Media Statement by Tan Hong Pin in Johor Bahru on Wednesday, 7th January 2009:

Detention of USM students and campus elections in varsities 

Democratic Action Party Socialist Youth (DAPSY) Varsity Affairs Bureau Director Tan Hong Pin issued a statement today urging the management of University Sains Malaysia (USM) to conduct campus elections in a free and fair manner.

Tan also prompted the Higher Education Ministry to direct all public universities to safeguard independence in campus elections in order to prevent similar incidents from occurring in their campuses.

Tan was referring to the incident on January 5 in which three USM students of the ‘Pro-Mahasiswa’ group were forcefully detained in the campus security department for two hours for distributing leaflets for the upcoming campus elections.

According to the three students, they were harassed by supporters of an opposing group while distributing leaflets in the campus hostel. This other group of students also brought in security guards who then harassed detained them for two hours. Two of the detained students also suffered head and arm injuries.

The victims felt that the ordeal was akin to being kidnapped. If there were no witnesses at the scene, they could have been taken away without being noticed and would have been in serious danger.

Tan said that the incident clearly indicated that the security guards were being partial in carrying out their duties. The fact that they could be called upon by the other group of students, coupled with their violent treatment of the victims, shows that they have no sense of objectivity and justice.

Tan pointed out that campus elections were supposed to be important avenues in which students could freely vote for their preferred student representatives without being intimidated.

However, over the past year there had been many instances of interference in the democratic process of campus elections by university authorities. Students have repeatedly condemned the authorities of abusing administrative powers and employing phantom voters to prevent candidates without its own blessing from running for office and from winning the elections.

“When necessary, the Higher Education Ministry must order the universities’ management to stop any political interference in campus elections”, Tan said.

“The ministry should also allow independent non-government organisations or observers from outside the universities to oversee the electoral process, in order to restore credibility to the university as well as to the elected student representative council”, he added.

* Tan Hong Pin, DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY) Varsity Affairs Bureau Director