Higher Education Minister Mustapa Mohamed yesterday warned Universiti Malaya (UM) students to steer clear of a political party purportedly run by university students.
Mustapa said this when asked about the recently unveiled Malaysian Student’s Party (PMM), during a closed-door dialogue with representatives of various student bodies at UM last night.
The minister said students should not be part of the party because it would contravene Section 15 of the University and University Colleges Act 1974 (UUCA).
“If you want to join politics, do so after you graduate,” said Mustapa, according to sources who attended the meeting.
The UUCA is a strict law which forbids students from joining political parties or any body that is not recognised by the university. It also forbids students from talking to the press without the vice-chancellor’s permission.
It is yet to be determined if the announcement of PMM’s establishment on Jan 7 was a publicity stunt aimed at criticising the UUCA or if the party would really take flight.
During the dialogue, deputy vice-chancellor Dr Azarea Idris revealed that UM would be implementing an electronic voting system during the 2008 campus polls.
According to him, the move was meant to curb ‘phantom voters’ during the polls.
“There are many ghosts in the university, but ghosts do not know how to use computers,” he quipped.
While there has been no concrete proof of ‘phantom voters’ during past UM campus polls, which is often keenly contested, there were irregularities in the number of voters for the law faculty polls in 2006.
The electronic voting system however has been rejected by many ‘anti-establishment’ student groups as they claim that such systems are much easier to manipulate by election authorities.
Meanwhile, Mustapa was also asked by students on the case of Lee Soon Yong who was suspended for one semester from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) on charges of refusing to cooperate with campus security officials.
To this, Mustapa said the matter was no longer an issue as the suspension order had been revoked by the Higher Education Ministry and Lee was allowed to continue his studies.
In an UPM disciplinary proceeding last November, Lee was slapped with a suspension for the following semester after he was found guilty of obstructing a security guard from confiscating his personal belongings.
During the dialogue, Mustapa criticised Lee for approaching opposition leaders prior to approaching the Higher Education Ministry.
Last December, Lee had sought signatures for his appeal petition to the higher education minister from parliamentarians.
He was unable to secure the support of a single Barisan Nasional MP, but managed to have his petition endorsed by 19 opposition parliamentarians.
Prior to Mustapa’s arrival at the meeting, university authorities barred members of the press from covering the event on grounds that it was a closed-door meeting.
Met last night, university corporate communications officer Mohd Firdaus denied that the vice-chancellor’s office had issued a fax inviting the media for the event.
In a fax bearing UM’s letterhead yesterday, 19 media organisations, including opposition party organs, were invited for the purported “launching of Universiti Malaya as a voting centre for the general election”.
The fax, which bore the signature of an officer from the vice-chancellor’s office, claimed that other than Mustapa, Election Commission chairperson Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman would also be attending the event.
Source From: Malaysiakini.com