There is no reason why students should not be allowed to take part in politics as they have a right to join whatever group, be it political or leisure, since they are citizens of this country, say analysts.
UCSI University Faculty of Economics and Policy Science lecturer Dr Ong Kian Meng said any university student should know the political goings-on in the country and should not be stopped from participating.
“In developed countries, students can become members of political parties. There’s no reason why they can’t do the same here. After all, there are many other things they can be involved in but it might not be beneficial to them.”
He said students’ interest in politics had risen over the years.
“Since 2008, we can see more students associating themselves with politics. This is a good sign. It is good that students want to be in touch with current affairs.”
Political scientist Dr Wong Chin Huat said if student political participation was stopped, they would be at a disadvantage when leaving university.
“They have to know the country’s happenings. Does the government want ignorant graduates coming out to the working world? Personally, I feel the government doesn’t want students to be involved because they are afraid of being questioned. If there’s something wrong with the system, every citizen has the right to question.
“If students are not allowed to question, then we won’t be able to produce competitive individuals and leaders.”
University of Malaya Faculty of Law Associate Prof Dr Azmi Sharom said everyone should be given the right to join a political party, regardless of age and whether they were students or not.
He, however, said the government had not been genuine when it came to changing policies.
“If you’re a citizen, then you should be allowed to join a party. But look at what the government has done all this while. They said they want to change the ISA but they haven’t done so. It clearly shows that they don’t want to liberalise the society because they want ultimate control.”
On the other hand, historian and academician Prof Khoo Kay Kim said students should have their own activities rather than take part in politics, adding universities should monitor them and not allow them to be actively involved in political parties.
“It is all right for a student to give his or her opinion on a political issue, but anything extreme is not good, too. They can organise their own events and activities that are not politically inclined, such as sports and arts.
“Universities should give students freedom but, at the same time, students should not abuse them.”
The analysts were responding to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s announcement in Parliament yesterday on government’s plan to lift the ban on student participation in politics, as part of his administration’s political reforms.