Anwar brought out the worst in UM

– Thulsi Manogaran
The Malaysian Insider
28 October 2014

It has been long written by William O. Douglas that the most important aspect of freedom of speech is the freedom to learn. All education is a continuous dialogue comprising of questions and answers that pursue every problem on the horizon. That is the essence of academic freedom.

I am not a big fan of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim but I stand for academic freedom and freedom of speech. Anything that curtails the intellectual growth of my fellow Malaysians is a barrier to the nation’s growth.

I stand against suppression and indoctrination especially in the field of education. By now, we all know the reaction from Universiti Malaya’s administration on the close down of the entire university. UM staff were sent home early and classes cancelled. All entrances were locked.

However, what happened thereafter in UM is proof that no amount of suppression can work to curtail progress and change. Malaysia’s social landscape is changing and it is time those in power remember and accept the fact that you are in control because we, the rakyat, gave you control.

I am a UM alumni. I graduated in 2012 from the Faculty of Law UM. Let me tell you that academic freedom when I entered campus in 2008 was completely absent.

Nobody speaks of politics. Worst, nobody speaks of the opposition even after the 2008 General Elections where the famous 2/3 majority was defeated. It is a breakthrough beneficial for the rakyat, but my fellow students did not understand.

Even if they did, they did not speak about it. Politics was a dirty word. It is labelled sensitive and brushed off.

Campus elections were mere campus elections with heavy government infiltrations. So was the environment when I was a student.

Seeing what happened yesterday gives young Malaysians like me a lot of hope. Malaysia is not a lost cause after all. My generation will build a better Malaysia, I am sure.

Let us look at this practically. This discourse titled “DSAI: 40 Tahun dari UM ke Penjara” could have been way more intellectual than it actually turned out to be.

If it wasn’t because of UM’s immature reaction, there would not have been gate crashing, a marching crowd of at least 2,000 from the main gate to Dewan Tunku Canselor, shouts of “REFORMASI”, LAWAN TETAP LAWAN and criticism towards UM’s administration. It could have been an open, mature, healthy discourse between an opposition leader and broad-minded university students.

If it wasn’t because of UM’s disproportionate reaction, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim would not have delivered his speech smack in the middle of the road in front of Dewan Tunku Canselor, UM’s tomb of glory. UM’s reaction of closing the gates and denying access to vehicles only helped create a more convenient environment for us to hear Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

In its effort towards improving university rankings, UM should have had the foresight and courage to do what is right.

Established universities around the world have welcomed opposition leaders because it is undeniable that such discourses encourage policy debates. UK opposition leader Ed Milliband has visited Cambridge University, Norwich University of the Arts, and Reading College among others.

Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten visited the University of Melbourne and Curtin University recently. Thomas Mulcair, Canada’s opposition leader visited the University of McGill early this year. So why can’t Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim visit his alma matter? How will the visit topple the government?

Let us look at Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s professional capability, his experience as an economic adviser to the country’s richest state.

Selangor is thriving well under the administration of the opposition since 2008 with better financial reserves and has never performed so well under the administration of BN. Isn’t there something we can learn from this experience. Shouldn’t UM students be geared to find out how this was done? How can this model be emulated in other states?

Instead, UM sends emails to cancel classes.

What kind of an institution that aims to improve international rankings shuts down an experienced politician cum economic adviser with proven results.

And my question is how will such a discourse tarnish the reputation of UM? Why should this discourse be only about gutter politics and the Sodomy appeal? Isn’t Malaysia much more than that?

I was taught in law school that democracy is a collective responsibility. A democracy cannot function without a strong and balanced opposition. One cannot afford to shut out part of a balanced structure forming a workable democracy. Whether you like it or not, a leader of the opposition is an official part of that system. The quality of any democracy will suffer should it not have a strong opposition.

As the leader of the opposition, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim represents the people. He deals directly with the policies that affect our very own bread and butter and much more. Half of UM students are above 21 and that makes them eligible voters.

There cannot be a dichotomy between being a rakyat and being a student in a public university. There cannot be segregation or a censorship between the rakyat and the representative they elected just because they happen to be students in a public University. It cannot be so and there is no two ways about it.

As I write this, I recall my friend and I being hauled up by Datuk Rohana Yusof at the deputy vice-chancellor’s office because we had invited the then CEO of Malaysiakini for a forum with students in UM. This was because he spoke of Bersih. Now I wonder how will her office fit the hundreds of students that turned up last night.

This is an inevitable consequence. The greater the suppression, the greater the uprising. The powers that be should leave educational institutions to foster an environment of open debate and discussion. At least do that right. – October 28, 2014.

* Thulsi Manogaran is a UM law graduate and the secretary of Lead Malaysia.

  1. #1 by Justice Ipsofacto on Wednesday, 29 October 2014 - 8:33 am

    Cant u see it?
    Dont u realise the connection?
    Oh boy. Look. UM. UM.
    Yes – UM the university and UM-NO the party of monkeys.

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 29 October 2014 - 9:18 am

    The latest polls shows that what UMNO/BN faces is permanent and can only grow. YET, they have these throw-backs stuck in their old ideas and old ways making key decisions. Not surprising given that Ministers can claim to be a dying breed of postal worker, AG can have one definition of “context” for Ibrahim Ali and another for oppositions members and activist, and a big group of people say anything Ibrahim Ali does with the label Islam on it is Islam even if all the facts are totally wrong.

    When young educated from the masses look at the design for the future of this country by elitist or elitist-wannabe old ways, is it a wonder they can’t see themselves being part of the inconsistency, lack of logic, system and the venom?

    Mahathir says that not all young Malay hate UMNO but it only betrays the fact, the ideological god has no real answer . Furthermore, when Mahathir criticizes Najib, no one note that he does not point out that despite one of the highest economic growth, the opposition messes and structurally tenous, UMNO/BN is STILL losing supporters?

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 29 October 2014 - 11:19 am

    Aha, yes, UM, d writing on d wall
    Or rather, d writing in d names: UM is embedded in UMNO, hence, UM said NO
    Sadly, most UM graduates see UM as an instrument of UmnoB, a political instrument, NOT as an independent academic entity with academic excellence
    Hence, not many UM alumni willingly contribute 2 UM
    Just look at NUS which benefits fr its undergraduates n alumni
    So, very sadly, UM administrators, though with many titles in front of n behind their names, NO hv respect fr students, graduates, n public, cos they NO uphold academic integrity, freedom, excellence

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Wednesday, 29 October 2014 - 12:46 pm

    UM probing students over Anwar’s talk

    Y NO probe on d PERSON or PERSONS who issued d command dat all activities stopped by 4pm on dat fateful day, on d excuse dat there was power problem bcos of damages 2 power substations
    Dat command led 2 such a HUGE LOSS n wastage of man hours of productive work in teaching n research at UM
    D guilty PERSON or PERSONS must b probed

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