Greetings from Makassar

IF there is anything the students from Makassar, South Sulawesi are famous for, it is their prowess to demonstrate.

Recent news that have flooded the newspaper and Indonesia television, have carried the images of these students making their stands known.

In the afternoon of the 20th of this month when I arrived into the city, I was curious to know whether these demonstrations would affect my short stint in the city. I was glad when I was told that they would not.

As I was heading to the location where my activities would be based, I passed through a crowd of students, from different universities protesting against their president in his first year anniversary in office.

Some carrying a make believe coffin of the president and some distributing leaflets and flyers to the passers-by, on the other side in Jakarta, demonstrations were also taking place.

In Makassar, students had stopped a petroleum tanker of Pertamina with their leaders standing on top of it with their megaphones.

When I visited one of the campuses of a popular university in Makassar, tired after a long day, a pack of students sitting on the stairs and covered open spaces were chanting and singing songs of revolution.

“They want a reduction in tuition fees,” I was told.

According to my friend, most of these students are political science majors with a few supporters from other faculties.

He, being a graduate in political science could relate to such activities as he used to be the motivation behind demonstrations during his school years, though he now finds it silly and wouldn’t see himself parading for such a cause.

After a day, the demonstration had stopped and everything had gone back to normal.

However, a few properties were vandalized and graffiti festoon a roundabout with messages of denouncement and hatred.

I then remembered a quote that doesn’t belong to anyone specifically that said, if you want to start a revolution, get young people to do that.

There is definitely energy among most of young people to do such activities.

This got me thinking of how different things are in Malaysia where I have never heard of such a demonstration by students, forgive me if there have been and I have been unaware of them.

This might be due to the good leadership in Malaysia, unmotivated students or tight laws that prevent such an act. Pick one.

But then again, this got me asking myself whether demonstrations are a good thing to start with.

Is voicing out of one’s opinion through demonstration a proper channel for demanding his or her interests be heard?

Especially is this an effective tool that young people can use to get the attention of the governments and other responsible bodies concerning the changes that they want to see?

This matter is open to debate, depending on the given scenario.

Many constitutions have allowed peaceful demonstrations.

However, most nations, don’t like the idea when it is carried out physically.

In many countries the police have cracked peaceful demonstrations leaving some wounded badly.

Demonstrations can be a good avenue for the citizens of the country to voice out their opinions concerning the government on power.

It is also a good opportunity to get the attention of the government especially in dire situations.

In Makassar I was told that students are highly motivated to demonstrate even when it comes to small university policies they don’t agree with. This can be a good thing and a bad thing at the same time.

The fact that university understands the reaction of the students towards their policies is one.

However, the disruption that can be caused to the lesson plans is another.

However, there is a tendency of people demonstrating even when they are not sure why they are doing so.

Especially in the case of some of the students who might be pulled in by their friends through peer pressure.

Demonstrations then become a platform of appearing cool and in support of a cause though one doesn’t really know why he or she is doing so.

So that’s all from Makassar for now.

Next week will be my last column. I am excited and sad at the same time.

The journey though coming to an end, starts another one with full of opportunities and expectations.

See you next week.

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