The ground is shifting

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FAHMI_ZAINOL_PMUM_PRESIDENComment:

I am constantly amazed and thrilled by the voices of defiance that are rising from within Malaysia to challenge tyranny and the abuse of power. This time it comes from Fahmi Zainol, the President of the University of Malaya’s Student Council. He is standing up to an unjust government and might have to pay an enormous personal cost for it.

Fahmi joins other student leaders like Adam Adli, Safwan Anang, and Ali Abdul Jalil – a new generation of students who care more about the future of the country than they do about careers and comfort. Bravo to these young activists!

The very fact that the students are rising up speaks volumes about the utter failure of the ruling party’s programs to indoctrinate our students and co-opt them into their racist and extremist agenda which serves only one purpose – the perpetuation of its own power at the expense of the true interests of the nation. It also says a lot about the true spirit of Malaysians and their yearning for a better nation that the spark of freedom continues to blaze despite all efforts to extinguish it.

Winston Churchill once remarked, at the height of the war against Nazi Germany, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning” 

This is perhaps “the end of the beginning” of the struggle against tyranny in Malaysia. Change is coming! The ground is shifting! 

Expel me if you dare, student leader tells UM

BY ANISAH SHUKRY [Malaysian Insider]
Published: 26 October 2014

Universiti Malaya Students’ Council president Fahmi Zainol wants to start a second wave of ‘reformasi’ in the country. – Pic courtesy of Fahmi Zainol, October 26, 2014.
In his bid to initiate a new phase of “reformasi” among the country’s youth, Universiti Malaya (UM) Students’ Council president Fahmi Zainol now faces the threat of suspension and, in the long run, the risk that he may go down the same path as convicted youth activists Safwan Anang and Adam Adli Abd Halim.

But the 23-year-old Public Service Department (PSD) scholarship student is undeterred by the threats from his university and even the prospect of a future behind bars, if that was what it took to wake Malaysians up to Putrajaya’s alleged abuse of power.

“If they want to expel me, then go ahead. Let this be a lesson for the public on what is going on in universities and Malaysia,” Fahmi told The Malaysian Insider.

“Let the students see the truth, that while they may be soaking up knowledge from the top institutions in Malaysia, in the end they are still controlled by an unjust authority.
“I am willing to be expelled, to be imprisoned, anything for the sake of making Malaysia a better place.”

Fahmi represents a generation of students tutored by the country’s finest academics to question the society they live in and the government that rules it.

The Social Administration and Justice final-year student said he was inspired by his professors, lecturers and peers to take up the challenge of leading a student movement to bring about change.

“We students have to make these sacrifices, whether we like it or not, because Malaysia needs to change. And the government cannot underestimate the power of students.

“Just look at the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong, and the reformasi in Indonesia. It began with students,” said Fahmi.

The student leader is now in trouble with his university’s administration for inviting opposition leader and UM alumni Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to the campus to give a talk on the eve of the de facto PKR leader’s sodomy appeal.

The programme, titled “40 years, from UM to prison”, has been declared illegal by UM deputy vice-chancellor of student affairs Professor Datuk Dr Rohana Yusof, as it would “damage the image” of the university.

But the UM Students’ Council, led by Fahmi, not only intends to go ahead with the talk on Monday, but is using it as the platform to start a second wave of “reformasi” – the 1998 battle cry protesters used to rally around Anwar after his sacking from the Cabinet.

The UM Student Council has invited students nationwide to attend the programme, and to gather in Putrajaya the following day in solidarity with Anwar as he appeals his sodomy conviction at the Federal Court.

“We will protest to show the leaders we are not happy with the system and to open their minds and their eyes. The youth will rise and society along with it to fight against injustice,” said Fahmi.

“We want a new Malaysia. Let’s put an end to the old politics which only harms us.”
Fahmi is not the first youth activist in recent years to challenge the government through social activism, and he is unlikely to be the last, as vocal academics, such as Associate Professor Dr Azmi Sharom and Dr Abdul Aziz Bari continue to teach the country’s youth the importance of true democracy.

Fahmi follows in the footsteps of his seniors Adam Adli, Safwan Anang, and Ali Abdul Jalil – all whom have paid the price through the Sedition Act 1984.

Adam and Safwan have sworn that they would continue their social activism and not be cowed by threats of jail, while Ali announced yesterday he has fled to Sweden to seek asylum.

Although Fahmi said he was willing to be hauled up for the sake of a better Malaysia, he admitted that his parents were concerned for his safety and the possibility that his scholarship may be revoked.

Hailing from Permatang Pauh, Penang, he is the third child among six children, and his parents can ill-afford to pay for his tuition fees if PSD decides to stop funding his studies.

Such a threat is not impossible. In June, former PSD scholar and Australian National University student Aslam Abd Jalil was issued a show-cause letter from the department for taking part in a forum on race, religion and royalty with opposition lawmaker Tony Pua.

“My parents are quite worried, but I’ve convinced them that I’m doing this for the country, for my parents, for my sisters and brothers,” said Fahmi.
“I told them, who else should we rely on, if not ourselves? We can’t ignore what’s happening to Malaysia now.”

He added that as a student, this was the best time to fight for the rights of Malaysians, rather than wait until he was bogged down by a career and family.

As a single youth with no responsibilities, he occupied his time with volunteering at local orphanages and reading books on political science.

“I love reading books that detail the lives of political figures, like the biographies of Anwar and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as well as their writings,” he said, adding that he was eyeing a career in politics in the future.

“Ever since I contested in campus elections, it’s become my ambition to run for a state or parliamentary seat after I graduate. But while I’m a student, I won’t join any political party and will remain impartial.”

When asked why he felt so strongly about the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, Fahmi pointed to the budget deficit and Putrajaya’s use of the Sedition Act to stifle dissent. He said as the president of the UM Student Council, he had also experienced first-hand, its indifference to the country’s youth.

“I’ve contested twice in the campus elections, so I’ve dealt with the government quite a few times. They always say they want ideas from us on how to improve, but when we give it to them, they don’t even bother looking at them.

“Now, they say we are disobeying the government and the university. But we wouldn’t have to do this if they just listened to us when we met them through the official channels.”

Fahmi said that with the students’ rising up on Monday and Tuesday, he hoped it would trigger “something bigger” across the entire country that would force the government to realise it had no choice but to change its ways.

“I want to see Malaysians stand up and usher in the real Malaysia – the country as it should be, with all its strengths and resources and wealth.

“I want Malaysia to be ruled by people who care about its countrymen and will move the country forward, and bring together all the races as one people.” – October 26, 2014.

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