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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Who wants to be a BTN Poster boy?

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BTN - acronym for Biro Tata Negara, roughly translated as "National Order Bureau". It's part of the Prime Minister's department, and it's function is to "instill patriotism and love for the government of the day". Walski kids you not - go check their website if you don't believe him (it's in Bahasa Malaysia, so some translation skill on your part would be required). From personal experience, BTN is also one of the more active promotion agents of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy). Government funded (i.e. you and Walski pay for them), at that.

But enough about BTN - because BTN is not what this post's about. It's about racial polarization, and how it manifests itself in our public institutions of higher learning.

Image hosting by PhotobucketIn particular, take a gander at this guy you see on your right. His name is Afandy Sutrisno Tanjung. He is the head of the University Malaya Undergraduates Representation Council (Majlis Perwakilan Mahasiswa). He allegedly wrote a pretty racist letter, which got quite a wide circulation on the Internet. "Allegedly", because he has denied having anything to do with the letter, and his denial has been very speedily been accepted by the university. So speedily, it made Walski's head spin because he couldn't believe how such a letter could have been taken so lightly by the university authorities.

In any case, Walski nominates Afandy as a future poster boy for BTN. And who knows... he may even be hired by the department one day... because what was allegedly written is exactly the kind of supremacist sentiments that would make BTN proud!
(the letter, the denial, the Deputy VC, and the deepening mystery, in the full post)

First, the letter that created this furor in the first place.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe offending letter...

Walski has deliberately obscured the blog-source-identifier of the images, because the blog owner has since deleted the original entry, in fear (and advice from friends) that it may be detrimental to said blog owner's completion of studies at UM. These officiously vindictive Malaysian public university pricks don't take very kindly to bad publicity, so the fear is probably quite warranted, and Walski respects that.

But that's about as far as Walski's respect goes.

Because the above is a bit of an eye test, and Walski quite frankly isn't that cruel (really, he's not), here's the paragraph that contained the offending verbiage.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe offending paragraph...

And because Walski knows that many of you don't have the supreme command of language that Walski pretends he has (hah!), he's gone ahead and translated it for you. Incidentally, the first paragraph is the usual yada-yada-yada... except that when one highlights the importance of undergraduates of all ethnicities being the determining factor for where this nation is heading, you usually don't follow it up with this (emphasis by myAsylum):

"Therefore, I, as head of the head of the Undergraduates' Representation Council of Universiti Malaya (MPMUM), appeal to my fellow Universiti Malaya undergraduates to strive together and prepare ourselves with all the required knowledge and preparation before we continue with our struggle in the real battlefield. I urge this, particularly of the Malay undergraduates. Treasure the struggles of our forefathers who strived hard to ensure that the Tanah Melayu (Land of the Malays) became free from the clutches of foreigners. Do not become those who forget their roots, to the extent that we will be oppressed by other races. We undergraduates have to prove that we are qualified and are the best successors of the country's future leadership. This is in line with MPMUM's motto of 'Progressive, Dynamic, Professional'. Nothing is more important than undergraduates being constantly aware and constantly moving forward. I also appeal to the Malay undergraduates to be prepared to face any eventuality that may occur, being that the heightened peoples' awareness today has started from the non-Malay communities. Do not be lax to the point that our hidden enemies stab us. Do not allow us to be the reason Malaysia falls into unrightful hands."

Wow... almost straight out of the BTN playbook.

Now, in all fairness, Afandy has denied writing the letter, and his denial has been backed up by UM's Deputy Vice Chancellor, as reported in The Star, a couple of weeks back. But this denial does nothing (for Walski, at least) but raise further questions. Questions steeped in mystery... Let's look at some of what was reported, and what Walski thinks.

The controversial letter was said to have called on some groups to be prepared for “any eventuality” because of the recent winds of change in the national political scenario and warned them not to allow the country to fall into wrong hands.
(source: The Star)

Now, correct Walski if he's wrong, but aren't local university kids disallowed from being politically aware, by virtue of the University and College University Act (1971)? Aren't they supposed to only be allowed to exist as glorified upper secondary school students? Gee... the act isn't doing its job properly then, innit?

Okay, cynicism aside... here comes the real mystery - from the same news report, one paragraph down.

When contacted, Assoc Prof Azarae Idris said Afandy had sworn an oath that the controversial statement was not written by him.

“We consider the case closed as the statement was a total fabrication.

“With the use of modern technology, anything is possible,” he said.

He added that he did not see the need for Gabungan Mahasiswa Sedar's statement.

“I do not know who or what is behind this.

UM has never been racist. We are the most racially-diverse public university,” he said.

(source: The Star)

Yes, blame it on technology, when all else fails... What the Deputy Vice Chancellor fails to explain:

  1. How did the perpetrators (assuming it wasn't Afandy or MPUM) get a hold of the Student Affairs stamp of approval? Or is this stamp something that's readily available? Oh yeah... modern technology is to blame!
  2. Are heads of the MPUM held in such high esteem that an oath will do the job of sweeping this whole affair under the carpet? Or did Afandy have to take a polygraph test?
  3. What yardstick was used to come to the decision that the entire letter was fabricated? And if there were a yardstick, why are we still measuring things in yards? Or is this simply a case of typical corporate aerobics (like jumping to conclusions, passing the buck, bending the rules, dodging responsibility, and pushing their luck)?
  4. Why does the Deputy VC hate modern technology so much?
  5. Who the hell taught him how to analogize?

UM, being in itself an inanimate object, of course can't be racist. It's the fuckers who run the establishment that possibly are. Plus, saying that they are the most racially diverse university in defense, is like saying the Malaysian automobile industry is non-discriminatory because we have so many different makes of vehicles. Kind of a lame analogy, if you ask Walski.

But the sad part of all this is that such race-supremacists mindsets still exist, and are formenting in our public institutions of higher rote-learning. No surprise that UM's worldwide rankings have plummeted in recent years - with race supremacy being given such prominence, coupled with the lack of intellectual autonomy, and paper-pushers being given preferential treatment over real intellectuals.

It doesn't really matter who wrote the letter, actually. And Walski is not saying that it was even Afandy - who wrote it, in the final analysis, doesn't matter one iota.

It's the fact that it was written at all that worries Walski. Not that it isn't par for the course, with all kinds of concerned Ketuanan this-that-and-the-other coming to the fore of late. Walski would've thought that universities would be above all that. But then again, these are Malaysian public universities we're talking about...

Unless, of course, the letter was part of a larger campaign, promoting a new reality show, called "Who wants to be a BTN Poster Boy?"...

Image hosting by PhotobucketWalski's this-is-not-a-UM-approved-post footnote: Yes, Walski is guilty of abusing modern technology... he's attached a UM student affairs seal of approval to this post. For the record, this post is unequivocally not UM-approved. How could it be, when Walski doesn't even approve of UM, or more precisely, what UM has become after all these years? Walski's dad is a proud graduate of UM from many, many years ago, and he's probably pretty disgusted at what has become of his alma mater... Back then, graduating from a public university like UM was something to be proud of. In all honesty, however, Walski has to say that of all the local graduates he has had the displeasure of interviewing, UM grads still rate the best among the local grads churned out. Which is not really a compliment, by the way. And the way things are going these days, he'll probably have to adjust his own personal rankings pretty darn soon...