Last Tuesday (30/3), as how seen by students in campus and those through social media, there was a demonstration by IIUM students in front of IIUM Main Stair. Lots of students voiced their aspiration, demanding IIUM to open the gate after locked down for several times in a quite a long time.
A day before the demonstration, there was a poster inviting students to demonstrate spread among social media, thus being a controversy. The poster had a very strong black-red tone, straight to the point, inviting students to demonstrate at March 30th in front of IIUM rectory building by wearing masks and practice social distancing.
I was quite shocked with the spread of the poster. In whichever platform that I found, I didn’t find a description on who’s the in charge of the demonstration, even the Whatsapp group coordination. I just find out the Whatsapp group at the D-Day of demonstration with the specific time announced, 12.59 PM.
I have only physically attended one student demonstration, in which is Aksi Kamisan, a demonstration in Indonesia held every Thursday in cities capital, specifically in front of Gedung Sate in Bandung, before last demonstration. It is a peaceful demonstration, reflecting human rights issue while wearing black clothes. It is a different experience with other demonstrations that demand to pressure the administration to answer the aspiration immediately.
Lots of my acquaintances attended demonstration in Indonesia directly. From various experiences, I learnt that a demonstration that oriented in pressuring the administration to listen the voices and to answer with a corresponding policy needs coordination. Usually there is a field coordinator/demonstration coordinator, strategic plans from A-B-C until Z, and consolidation of the issue.
That being said, Indonesian student demonstrations, with all of the chaos, still have order and coordination. They know what should be done when certain conditions has or hasn’t been met. The certainty of the planning wasn’t found in our last demonstration.
I, alongside with my friend—may Allah always bless him—decided to document this moment and try to document it in our personal archives. I was joining from the library in an impromptu manner, bringing laptop which was very immobile—it wasn’t very practical for me at all.
Demonstration is a Serious Issue!
We tried to document the chronology of every moment passed in the demonstration. Interestingly, despite our cautiousness with the demonstration, it was going pretty well. No one was harmed despite the pressure at the time before, at the moment, and post-demonstration.
As a part of the Indonesian Students Association of IIUM Executive Board, we tried to warn our community to not being very reactive when the poster first came out. With the uncertainty of the safety it brought and the absent knowledge of our acquaintances on it, we try to mitigate the emotion so it won’t lashed out into dangerous outputs for the safety of Indonesian students as a diaspora.
We don’t want anyone to be hurt and to be in harm of danger.
There are serious notes that need to be taken that there are lots of dimension that influenced the students’ accepted aspiration of the current policy that the gate has been opened. It wasn’t caused by the demonstration alone, but there’s a lobbying process between campus and IIUM Student Union (SU) in which very significant in mediating the demonstration spirit into a very civil negotiation, due perhaps there is some critics. It is still good enough, though. And we need to thank everyone who participate in the process, both the demonstration and the lobbying process.
Demonstration may pressure the administration to answer the aspiration with a corresponding policy immediately. But to channel it into a strategic policy, it requires a good negotiation skill and political power. Rants are not enough.
From here, we learnt something important. And it is the fact that demonstration—or even broadly—the fact that raising our voice is important to communicate issues and aspirations.
Our Lessons from Previous Demonstration
We learnt that from previous phenomenon that there was a cluster of aspirations that was not channeled thus transposed into a demonstration outside of the coordination with IIUM SU. And as how seen in the act yesterday, majority of the demonstrators was international students. This shows that there is an evaluation for IIUM SU to be able to listen and move together with the voices of international students in its best form.
The deficit in the capacity to listen to international voices yesterday was very risky for the safety of international students themselves. No one know how the demonstration could ended up with an even worse and harmful ending.
Even worse, international students have a constant threat to be deported anytime possible. This identity challenge is absent in the experience of Malaysian students in a Malaysian campus—in which actually it is an international campus.
Had the demonstration yesterday could be mediated with IIUM SU since the beginning, perhaps we may propose a peaceful permission with the OSeM with certain orderly rules that can be accepted by both sides. We can also held a consolidation, or perhaps well known as a ‘town hall’ for students gather to arrange and communicate issues priorities and demonstration strategic to be more peaceful, orderly, and of course, effectively.
If there is a good communication between students’ societies, especially between locals and international students, as a family of IIUM, we can together attain our same purpose together in its best manner. No one need to take credit from one and another, and everyone could participate actively in students issues movement.
This leaded to one from many hikmah that we can attain from this, in which is the importance of international student representation in IIUM SU body. Not like the IIUM Student Representative Council (SRC) before in which it institutionalized the differentiation class between locals and international students, but a very inherently international students’ representative that becomes a holistic part of this IIUM family.
That being said, for international students, the incoming IIUM SU election contestation is a free fire for all battle. We need a powerful struggle to have a legitimate political power that is representative, with of course supports from everyone who have the same inclusivity vision in political participation, internationals and locals.
I will need to comprise my points into two small conclusions.
Firstly, to demonstrate and to advocate in the future, we need an open consolidation that is representative and well-planned. With that, voices represented could be held accountable and its political process could be safer. No one need to be afraid of polices captures or any intimidation anymore.
Secondly, we need to oversee this IIUM SU election so that we can goal candidates who are ready and capable to fight for inclusive representation, locals and internationals along. Communication and students politics insight and literacy thus is very important to be noted from candidates who participates.
Who will fight for our voices? Wallahu alam. But one thing is clear, that Indonesian students and all international students in IIUM won’t just keep in silence, especially with that happened recently.
We learnt that every voice matters. And because of that, we must fight for it!