‘Umno’s dumbing down of public universities’

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Yesterday was a sad day for the Malaysian youth, especially those in public universities. In commemoration of Umno’s 71st birthday, it was widely reported that more than 10,000 students from public universities, especially Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM), were allegedly forced to attend a political event in Umno’s name.

When I posted a tweet asking for more details regarding this, I received a barrage of messages from angry students who were apparently coerced by their university admin to fulfil Umno’s whims and fancies.

Their allegations were backed up with documentary evidence and personal testimonies of those who were present on the ground. It cannot be a random coincidence that thousands of angry students lashed out on social media against Umno’s coercive tactic.

The students from multiple branches of UiTM informed me that everyone from their faculties from semester 1 to semester 3 were forced to head to Bukit Jalil for a “volunteering event”. “Compulsory orders” were given out and incentives splashed in the form of free T-shirts, food and allowances. Some classes and tests had to be postponed to make way for Umno’s celebration.

Exemption letters were given out like candies in a candy shop. I distinctly remember how difficult it was to get an exemption letter from my university for debate related events, even if it meant representing the country.

The debaters from UiTM Shah Alam had to cancel some of their international trips due to overlapping dates with faculty tests, yet for Umno-related events, the rules are very different. Representing your country is less important than being seat-fillers for Umno.

Umno’s hypocrisy couldn’t get any clearer. In 2015, two student leaders from Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) Malaysia were suspended for hosting a public debate on the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Fahmi Zainol and his friends were punished heavily for hosting Anwar Ibrahim.

Anis Syafiqah Mohd Yusof received her love letter, specially sent by the university with a suspension order, for leading a resistance movement against the apparently scandal-ridden Najib Abdul Razak. I myself lost my job as a lecturer and debate trainer for writing an open letter to Najib on the 1MDB fiasco.

All of us did it voluntarily yet we were met with strong resistance. It’s truly ironic that we were punished for being politically active, yet Umno’s coercion of university students for political purposes is championed and celebrated...

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