Opinion: It’s no easy run for campus candidates
Sunday, 24 September 2006
MALAYSIAN campus elections are just tiny blips on the radar of national politics. But last Thursday’s polls were conducted amid complaints of increasing scrutiny by the authorities. ABDUL RAZAK AHMAD finds out why.
THE most difficult election to qualify for in the country is getting tougher by the year. Forget, for starters, how hard it is to be a general election candidate. At least the Election Commission doesn’t require aspiring Yang Berhormat to pass an English proficiency test. Nor does it scrutinise an applicant’s academic record to prevent the less intelligent from getting elected or screen him for having a "personality suited to the job".Whether the Election Commission should do all this is another issue.
The point is that public universities are imposing the above conditions on candidates for annual polls.Former students and observers are noting tightening entry requirements and rules in recent years, and are wondering what the fuss is all about."During my time, students were able to experience and participate just like in any election outside campus," says Stephen Doss, a University Malaya student activist during the 1990s."I understand that universities need to regulate their elections. But looking at the number of new rules laid out, I think it’s been overdone to such an extent that the whole affair is becoming sterile," he adds.
This year’s campus elections were held on Thursday. universities set their own rules and entry requirements, though most are similar. (See box)Polling is at two levels — for faculty representatives and student government itself — much like a general election, where voters pick their State Assembly representative and Member of Parliament.
Candidates in the past several elections have been barred from forming parties: They must now run as individuals with their own manifesto.Despite the curb, reports say this is the second year the pro-establishment — or Aspirasi — group grabbed a landslide win.At Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, results for the 34 general seats in the university were broken down to 29-5 in favour of the Aspirasi group, according to an official.It closely mirrored last year’s outcome, where the group bagged 28 of the 33 seats. Of the 18,430 students, the turnout was a respectable 81 per cent, one per cent up from last year.
Whatever the reasons, the current wave of pro-establishment wins in campus effectively reversed a general trend since 1997. Then, the Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim-inspired Reformasi movement created a segment of students very openly skewed to the Opposition.It led to a realisation by the government that students remained a force to be reckoned with.
A policy of greater engagement resulted, with measures such as the re-establishment of the National Students’ Consultative Council to tap into the Youth voice.The splitting up of the Education Ministry to form the Higher Education Ministry also created what one academic called "the most politically important ministry in government".
The ministry, which oversees universities and from which many of the current guidelines originate, has under it what the academic believes is the highest number of voters among all the ministries — comprising university students, academia and staff, "all of whom belong to a ‘thinking’ class of the electorate".This all goes to explain why campus politics is seen as a high-stakes game, and why authorities want effective controls to make sure things don’t get out hand.
But are our public universities overdoing it?Those who believe so want the authorities to consider what overly strict controls can do in the long term."Clamping down too hard could invite a reaction and turn some students into hardcore anti-establishment ‘fighters’ when they graduate," says Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) member Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam.Siva says that there’s a worry universities are simplistically labelling students into either pro-establishment or anti-establishment.
It could — if left unchecked — lead to discrimination against the latter group by overzealous officials.Suhakam has received complaints by disgruntled university students for the last three years. Siva says some rules and entry requirements do appear too strict. The commission, he adds, generally wants to see freer and fairer campus elections.The grievances have been channeled to the universities and the ministry, but Suhakam’s request — the second in two years — to monitor polls was shot down.
The other side, however, believes that the current rules are not only good but vital to the quality of student leadership."The workload of a student representative is very heavy. The minimum CGPA requirement is needed so that only those who can cope are allowed to contest," says Mohd Azhar Abd Razak, the outgoing president of Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Student Representative Council.Azhar, who represents 90,000 students at UiTM in all its branches nationwide, gives the one good reason why rules such as English tests and character screening are needed.
"We want only the best; role models and those who truly believe in the aspirations of UiTM to represent us. We want people with true leadership qualities."Meeting the need for quality leadership while keeping to acceptable democratic norms is tough, but a balance is needed."We do need to determine a suitable minimum threshold.
But when you set the entry bar too high, people will think it’s discriminatory and designed to keep certain people out," says Ayer Hitam Member of Parliament Wee Ka Siong, himself a former Universiti Teknologi Malaysia student leader in the 1980s.One reason for tough controls could be to ensure that students with an inclination to politics get a proper initiation. Campuses have always been seen as recruitment ground for political parties.
There are whole generations of varsity leaders of the 1960s and 1970s who made a successful transition from campus to partisan politics.But how many of today’s student leaders will go on to become political leaders of tomorrow?Wee can only name a handful of current parliamentarians who came from the ranks of student activists."In fact, I don’t see anyone from my batch at university who went on to join politics.
If you were to say that seven out of 10 student leaders go on to join a party, I’d say you’re wrong," adds Wee, who joined the MCA in 1992.Doss, who now heads the Persatuan Pemuda Negara Malaysia youth association, also cites a very small percentage of his peers who are now in politics."Many end up working for multinational companies after they graduate and leave politics behind. Many found it tough to enter politics."Political parties find university students very appealing.
But once you graduate and try to join the party, you’ll find yourself being seen as a competitor by other members. It’s not that easy to penetrate," he adds.The impact of today’s student leaders on the country’s future political landscape remains to be seen.But there’s certainly room for better, more "creative" means to nurture future leaders on campus in a way that doesn’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater."The government’s approach to engage students is correct. Unfortunately, some feel that it’s now gone beyond engagement to stifling, which is unfortunate," says Doss.
NST, 23rd September 2006
Companies May Print Rukun Negara Principles On Their Product Packaging
April 01, 2006
KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 (Bernama) -- Private companies are being encouraged to print the five principles of the Rukun Negara on the packaging of their products, Deputy Information Minister Chia Kwang Chye said Saturday.
He said there was positive response from some companies.
Chia, who heads the national committee for the Rukun Negara campaign, said this to reporters after opening a forum on the Rukun Negara themed "Keluargaku, Keluarga Malaysia" (My Family, the Malaysian Family) at Putra World Trade Centre here.
The forum, organised by Persatuan Pemuda Negara (National Youth Association) and Malaysian Interfaith Network (MIN), discussed the principles of the Rukun Negara -- Belief in God, Loyalty to King and Country, Upholding the Constitution, the Rule of Law and Good Behaviour and Morality.
The members of the forum panel were Datuk Ismail Nor of MIN, F.R. Bhupalan of the National Council of Women's Organisations, Professor Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi of Universiti Teknologi Mara, lawyers Philip Koh and K. Shanmuga, and Professor Datuk Dr Ibrahim Bajunid of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (Unitar).
Chia said the five-year campaign to enhance appreciation of the Rukun Negara was also carried out through "Kelab Setia" (Loyalty Clubs) and "Kelab Rukun Negara" (Rukun Negara Clubs) under the National Unity Department.
Schools were holding colouring contests while tertiary institutions were promoting the Rukun Negara in debates.
"Our objective is to encourage all Malaysians to adopt the five principles as their way of life instead of just getting school children to recite them during assemblies," he said.
The public is being involved in the campaign through a contest called "Ekspresi Rukun Negara" (Expressions of the Rukun Negara) organised jointly by the Information Ministry and its agencies, event management company Expomal International and the ministry's grassroot movement Komuniti Bistari (Smart Communities).
The contest requires participants to express their views, feelings and interpretations on the Rukun Negara principles.
It offers prizes of RM1,000, RM500 and RM300 for the first three winners and 10 consolation prizes of RM100 each.
Entry forms are printed in newspapers. Further information can be obtained by contacting Mohd Noor Ismail or Mohd Salleh at 03-26983355 ext. 296. The contest ends on May 31.
PPN, Gerakan anjur Pameran Merdeka
15 September 2007
KUALA LUMPUR 15 Sept. – Persatuan Pemuda Negara (PPN) dan Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia dengan kerjasama Muzium Negara mengadakan ‘Pameran Merdeka-Kita Anak Malaysia’ di pusat membeli-belah Berjaya Times Square, di sini mulai semalam.
Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Pengelola Pameran, Stephen Doss berkata, pameran itu mengisahkan perjalanan negara selama 50 tahun selepas mencapai kemerdekaan.
‘‘Pameran ini melibatkan 14 panel persembahan yang merupakan unjuran 14 jalur pada Jalur Gemilang yang digantung dari atas bumbung kompleks membeli-belah itu.
‘‘Selain itu, saiz Jalur Gemilang sengaja ditetapkan pada ukuran 15.24 meter x 15.24 meter (ataupun 50 kaki x 50 kaki). Ia adalah simbol 50 tahun kemerdekaan negara ini,’’ katanya ketika ditemui Utusan Malaysia di sini.
Pemangku Presiden Gerakan, Tan Sri Dr. Koh Tsu Koon yang juga Ketua Menteri Pulau Pinang dijadual merasmikan pameran itu di Centre Concourse, Lower Ground, Berjaya Times Square, esok pada pukul 4 petang.
- Utusan Malaysia