Quickie: A big thank you goes out to everyone who took the time to share and discuss their opinions with me on Rakan Masjid in Perspective. I’ve enjoyed the many fulfilling and intellectual chats I’ve had with you, and I believe we’ve all learned new things from each other. *grins*
Edit [27 October 2009]: Hadi has written an interesting post on his blog discussing the “Captive Mind” syndrome among UTPians. To find out more about it, have a read: [link]
Us UTPians, see, we’re not interested in campus politics. At all. To a large majority, it’s boring and pointless: “Besides, we’re here to study for Pete’s sake, not get involved in politics!”
Where did it all begin? Are we really that apathetic towards playing a leadership role in varsity life, or is there another underlying reason for this growing disdain towards what is supposed to be the highest student body in UTP, the Student Representative Council (MPPUTP)?
Rausyanfikir, a prominent social activist, offers his two cents on campus politics in UTP:
An Intellectual’s Perspective on MPPUTP
“Everyone knows that the MPPUTP is a puppet organization of the ‘budak-budak masjid’ (read more about Rakan Masjid at [link]). The ‘democracy is the best policy’ slogan on campus election posters is merely a catchy tagline. What else can it be when the students themselves are so reluctant to participate in campus elections anymore? They don’t need official vote counts to know who ultimately ends up as the winner.
“In my discussions about student leadership with some of the top guns of UTP’s management, they always equate the MPP with kids in terms of their ability to orate. Their vision and mission never really seems to be all that clear.
“Naturally, as a student activist myself I felt quite offended, though what they say does have its truths. It seems like the same old activities every semester, especially with the new futsal courts up; now it seems like every other month, there’s some futsal event by one club or another.
“I have put forward suggestions to management to develop a group of students who are not from the group of ‘budak-budak masjid’ as a response of sorts to their influence – which, interestingly, seems to be on the wane from the perspective of the campus community at large.
“This bodes ill for campus democracy in UTP. There needs to be some form of opposition to the current leadership of the ‘budak-budak masjid’ to rejuvenate our campus’s political culture. Currently, nobody gives a damn whether you are MPP or not!
“All of us want change. If you can’t deliver it, better admit it early so that WE can help you out; UTP does not belong to a particular minority that claims “I am holier than thou”. It belongs to the community at large. Like it or not, we have to admit the plurality of ideologies and cultures in UTP.
“The golden nugget is this: as leaders, what are our responsibilities? Do we govern UTP like an authoritarian dictatorship? Dismiss others who disagree with us? Or focus on the reconciliation and amalgamation of our differences to build a common ground that we may walk on together?”
Original article in Malay can be found here: [link]
MPPUTP and Its Issues
From what he has mentioned above, it can be said that the following are the major issues plaguing the SRCUTP today:
1. Intervention of the Rakan Masjid in the MPPUTP?
For the nearly four years that I’ve been a student in UTP and participated in campus elections, the core of the top five posts in MPPUTP – President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and the Secretaries I and II – have always been exclusively Malay.
The issue here is not with the candidates’ race; rather, it is the supposed idea that these five individuals are proxies of an organization called “Rakan Masjid”, more commonly known as RM.
For many students in UTP they feel that the MPP is being “puppeteered” by RM to fulfil their agenda. This is never more evident than election season, when whispers quickly spread of a “five-versus-everyone-else” fight for the top five posts, implying that a secret coalition of power exists among these “chosen five”.
Hence the question is raised: just who exactly is MPPUTP representing?
2. Lack of clarity, vision and drive among members of the MPPUTP
MPPUTP seems to define objectives that don’t meet the needs of students in UTP. A friend of mine (from another varsity) had this to say about the role of MPP in relation to the student population:
“I would like to think that a large number of MPP either serve the agendas of the various clubs and societies beneath them, or support national and international affairs before providing the services required of them.
“I doubt very much that students voted in their MPP just to support some international disaster relief effort or voice their opinion regarding national issues.
“Any established MPP should firstly have a defined goal and objective to serve the students and make the campus a better place for the students by harassing management to provide top-notch services or take action to provide these missing services.
“If the students themselves aren’t interested, then it is the duty of the MPP to find ways to proactively engage them, not ignore them. When students are uninterested in the campus’s political process, it signifies that the MPP’s plans aren’t actually achieving their desired objectives – or worst yet, have met with outright failure.
“The key point I wish to highlight here is that an MPP shouldn’t be focusing on the larger problems when their own campus’s issues have yet to be resolved.
“To this end, the MPP must work in concerted effort with the other clubs and societies to help solve the problems faced by the student population. There should be a focus on the students first before aiming for higher objectives.”
3. Negative perception towards the MPPUTP
Aside from the fact that the MPPUTP is considered a puppet/crony of RM, the council enjoys the dubious reputation of being perceived in a negative way by both students and management at the same time.
Based on my own personal experience in MPPUTP, these are the reasons why I think this negative perception exists. I think every one of them is pretty self-explanatory in themselves.
- Absence of bargaining power with management.
- Inability to solve students’ issues effectively.
- Perception by students as being pro-management.
- Not taken seriously by both management and students.
4. The absence of any opposition body to the MPPUTP
What sets a democracy apart from all other forms of government is its ideal of the check-and-balance. A strong opposition party playing the role of a balancing power keeps the government accountable and in check at all times.
Thus, the ideal would be that the government will need to ensure that its motives and actions are based upon solid evidence and facts, or face the resounding criticism of the opposition.
The same principle applies in campus. Without a strong opposition to constitute a check-and-balance against the MPPUTP, there is no one to question the objectives and implementation of MPPUTP’s initiatives.
This will eventually lead to a complacency which will directly impact the image and leadership caliber of not just the leaders of the MPPUTP, but for the potential leaders serving beneath them as well.
A solid opposition body will help the MPP hone their mettle in public speaking and also enhance their awareness of issues within and without UTP.
By right, the MPP is the highest student organization in any university. Yet in UTP, questions are being asked regarding the relevance of MPP in this day and age. Students clearly need a united front through which they can voice their opinions.
No other club or society exists to represent the student population to external constituencies, lend greater credibility to the “fight for rights” with management, and provide a platform for students to develop their leadership and communication skills, all at the same time.
This is the challenge that the MPPUTP must now meet head-on. Time will tell whether or not they succeed.
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Note: For those of you interested to learn more about the general issues concerning UTP, Rausyanfikir has a detailed writeup about it (in English) at his blog [link].