student involvement in politics regressive
by John Chung
The assertion made by Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad at the
undergraduates' congress in University Sains Malaysia, Penang on Saturday
that university students should not get involved in politics for fear that
this could distract them from their studies is a regressive one.
At a time when many students had themselves expressed their interest and
desire to play a part in the nation's political development - as evidenced
by the positive response at the congress' session on "Students and Politics"
- Musa's statement only serves to pour cold water on their healthy
Even if we think that students should not involved themselves in party
politics, there is no reason why they should be disallowed to concerned
themselves with the affairs of the nation and issues of nation building
which should be what politics is rightly all about, namely the science of
Hence, to say that education must be free from all political influence, as
Musa had remarked, is not only unfortunate but also unrealistic, since
politics affect all and sundry regardless of whether one is studying or
otherwise. To argue that students who get involved in politics would have
their studies affected is too presumptuous. On the contrary, if we want our
students to develop themselves holistically and not merely academic wise,
then space must be given to them to fully express themselves in all areas;
political issues being no exception.
Indeed, it is vital that political awareness be instilled amongst our youth,
not just university students, from a young age. Could failure to do this be
the reason why the Election Commission is finding it difficult to persuade
the 1.7 million eligible Malaysians (of which more than half are in the
21-30 age group) to register as voters?
This is also why the continued existence of the Universities and University
Colleges Act (UUCA) which has a stifling effect on the freedom of expression
of students should be open to review. Considering that Suhakam had recently
proposed that the Internal Security Act be reviewed, there should also be
nothing to stop the contentious UUCA from being subjected to review as well.
In this regard, the suggestion for the setting up of a student parliament as
a forum for students to contribute to nation building is a constructive one
and should be seriously considered by the government as this will encourage
open debate and critical thinking amongst students. Unless more is done to
encourage instead of dampen the political enthusiasm of students, we may
find more and more of them sliding into political apathy.
* John Chung,
Publicity Bureau Assistant Secretary and DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY)