Firstly, I view student involvement in politics as the harmonization of the system of democracy as practiced in Malaysia. The democratic system in Malaysia is actually very helpful in the management and administration of the country. For example, the implementation of the election system for choosing leaders of the future. Democracy and freedom in terms of giving opinions, having a political party, and moving should not be questioned. In fact, every citizen who reaches the age of majority is allowed to cast ballots in the ballot box on polling day, which is also termed here as “day to politicize”. If you see the background of the students, majority of them are aged 21 years and above and are eligible to vote to support any political party. This is in accordance with Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which recognizes the freedom of speech to all people. Furthermore, this also coincides with the mature democratic principle. As such, in this case, where is the logic in blocking political participation by the students as when even to express support, sympathy and opposition is also banned, while at the same time they are allowed to develop at the time of the General Elections? So, what is the relevance of today's students learning the theory of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom to vote, responsibility to establish the nation and the likes if they are not allowed to adapt to it practically? Thus, I see no problem will exist if the government allows students’ involvement in politics as the system of democracy itself expects citizens of Malaysia to contribute and play a role in determining the future of the country, including students themselves. This democratic system should be practiced and deeply understood by all parties. Prohibition of students in politics seems to deny democracy and citizenship rights as a Malaysian in implementing the freedom to be in a political party.
There is no doubt that the term democracy itself should not be understood literally only, by allowing people to practice whatever they want without any restrictions. However, such restrictions should also be reasonable to be applied. Judge Dato’ Gopal Sri Ram, in his recent statement said that the restriction for the purpose of education should be only of the reasonable restriction. In this context, it is clear that sanctioning students to engage in politics itself is viewed as unreasonable because the sanctions imposed are politically aimed and for the interests of some political parties. Obviously, these restrictions are 'mala fide' in nature.
Secondly, students are the intellectuals and the main products of the country to produce an advanced, competitive and world class country. Students should be fully mobilised for the country’s interest. Blocking students from being involved in politics is detrimental to the country when these intellectual assets are not used to the fullest in determining the pattern and sketch of Malaysia’s future. I believe that these intellectual assets are able to give and contribute the advantage they have if the government allows them to be in politics. How unfair if only certain people are allowed to engage in politics, such as farmers, mechanics and “mat rempit”, while the students do not have the opportunity to participate in politics. As a citizen who is concerned about the future of Malaysia, I think this matter should be thought about more critically by the regulatory bodies.
In addition, I see students’ involvement in politics give many benefits and added values to the students themselves. This is because politics is a useful training ground for the students before they get off at the community platform and actively involved in the global arena. Involvement in politics means to build skills of self-esteem of a student. Balance in dividing time between studying and politics will give an advantage and a positive challenge to this group. Thus, if viewed in a broad and comprehensive scope, a student involved in politics is a student who is skilled, competent and courageous in facing challenges.
Teaching and learning of Political Science in universities is as if without any benefit to the development of the country if the government restricts and prohibits students from being involved in politics. Facts of the case that we see is that when Political Science students learn about politics and the country’s administrative system, but unfortunately, they are not allowed to participate in politics. The question that must be considered is the extent to which knowledge learned in class can be applied in their lives if the ban continues. This situation seems to be class-knowledge oriented which only emphasizes the theory without practicality.
Therefore, I expect the government especially the Ministry of Higher Education to reconsider all the prohibitions for students’ involvement in politics. Discussion and acceptance of opinions from all parties including the opinion of the student leaders should be taken into account. Some things that need to be taken into account by the government in this issue include reviewing the relevance of AUKU in Article 15 in monitoring the movement of students. This is because AUKU gives a big impact towards the students’ movement and development itself. AUKU causes students to be scared, rigid, not competitive and also not daring to voice out their opinions. A very clear example, AUKU causes students to be afraid to register as voters for the next general election. This reality will have a negative impact to the country in determining the top leadership in the future. In fact, according to Mohamad Suhaimi al-Maniri, the existence of AUKU also causes students to no longer be independent to fight for the concept of 'with the people' as pioneered by their colleagues before the act had taken effect. Students after the act are as though imprisoned at campuses with their own lives. I think it is not possible for the country to produce a world-class human capital if many of the students’ movements are bound, including prohibition of involvement in politics. Students’ involvement in politics does not mean opposing political leaders that we have today.
Muhammad Firwan Norliza
Students’ Representative Council 2009/2010
International Islamic University Malaysia