Without removing such blinkers, students and lecturers will forever be trapped by structures and ‘status quo’ minds.
3. Dismantling Biro Tata Negara
The National Civics Bureau (Biro Tata Negara or BTN) has been exposed as a bigot-filled government indoctrination tool. Civil servants, members of the armed forces, police force, teachers and students must undergo certain mandatory BTN courses on “nationhood”.
These are thinly-veiled attempts to exult Malay supremacy, UMNO’s ‘heroism’, public order/ morality and warnings against evil colonialists, opposition parties, and Bersih. The sessions are designed to inculcate blind feelings of gratitude towards the government and hatred for the opposition, without analyzing right or wrong.
After controversy erupted over the UUM ‘listen’ vido, BN youth leaders and pro-BN student organizations have distanced themselves from Sharifah Zohra. Yet, in hypocritical fashion, they conveniently ignored the ‘original sin’ of BN entering UUM to conduct such training exercises for the students in the first place.
DAPSY Chief Teo Kok Seong expressed disbelief at the denials of BN leaders that Sharifah Zohra was in any way sanctioned by the government. “Without the green light from the government, no organizations are allowed to enter universities to speak to students.”
Commenting on the incident, Teo said that Sharifah’s act of snatching the microphone away from Bawani had robbed her of her right to speak, and raised the ire of citizens everywhere.
“What right does Sharifah have to ask a university student (Bawani) to leave Malaysia if she was unhappy with (the situation)? Do not forget that all Malaysians have the right to use their votes to reject a government that is incapable of looking after its students and citizens,” Teo stressed.
With the unstoppable tide of change, young people are daring to speak out to reclaim their freedom of speech and not bow down to totalitarian control. This is a sign that the people’s power is getting stronger and the era of ‘government knows best’ is over.
DAPSY urged students to emulate Bawani when they are being treated unfairly, to stand their ground and speak up for their rights. The time has come for a new era of student self-regulation and to return campus management to students. -The Rocket