The general election is just around the corner.
According to one side of Umno, it must be held before the mandatory December party elections, come floods or typhoons it does not seem to matter.
I am fine with it. Call-lah…anytime. My concern in this article is the Undi 18 and what preparations do public and private universities have to allow 18, 19, 20-year-olds along with the 21, 22, 23, 24-year-olds abang and kakak to choose their parliamentary and state representatives and determine the course of this nation for the next five years.
As an academic that has been at both public and private universities, so far universities have shown absolutely no interest whatsoever to facilitate the students to choose their leaders.
For the sake of our country, all parents who are Malaysians must insist that their children be fully facilitated in discharging this all-important duty.
I would like to deal with the access to political speeches and debates, postponement of examinations and assignment due dates, three-day leave for outstation voters and transport aids.
If these four items are not put up in Senate discussions, then forget about having a nice country to live in…and let it go bankrupt like a few countries from the unmitigated corruption.
I have always expressed the slogan ‘our country, our fault!’ Don’t blame civil servants or political leaders for our country’s problems as it is always we the citizens who are supposed to be the check and balance of the management of this country.
Graduating with a degree in architecture, engineering and business or even with a doctorate means nothing much if the responsibility of determining the future of the nation is not held in the highest regard by each graduate.
Academics, lecturers, Vice Chancellors and professors who pooh-poohed this responsibility are the real cause of why this nation is in a state of total disrepair.
My first question to the university administration is what plans have been made to invite the contesting political parties to deliver their manifestos and subject themselves to the question-and-answer session of both students and academics.
It seems funny to me that most of my answering questions about nation-building in my 34-year career have been made outside of the universities. This is because universities shun political discussion and declared it ‘sinful’ and ‘taboo.’
For me, if universities act like this, then they should no longer call themselves universities and just change their names to ‘sekolah asrama penuh.’
The Vice Chancellors should change their titles to Gurubesar and professors should be called Cikgu or Guru sekolah.
The students are already adults who can marry and start a family if they want to. The law allows them to drive and marry, so why are universities still afraid to let them talk politics?
For me, if there were 30 political parties which intend to put their party’s name on the ballot papers, then they should be allowed a two-hour session with the students on the campus.
I would expect no less than a full commitment if we were to be fair to the students and to the future generations of this country.
Secondly, all examinations should be postponed at least three days and the assignments given an extension of the same number of days.
Why three days? One day traveling to the voting stations, one day to cast their votes and another day to return to the campus. This should be the least difficult logistics to be managed by universities.
Thirdly is the question of transportation. All universities should attempt to provide free bus services to each state so that the students can then arrange their own transport.
I also hope that the train and private bus services and airplanes should consider a 25% cut to the fares for the sake of the future of the nation.
We are the nation, each and every one of us. Until we understand that the corruption and mismanagement of this country is due to our own complacent attitude about the importance of casting our votes to save this nation, we will be our own worst nightmare and poison.
The universities can also help the student with carpooling arrangements to go home to vote.
Fourth and my final concern is that everyone, working or studying, must be given a three-day leave if the election were declared on a weekday.
If, however, the election is on the weekend, then a one-day leave would suffice.
The Barisan Nasional’s tactic of having election day on a working day backfired as many people took leave ‘to save Malaysia’.
As a conclusion, I am calling out all the leadership of the hundreds of universities and colleges to answer the call of the nation.
Whom does this country belong to? It belongs to us, not Umno, PKR, DAP or PAS. Who is responsible to make or break the country? We all are responsible who are of voting age.
When we vote, we would have cast part of our responsibility to rebuild this country. If we abstain, then don’t blame others for all this country’s problems as it was our fault.
Our country, our fault. Let the young determine our future and the university and colleges, for once, be a true place where knowledge has meaning and responsibility to each and every one of us.
(Prof Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Mohd Rasdi is Professor of Architecture at a local university and his writing reflects his own personal opinion entirely.)