Wrong way to become creator of transformation

Daniel John Jambun

I must say I am very irritated by a little-noticed news story published in your esteemed paper last October 27, titled “Undergraduates told to become creator of transformation.” It was as a report of a speech by the Prime Minister delivered by Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Tun Hussein at the closing of the Prime Minister’s Trophy Debate between students of institutions of higher learning at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) in Kuala Lumpur on October 22.

In that speech the PM outlined five major aspects to be played by undergraduates in the country’s development, including becoming creators of transformation “instead of spreading controversies.” He said “undergraduates must become solvers instead of causing disasters besides becoming lovers of knowledge instead of becoming dream merchants.” At this point my patience ran out. How is it possible for young people not to create controversies in the pursuit of change, in the effort to transform the Malaysian society? What if the social or political situation is so bad that they have to voice their opposition to what are being practiced? How are they going to transform society if they are just puppets trying to follow and join what is going on, for better of for worse?

And what does the PM mean by causing disasters, becoming lovers of knowledge instead of becoming dream merchants? These are all conflicting concepts! We must all be dream merchants, selling our dreams to transform the Malaysian society into becoming a great example for other countries. How can we be lovers of knowledge and then don’t apply them and just support the government  even if it is doing a lot of things wrong? Is that causing disasters? No! That is changing a bad system, and that is the very purpose of the democratic system under a constitutional monarchy that we enjoy in Malaysia . Najib himself had said that the age when the government is supposed to know everything is over. Very often, the new generation knows what they want for their country’s future, and they want to dismantle old and outdated systems that are making our administration obsolete.

Najib also said that the young people shouldn’t “become merely vendors of empty stories just to gain sympathy in continuing the personal agendas of certain groups” and then admitted that “We all know the voice and ideas of the young generation today, particularly the undergraduates, must be taken as the best capital which will drive the country’s development.” What he seems to be saying is that students shouldn’t try to be politicians but they are the ones with the best ideas to drive the country forward. That’s another contradiction in terms.

As I see it, the ideas of the younger generation cannot be stopped or controlled by the current crop of government leaders. It’s way too late for that. The young people know what they want for their country, for their children and grandchildren and they have been too much exposed and educated through observations of developments in other countries to be so easily influenced by sweet talks from their leaders. Najib said in the same speech, “At the very least, they can act as an effective reciprocal instrument for all the government policies and plans” which to me meant that he expect all undergraduates should reciprocate (react positively to show gratitude). This means they shouldn’t oppose or criticize. But, again, what if the policies and plans are wrong and against the interests of undergraduates like the provision in the Universities and University Colleges Act which prohibits students form becoming involved in politics?

The best way is to have the dialogues open from both sides, with the government being receptive to criticism and not just expecting support for everything it does. If the government cannot tolerate criticism from the younger generation, the country’s forward move will be stalled, and the opposition will have even more reasons to want to change the government.