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Berating students makes things worse
Published on: Sunday, December 17, 2017

By Datuk Dr Johan Arriffin
AT a recent event, Umno sec gen Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor berated university students ungrateful for the party’s contributions to education.

He said Umno, through the Education Ministry, had helped many students further their studies locally and overseas. When they finish their studies, they are always angry with Umno. What mistake did Umno make laments Adnan.

Well, for one, you will make UITM students angry when you insult them as “slow learners”.

Adnan has since apologised for his remarks after receiving flak from UITM Alumni. Adnan admitted sometimes he could be a loose cannon.

Adnan rantings during the event could be due to the election fever and the pressure piled on by the opposition.

Whatever it is, I am sure it has not been appreciated by students and graduates.

The rhetorical questions show how Umno is out of touch with students, what more with the general populace.

The young generation has no affiliation or sentiments with the history of Umno. Gone are the days where the Malays fought against white colonial masters or communism. We now help the United States of America economically and borrow from Communist China.

There are so many things wrong with Adnan rhetorical question. No student should ever be grateful to a political party. Our parents work hard to put food on the table and educate us. Yes, they are called tax payers.

They pay taxes to the government so that the government can build schools and universities, provide loans, or scholarships to the best in class. When it is not enough, and it is not always enough, parents take money out of their pockets or savings to make up the shortfall. They may even have to borrow and make sacrifices for their children’s future. My late father was one of them, bless his heart.

The usual Umno propaganda of Islam and Malay race under siege no longer holds any traction.

The young people are well informed through social media. Some students I met have commented Umnohas only succeeded in creating a great divide between Muslims in the country by allowing extremists view to take hold, made more Malays poorer through corruption and mismanagement in schemes like Felda, and enriched themselves through a system of political patronage. UMNO can spin as many stories they like they say, but in a digital age, a picture, video or social chats of a broken down school building can tell a different story in seconds.

There is also no love lost between the government and students when Public University budget allocation and overseas scholarships are cut depriving the students of quality tertiary education. While many neighbouring countries are pumping more money in tertiary education, Malaysia is doing the opposite.

On November 29, UM issued a gag order to staff and students forbidding them from making any public statements perceived to have a “negative implication” on the institution and the government.

Students who are stifled by archaic laws and restrictions, can’t think or express themselves and contribute to the nation building. Putting students in straitjackets and turning them into ventriloquist dummies with no voice of their own does not help.

Some brave ones do speak up and they end up being harassed, punished or expelled by the universities for activism or dissent. Their pent up feelings must be discharged somewhere.The more you control them, the more they go against the government. Resentments builds. Perhaps, this is another reason why they are angry at UMNO.

When they enter the real world of employment, they are no better off. With low starting salary they will be struggling for the next five years to make sense what life is all about. They have to deal with the basics of budgeting for food, rent, transport, clothing, taking care of aged parents, and set aside some money for the rainy days. Buying a home is out of the question. There is little to be grateful about.

From my discussions with students at UMS, many are apathetic to the pleadings of political parties.

To them, the government is not looking at bread and butter issues but are prioritised towards keeping themselves in power. They also question if the the opposition came into power, will it be the same?

It’s a valid question since many of the opposition leaders held power in the past with the same ruling party.

They have eaten their cake and now champion for the opposition camp.

A lot of young people don’t bother to register as voters. Their major grouses? We don’t listen to them.

Their voices are drowned in a hall of loud speaking veterans from different political parties.

Most of them are alpha males.

In May, the Election Commission (EC) said some 4.1 million Malaysians have yet to register as voters and the majority of them are around 21 years of age. EC Chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah said if they do not register as voters, there is no point talking about the country’s political situation on social media. What is spoken cannot be translated into votes. I have to agree with him.

The question now is how to bring the young people to exercise their voting rights. Abstaining is never a solution. Unfortunately in our system of democracy, you are either for or against. The majority wins.

How do we make young people interested again?

One thing I know for sure, the young are immune to political rhetoric. We need to listen and empathise more, and not dish out the same propaganda that are stale and tired.

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