Malaysiakini
LETTER

A recap of the Universiti Malaya campus elections

Marcus Lee

Published
Modified 29 Sep 2016, 1:24 am

‘Pilihanraya Kampus Universiti Malaya (UM)’ or Campus Election of the Universiti Malaya (‘PRKUM’) is an annual election which allows UM students to choose their representatives. Much like the general election, there is a ‘pro-government’ party which is called Penggerak Mahasiswa (‘Penggerak’). Also, there are five opposition parties this year. The campus election is held by UM.

Every faculty is represented by two candidates. There are four general (umum) zones. Each zone comprises four or five faculties. Each zone is represented by two candidates. Afaculty representative is akin to a state assemblyperson; and each general representative is analogous to a member of Parliament. There are 32 faculty seats and eight general seats.

Every year, both Penggerak Mahasiswa and the opposition try to send as many candidates as possible; in order to gain majority and control of the MPPUM (student council/ union).

Last week, PRKUM 2016 was held. I was a candidate. I did not contest as a Penggerak candidate. With some luck, I was elected as general representative.

UM only allows a campaign period of two days. Two days was a duration too short for me to campaign in five faculties, but it was long enough for UM authorities to allegedly trample on the noble power of students to make informed decisions in choosing their leaders.

Just in case if you are imagining a free and fair election in the No 1 university in Malaysia; go wash your face and stop dreaming, that’s not the case.

Even before nomination day, Penggerak had gained access and occupation of open areas in many residential colleges. They set up camps with sophisticated decorations and banners showing ‘Wilayah Penggerak’. Residential colleges seemed to have shown unwavering support for Penggerak. No similar support was given to the opposition, nor did we know that such arrangements were possible in residential colleges.

Candidates were required to amend their only A4-size posters and their manifestos to suit the taste of the Student Affairs Division (HEP). Do not worry if your manifesto contains political, controversial or sensitive elements because HEP will protect you by disapproving it. HEP will decide everything for you, so don’t worry if you are uncertain as to what is political or controversial. HEP will make sure you have no room for creativity.

On the second day, UM students were shocked again. The UM deputy vice-chancellor heading the HEP, Dr Rohana Yusof, attended a programme by RTM 1. It is called ‘Selamat Pagi Malaysia’. Along with her were two Penggerak candidates. The discussion was about UM campus elections. Penggerak’s logo was screened. It was free publicity for Penggerak.

Isn’t it blindingly obvious that UM HEP is with Penggerak all this while?

There is a difference between stealing and robbing. If someone steals, the owner of the property only realises it afterwards. Robbing is taking your property during daylight and you can scream or cry but the robbers laugh their way out. Robbers have no shame. In our case, probably these hypocrites thought that they did something virtuous by allegedly robbing or manipulating the election.

‘UM must be independent, fair and just’

UM is the organiser of the campus elections, so they must be independent, fair and just. This is common sense. The referee of a football match cannot be taking sides.

All UM students were required to vote in a hall. Since paper voting costs so much money, and since computers are cheaper than papers; UM has a computerised voting system and they prepared a hundred computers in the hall. You give your matrik card to the UM staffer on duty, and they will generate a code for you to log in to the voting system. That’s how you vote. Don’t ask if anyone could trace your vote, the official answer is ‘no’ but I won’t bet a nickel on that.

Students can vote for one or two candidates for each general zone. Of course for those who are not voting, you can stay home and relax. Last week, many of those who wanted to vote for just one candidate were forced to vote for two candidates instead. It was due to a flaw in the voting system. Whether it was done on purpose? I’m not sure.

Some of the staff on duty were instructing my friends to vote for two candidates. For many zones and faculties, there were only three candidates; two from Penggerak and one opposition. When one was forced to cast two votes, Penggerak became the beneficiary because certainly one of the votes goes to their candidates.

There are many other stories but essentially they are proving the same point: It wasn’t a free and fair campus election. It was designed to make Penggerak win. There was no real democracy. There were simply too many procedural obstacles and problems that prevent us from bringing democracy back to life.

The campus election was unfairly implemented. It was just a show filled with sanctimonious hot air. To some people, integrity is no longer important; the rule of the game has since changed to this: the ends justify the means.


MARCUS LEE is a final year law student at Universiti Malaya and was recently as a student leader in the UM Students Council.