Listen up, students

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The issue has lost much of its lustre, its jokes no longer prompting a full-throated laughter from the crowd. There is little reference to it on Facebook and Twitter , a sign that the good people of Malaysia are looking and waiting for something to come along and make their day.

The sight of Sharifah Zohra Jabeen asking KS Bawani to listen several times, her small, but symbolic gesture of taking away the microphone, and subsequent head-diving into poppycock talk of animal problems, will make its rounds when the elections are finally upon us, but not at the present time.

How many saw ‘#listen' as contiguous to bigger matters - that it is not the disease, but rather the symptoms?

Most people related it to the freedom of speech. In the video, Bawani was allowed to speak; she was given the microphone, but was not permitted to finish. She was not, however, given a chance to reply, and any sensible person would include the right to reply as fundamental to the freedom of speech.

After a few minutes of bearing witness to the lady's tirade, Bawani decided to walk away... to fight another day.

Lim Guan Eng, in his capacity as the Penang chief minister, has often complained of this important, but overlooked aspect of the freedom of speech.

The mainstream media reported on his activities, statements and policies, albeit with a twist and spin here and there, but when disputes and questions arose, his replies would almost never make it to the pages of the likes of The Star and the New Straits Times .

Students are generally unaware of the University and University College Act (UUCA), and by extension, the amendments to it that now allow more campus freedom. Yet, could the ghost of the amended provisions be completely exorcised when it has been lingering around all this while?

Try organizing a workshop for youths on democracy in your college by a non-partisan body like UndiMsia. Or hold a forum with young accomplished panellists on ‘#listen'.

What would the response be like? Would there be more younger or older participants? Some urban students would respond, no doubt, but what about their rural counterparts? Would their parents hold them back, or even forbid their participation altogether?

UUCA's sinister apparition lingers

The UUCA has created fear in the first batch of students, ignorance in the second, and apathy in the subsequent generations.

It follows that although amended, the Act's sinister apparition has yet to be banished. Those who are aware dare not, while the great majority go about like it is business as usual.

It is highly unlikely that Bawani is the first to receive such treatment. More likely, it was that she was the first to be filmed being treated as such, and it is to Sharifah's misfortune that it was recorded in the Facebook era, where private behaviour is a relic of a time gone by, much less public shenanigans.

How many have been scolded, yelled at, humiliated, disciplined, and processed out from the system - our system?

To exorcise the ghost of the UUCA, we need to see drastic changes, and let's not think about bigger and better campus facilities. It is the mind and mentality that needs to see change. With reformed mind and mentality, may we see a slow and steady change of culture and practice where our tertiary students are aware and critical on the issues of the day, and by extension, the government.

If any government cannot tolerate such changes, then it is high-time for it to bow its way out of public office.

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