KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Malaysian youths’ participation in politics is among the lowest among Commonwealth countries, according to a recent report by international development agency Commonwealth Youth Programme (CYP).
According to its Youth Development Index (YDI) report here, Malaysian youths were ranked 47th among the 51 Commonwealth nations surveyed, with a score of 0.188 in the political participation domain.
This placed Malaysia slightly above Grenada (0.118), Saint Kitts and Nevis (0.118), Tanzania (0.046), Brunei (0.035), and Maldives (0.035).
Neighbouring Singapore also ranked lowly at 44th place (0.278), with Pakistan and Kenya separating it and Malaysia.
Political participation one out of the five domains that make up the total YDI, measuring youth policies and representation, voter education, and youths’ ability to express political views.
For the total YDI, Malaysia was ranked 17th among other Commonwealth countries with a “medium” score of 0.7, and was ranked 52nd in the world.
Australia, Canada, and New Zealand topped the list with scores above 0.8, followed by Malta and the United Kingdom. Singapore was ranked 8th at 0.74.
Malaysia was, however, in the top ten on the education front, placing ninth in the measure of mean years of schooling, education as percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), and youth literacy.
The YDI is similar to the globally-recognised Human Development Index (HDI), based on data from among others the Commonwealth Secretariat, World Bank, United Nations, and Gallup World Poll.
Malaysia has long barred its students from participating in politics using the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971, which was only recently amended.
Under the original Section 15 of the UUCA, university students are banned from forming an alliance, supporting, empathising with or opposing any political party, labour union or any organisation or group without prior permission from the university vice-chancellor.
Offenders can be jailed up to six months, or fined RM1,000, or both.
In an April 2012 historic sitting of Dewan Rakyat which ended way past midnight, the government had lifted the over four-decade-old ban on student participation in politics by amending UUCA and agreed to slacken government control over media freedom slightly by scrapping annual licences under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).
Malaysia’s student activism has thrived since, with a number of activists taking to street protests to speak up on issues of academic freedom, demand free tertiary education and call for the abolition of a decades-old law restricting their political activities.