Recalling Parliamentary Culture in IIUM

When I write this article, IIUM is preparing for the third IIUM Student Leaders’ Assembly (ISLA), which has been scheduled for 31 March 2018. Speaker and Deputy Speaker was elected. This time, Speaker is no longer from Ahmad Ibrahim Kulliyyah of Laws. Secretary and his Officers continue making technical and tactical preparations for its very next sitting.

Members, at the other side, have started studying, analysing and finding solutions for issues and problems surrounding the University and the people from various spectra. They will then convey outcomes through intellectual and professional debate. Internal media will, of course, cover the whole debate and report it to the community. The community, at another side, look forward to be recognised in the chamber as observers.

ISLA is no longer alien in this University. After four to five years of struggle, ISLA sat for the first time on 3 April 2016, with election of chair-occupants took place on 13 February 2016. It was supposed to be inaugurated in the preceding year, but the switch of Students’ Representative Council (SRC) Election from November to September, on the directive of the Minister of Higher Education, has prevented such inauguration.

2016 witnessed how enthusiastic the University and its Community are to have ISLA established after 33 years of establishment. Numerous reasons have contributed to such enthusiasm. Number one, because IIUM is the fourth public university in Malaysia to have accepted the call of the Ministry of Higher Education to establish student parliament after Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

Number two, because IIUM is the first (and, on that time, the only) international Islamic university in the world to have its own student parliament. Number three, because ISLA has 146 members (and counting from year to year) and so comes as the biggest university student parliament in Malaysia after Malaysia’s own Student Parliament (which has 209 members from all 20 public universities in Malaysia, as at 2017).

Number four, because ISLA is the only university student parliament in Malaysia to inculcate both local and international settings. While all university student parliaments in Malaysia inculcate local setting, ISLA does not only applying Westminster format and practices of the Dewan Rakyat in its sitting, but also using English as its official language and having a number of international students as members (and observers).

Number five and not least, because the Rector herself was so enthusiastic with ISLA and its future. In the first sitting of ISLA, she invoked her intention to insert ISLA in the University Constitution. Despite the fact that it is yet to be a reality, ISLA managed to endorse its own Constitution (and, therefore, Standing Orders) in the same sitting. It was then amended in the following year’s sitting for the purpose of strengthening the Assembly’s responsibility towards its own business.

The issue of ISLA is no longer the status and position of ISLA in the University because in the absence of its constitutional status, ISLA continues to be institutional. If it is not an institution of the University, it remains an institution of the University Community; SRC is just a trustee and an operator of ISLA.

It is now about how far ISLA members will embrace parliamentary culture not only in ISLA, but also in their good selves. It is not only about upholding Westminster system, imitating Dewan Rakyat and applying practices of Commonwealth parliaments, but also three following principles that founds good parliamentary culture in IIUM.

The first is intellectualism and professionalism. As ISLA members, they are not only expected to come up with debatable motions, but also to analyse and assess those debates by using healthy mind and pure heart. They must remain calm, confident and wise not only in presenting stance, but also in defending it and rebutting a dissenting view.

The second is preservation of Islamic and eastern values and virtues. Although ISLA seems to be Western, ISLA is actually Islamic and eastern and it must remain as it are. For a better understanding, ISLA members are expected to demonstrate Islamic and eastern values in debate and in making decision for the people.

The third and above all is the people’s interest. In fact, ISLA is not meant for the University student leaders only, but also the whole University Community and the people. Therefore, ISLA members are expected to provide advice and consent to people-based and people-centred resolutions, for the benefit of the University and the people.

Another issue that would arise from ISLA is the impact of ISLA to the University. A group of people accept ISLA, if it is not for the purpose of the University, for the purpose of the future generation. Another group of people are less so given the small contribution of ISLA towards University’s decision making. However the people accept and embrace ISLA in their life, ISLA has directly and indirectly contributed significant impacts to the University and the people.

ISLA has not only produced quality and charismatic leaders, but also supported the University in making significant progress to its own Strategic Plan and Malaysian Higher Education Blueprint, especially in term of holistic student development. Several members of ISLA were admitted to Malaysian Student Parliament, attended Global Leadership Programme in London, won debate and oratory tournaments and received national and university level awards.

ISLA has not only played the role of check and balance towards University’s policies and directions, but has also generated better academic discussion and research towards issues surrounding the University and the community of outsiders. A number of motions tabled, debated and decided in ISLA were not meant only to the University and its community, but also to those who live near IIUM Gombak Campus.

Even so, ISLA needs to produce more significant impacts. The University Community expects ISLA to be much progressive in its very next sitting. Unfortunately, ISLA could not be left alone. The University Community must be together with ISLA to bring ISLA to another level of success. If it is not in debate, is must be in any possible kind of community engagement.

As a former member and chair-occupant of ISLA, my best wishes go to chair-occupants, members and officers of ISLA. My confidence towards ISLA remain unchanged, that ISLA will continue to rise as an institution of integrity and honour that belongs to the whole IIUM Community.


Writer's Note: The third ISLA was postponed to 8 April 2018. (27 March 2018)