Thursday, February 16, 2006
ukec and all this political fuss
Related reading : Labels: current issues
When UUCA is out of coverage overseas
Who's paying for UK students' CNY open house
Student's CNY party not political
I noticed a few blog articles about this particular issue, but nobody seemed to be giving a straight answer. Now, I do not claim to know all about UKEC and how it works. Nevertheless, this is my take on this situation as I have experienced.
UKEC was started as an umbrella body for all the Malaysian Societies in every UK university. Rightly put, there are about 17 000 Malaysian students in the UK and to my best knowledge, there are more than 60 different Malaysian Societies. You have to understand that most of universities have one Malaysian Society, but there are many universities where there are two. One would be called the Malaysian Society, and another would be called the Malaysian Singaporean Society. Where this is the case, usually the Malays join the Malaysian Society while the Chinese join the Malaysian Singaporean Society. This practice sounds ridiculous but it does happen especially in some larger universities. It opens a whole big can of racial issues, but that is a story for another day.
I was on the committee of the Malaysian Society a few years ago, when some people decided to wake up the sleeping giant which was UKEC. It was formed many years ago, but due to the lack of interest, it was left dormant until some kids tried to start it back up again. However, being someone who has been on the committee of the Malaysian Society of my university, I can safely say that it is hard enough to look after the welfare of the 300 odd members in our society. I therefore question the use and the effectiveness of UKEC who is trying to look after 17 000 students.
I understand what they are trying to do - to build relationships between Malaysians throughout the UK. However, a lot of Malaysian Societies already have activities that do just that. Our society in Nottingham organises the largest Malaysian event in the UK. We have something called the Nottingham Games annually with a turnout of around 4000 Malaysians from about 50-60 universities. It is quite a joke to think that an attempted UKEC games a couple of years ago (I don't know if they still do it now) did not manage even 20% of that attendance figure. A lot of societies also organise a Malaysian Night in their universities (Warwick is famous for theirs) and quite a number of students from other universities attend that event.
Again, the effectiveness of UKEC comes into play at this moment. It is VERY safe to say that most Malaysians in the UK have not heard of UKEC, probably because they do not reach out far enough. If you pay a visit to their website, their front page beams a great nice picture of the committee. It pains me to say this as I know two of them, one of whom is the president and someone I know personally. However, if I was still a student, I have to question the autheticity of a committee which supposedly represents me - yet a committee which I had no say in picking.
You may start gaping your mouths now.
No, the students that they supposedly represent do NOT have a say in their election. The executive committee is elected, I believe, by representatives of each Malaysian society, usually the president. Again, I am a little out of touch with the current situation, but if precendent allows me to make a fair judgement, then I would say that UKEC is the biggest platform for cronyism that I have ever seen. You may argue that it is the same in every organisation, but if you think about the logics, how do you elect somebody that you have never met?
Most of the people who vote and most people already know each other. Nobody outside the clique would get in, mainly because there isn't a chance for them to show what they are good at. They usually come from the same college and if you ever want a good example of a herd mentality, this is it.
As for the second part of it all, people have been questioning as to who paid for the CNY open house. Based on the JeffOoi article, a clarification from the UKEC president stated that the Malaysian Students Department (MSD) paid for it. This is nothing new. The MSD gives out a lot of sponsorship. They contributed money for our Nottingham Games and they also gave us money for our Malaysian Nite. I have no reason to believe they didn't do the same for other societies as well.
However, if there is something to be upset about - it is to question where the MSD gets their funding from. While sponsorships for the said events are okay as they do promote a relationship between Malaysians, there are a couple of events that springs to mind.
A few years ago, the then Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal visited Nottingham. We, the committee of the Nottingham Malaysian Society were given a hefty sum of money by the MSD and asked to organise a great big lavish event in which he would attend, supposedly chat with the students and give a speech. Sure, as students, we were thrilled. We get free food. Free GOOD food I might add. We weren't making noise back then, but thinking back....was it really necesssary??
As recent as last year, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak visited Manchester the same time they had their annual games. Would you believe that they (the 'they' being either the MSD or the government) paid for EVERYBODY'S trip to get to Manchester? Quite simply put, if you were a student anywhere in the UK wanted to go shopping in Manchester, you had your bus ride to Manchester paid for. All you had to do was to sit through his speech for a while and you were free to roam around Manchester.
Great for the students.
Not so great for the taxpayers.
Labels: current issues
next, on the ukec. firstly, i don't think ukec's purpose is to look after the 17000 malaysian students in the uk. they are trying to represent them as a single voice. how? through the presidents of the various malaysian socs in the uk. true that some of their exco might have slacked off in the past, but as a student here i would say that the current committee is making vast progress compared to the one when you were an nms committee. i myself have been to a number of ukec meetings under the reign of 2 different committees and like you, i know a number of people on the current committee personally, which allow me to state that ukec is heading back towards the right track of its objectives.
i think we can narrow down the reasons why people have never heard of ukec into 2: ukec was not active/effective enough, and second, which is partly our fault, the individual malaysian societies were not supportive enough of their actions. we can argue, at least i would, that some of the activites organised was unrelated to the whole idea of having a body such as ukec itself (take the ukec games for instance). nevertheless, again, i see more improvements in the ukec this year.
finally, regarding the election, as you said it yourself, it is hard enough to look after the welfare of the 300 odd members in a society, can you imagine trying to host an election with even 5% of the whole of malaysian student population during ukec agm. hence the way ukec election works is via the presidents, which i believe many of us had a say in nominating and electing back at our own uni. u chose your president to represent you, and he represents you. and if he doesn't, blame him.
and to be fair, even in the individual societies' agm, its' not like we personally know everyone who ran for the posts.
p/s: this had been a long post for me. apologies for the many grammar/structure errors. hope the msg gets across.
about the events and the effectiveness of UKEC, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, this was my take of the situation as i had experienced a couple of years ago. IF, a big IF, they have as you said sorted themselves out since then, then that is a good thing for everybody.
however, allow me to be cynical. their objective is to represent the opinions of all the students in a single voice. how? through a CNY open house for example?
about the elections, while i understand your point, still it is of my opinion that an election which affects me should be an election in which i have a say in directly. i do not like the idea of having to support a president in which i had no say in electing. (you may argue that our malaysian government elections are similar, but that is a story for another day) there are many ways you could go about with the votes to involve every student who is interested - the most feasible by submitting online or postal votes and having the MSD as the independant election commission.
on other matters, give me a holler the next time you are at your comp and see me online...i have a business proposal for you ;)
Speaking of Manchester read this (non-related).
However, you are putting yourself in a bad position by writing this up. Be careful, my friend.
anonymous2 : that is exactly my point. it is sad that things like these happen.
hello vince, nice blog you have here. oh..please forgive my lame english. it's damn lame.
since you understand Bahasa Melayu, i will write campur2.
ok, what is the purpose of the student society? even in my university...there are no such use. i mean literally speaking, it's really really true though. nobody give a damn about student society.
well, considering that i'm a local university student in Malaysia. maybe in oversea, you feel the urge of student society for your activities, like hari raya celebration and CNY celebration. cause i think, when you're in oversea, you really need to experienced it to its fullest.
well, it's just my opinion. but always human nature, we love to stick the person who have similirity to us, eventhough we really hate them.
about the election, it's normal things turn down like that. well, you can see, people don't give a damn about the society. if there really take the society seriously, they will turn up. the attendance must the 50% or more. so, in harsh word to put it, people just don't care. they can take care of themself. and seriously, some of them really think that, people in student society is SKEMA (budak baik).
and why the money giving too much or like you said, it's like giving blank cheque. in this sense, it's because of the MINISTER. you must understand, in normal society, people PRAISING people with power...or harshly, MENGAMPU. how come a MENTERI came and you only serve macaroni and cheese. it's must be so embrassing. we tend to be a HYPOCRITE. yes, HYPOCRITE.
i think the MENTERI also know we make all this up for him. but HE just don;t care, that shows that HE has the power. people carefully treat HIM, because if HE get mad, students there must get a very bad treatment.
the taxpayer? malaysian just don't care what the government do with their tax. cause if we care too much, they will start to bring out about subsidi, biasiswa and such. and they will accused us as NOT BERSYUKUR with what they give to us. the worst, you will end up at ISA (internal security act).
opsssiee...i do fired up a bit but that's the reality.
like the second anonymous said, be careful my friend, somebody watching you. it's really shows the quality of people at the higher position. we can never questioned the authority. well, that's why MALAYSIA not going far in development. people at higher position doesn;t want to improve themself yet reluctant to listen to the normal people down here.
so, end up...we moving so slow and no wonder so many big corporation in Malaysia ended up with bankcrupcy, in example, our so called beloved Malaysian National Car Company, Proton....
opssiee..i'm on fire now, somebody watching my ass. but think it dude, if my crappy writing make sense to you. IF it's make sense, IF NOT just ignore it. :)
p/s: please forgive my crappy english. hope you will understand what i'm trying to said.