Dear Prof Dr Sharifah Hapsah, Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM),
I am writing to you with regards to the persecution of the four UKM students for taking part in the Hulu Selangor by-election. Come this June 2 aor 3, four of them will be charged under Section 15(5) of the University and University Colleges Act 1971 which prohibits students from participating or expressing sympathy or support for any political party.
I am of the assumption that if we grant voting rights to citizens of 21 years and above, that would mean that we acknowledge their capacity to make decisions and to exercise their rights as lawful adults. Therefore, as citizens of Malaysia, they have every right to participate in the political processes of the country. If so, why then are we persecuting these students for executing the right every adult Malaysian should have?
We already have too many students who are apathetic to the fate of the country. We complain about those who don't bother, don't care, and tak tahu and tak nak kisah about events that happen in the country. These are among those who will eventually graduate to become graduates who are clueless about the social, political, and economic landscape of the country and who will fall in among those without soft adequate soft skills.
When we finally have students who bother to take interest in elections, we choose to penalise them for their interest and for executing their right. Dear VC, when the rest of the student population cannot even be bothered about what’s happening in the country, shouldn’t we instead take pride in having students who are? Are we to reward patriotism with penalties?
On May 19, 9.28am, you tweeted this on Twitter and also to Facebook, ‘Tun Musa Hitam: ‘youth & women will change d world’. But both need empowerment. Let's do it’.
Now how do we empower youths to make decisions when their capacity to execute their basic rights as adults is limited and restricted? This isn't empowerment, this is control and intimidation not to mention an infringement of a person’s rights.
UKM's Educational Goal is ‘to produce graduates with strong leadership qualities who are confident of themselves with a strong sense of national integrity and who are ethical and able to engage internationally.’
Our four political science students stepped up to the plate to demonstrate that they can and will take interest in the nation's politics, confident, willing, and brave to engage with ‘the outside world’ although seen as just mere students to others. Do we have other students doing it? Maybe not because they either don’t care or are too afraid to do so.
Penalising these four students would amount to contradicting UKM’s own educational goal. We refuse to acknowledge student leaders who rise above their peers who have shown that their interest and contribution reaches beyond the walls of the university. We choose to see them as ‘pests’ and ‘threats’ rather than recognise them as change agents.
We are not talking about ne’er-do-well hooligan-istic troublemaker students but among them are students with CGPAs of 3.79 and 3.51. If we penalise them, we risk having generations of cowardly students too afraid to challenge status quo and never breaking free from their comfort zone. Is this the direction UKM is heading for?