25 October 2007
To: News editor
Higher Education Minister, Dato’ Seri Mustapa Mohamad mentioned that the amendment of University and University College Act (UUCA) will give more space for freedom of speech. Regarding this, Malaysia Youth and Democratic Student Movement(DEMA) feels that, the amendment of UUCA should not only focus on freedom of speech, but also on freedom of association of students, authority of campus, freedom in academics, self-administration of students, efficiency of administration, campus election and so on.
DEMA feels that, Higher Education Ministry should be more transparent in making and announcing any decision so that the public can get to know more information. Therefore, Higher Education Ministry should inform the public about the content of UUCA that is going to be amended. This will provide an opportunity to the university students to join in the debate and the participative democracy will be practiced. Besides that, DEMA also think that Higher Education Minister should study on the articles in UUCA that restrict the freedom of speech and freedom of association of university students. This should be done based on three basic principles, which are freedom, democracy and human rights.
DEMA also feels doubtful about the review of UUCA whether it will really be carried out. If we look back to the history, we will see that each and every of Education Minister used to mention about the review of UUCA, including Tun Mahathir, Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. On 1 October 1993, the Education Minister at that time, Sulaiman reiterated the promise of UUCA review. On 4 January of the following year, the Education Minister announced that a committee on the UUCA review had been formed up in the ministry but there was no any follow-up on it.
The former Higher Education Minister, Shafiee Salleh also mentioned about the review on UUCA. According to him, the committee will consist of non-government organization, public universities, private higher learning institutions, lawyers and representatives from related fields, but the representatives from opposition parties are excluded. Higher Education Ministry also didn’t state the time line for the review on UUCA and it was up to the decision of the committee.
After the reformation of cabinet on 14 February 2006, letters had been sent by Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM) and DEMA to Higher Education Minister to request for a meeting in order to propose some suggestions on the review of UUCA but they still haven’t receive any reply from the minister until today. In July 2006, Higher Education Ministry stated that it will review UUCA 1971 and will propose the Bill of the Amendment of UUCA 1971 but it has been delayed again and again, missed the opportunity of proposing it during the parliamentary meeting on September and November last year, March and September this year.
DEMA also feels doubtful towards the top-down policy of Education Ministry. The stand of DEMA is to abolish UUCA and replace it by a new university act. University act should not go against the United Declaration of Human Rights and the basic rights given to us as stated in Federal Constitution, such as freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and citizen rights, for instead it should protect our basic rights, and use the bottom-up legal base, which is drafted by students and proposed to Higher Education Ministry. Therefore, UUCA should be abolished to ensure the freedom of academics, campus democracy and student rights are protected.
Secretary of International Affairs of DEMA
Ong Jing Cheng
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