Monday, August 3, 2009

UM in the 60s & 70s

I REMEMBER WHEN... We had a ball in Universiti Malaya


Many years ago, Universiti Malaya was the scene of hippie parties, disco dancing and social agitation. UM Alumni exco member Datuk Ghazali Yusoff recalls those heady days for ARMAN AHMAD.

Datuk Ghazali Yusoff (left); Datuk Hatijah Ayob when a UM student was the Non-Hostellers' Organisation Queen of 1966.

AFTER finishing high school, I enrolled at Universiti Malaya in 1965. I studied there for three years, taking a double major in Economics and Geography.

Looking back, I would say that those were some of the best years of my life.

UM in the 1960s and 1970s was a far cry from what it is today. It was after all, the first university in the country.

The best and brightest minds went there to prepare themselves to become the foundations on which our country would be built on.

But UM wasn't just a boring university. It also had a vibrant arts scene. Being the social secretary of the student union, I was deeply involved.

I had to organise numerous events, including fashion shows, talentime and beauty contests as well as other social functions.

My wife, Datuk Hatijah Ayob, and I had a great time in university. She was the Non-Hostellers' Organisation Queen of 1966.

We had a tea dance every second Sunday and we would have Victor Felix and his Hawaian Rhythmics playing while practically the whole campus gyrated on the dance floor.

But it was a difficult job being social secretary. You were under a lot of pressure to organise the best events. If you did not, a lot of people would be unhappy, and they would let you know.

Despite my hectic schedule, I still managed to play in a band. The band was known as the Sandy Lads and I was the band leader.

Professor A.A. Sandosham had donated the instruments, so the band was named in honour of him. We used to play at all the dances and social functions. We had a grand time.

I was also co-founder of the Speaker's Corner but that's a different story.

Every weekend, there would be an event on campus. Nowadays, you don't see this in UM.

In those days, we would organise a ball anytime we felt like it. Of course, the major balls were the ones held during orientation and convocation.

The students would come dressed to the nines. Everyone was smart-looking.

By 1969, Flower Power was influencing the campus a bit too much. By then, the campus was becoming too casual and the hippie movement seemed prevalent.

In the early 1960s, we had been very particular about the image of the university.

We were playful. But at the same time, we were responsible.

We respected our freedom. Those who spoke at the speaker's corner were very careful with what they said so that they didn't hurt other people's feelings.

The students knew how to treat freedom of speech in a responsible manner. The crowd would tell you if you went overboard. There was this in-built discipline on campus.

Having told you about all the fun we had, I must add that we were also very socially and politically aware.

During the Indonesian Confrontation, we handed a letter of protest to Indonesia for their part in the conflict.

We gave it to General Jatikusomo, the Indonesian ambassador in Malaysia.

We had a meeting with him in his residence. He served us good food (which as students we most welcomed) before he accepted our protest letter.

We also handed a letter of protest to the Philippines ambassador to Malaysia when their country claimed Sabah.

We thought the claim was not justified. Just like the Indonesian ambassador, we were accorded every respect at the embassy and the hospitality, including food, was great.

I remember how we went to Tunku Abdul Rahman's office to raise the point with him. We went there on dozens of motorcycles.

We brought him to the Selangor Club field on a motorbike where we hoisted him in the air and shouted "Merdeka"!

The police were very angry with us for pulling off that stunt.

They asked: "How could you treat the Prime Minister like that?"

But Tunku Abdul Rahman didn't seem to mind.

Many famous people came to UM to give talks. They broadened the minds of the students and influenced their thinking.

Whenever there was a visit by foreign dignitaries, they would make an appearance in UM.

Congressman Richard Nixon visited in 1966 and gave a talk on the Vietnam War.

Even Prince Phillip (husband of Queen Elizabeth II), visited the university.

In the early 1970s, things started to change in UM. The Malay Language Society began to become overprotective and too nationalistic. They had good intentions, but they stymied personal and social development with their own set of values.

When that happened, we saw the beginning of racial polarisation, and sadly, the government did not intervene positively.

We were the leading university at that time and people referred to us whenever they set up their universities and campuses.

Then came the University and University Colleges Act of 1971, and frankly, that was the end of it all.

What we see in universities today is a reflection of the changes UM went through in the early 1970s. Today, universities are rather dull places.

I'm very sad for the way things are going because we had a very good start in building a Malaysian spirit in UM.

We must try and help Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak make his 1Malaysia concept a success -- back to the true spirit of Merdeka and all it stands for.

A truly united 1Malaysia.


1 Added Colors:

t1^g.j0.J1 said...


kinda wat mahsa nurses are doing?

but.. i agree with his take when the 70's came around.

the 70's adults screwed us around. =D

This blog officially represents the thoughts in my head. All rights reserved 2007-2008