The Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) will be amended in Parliament next week to allow students hauled up for indiscipline the chance to appeal.
“We have to allow students the chance to appeal before sacking is
implemented,” he said when opening SM Sains Muar Parent-Teachers Association meeting in Tanjung Agas today.
Puad said the Education Ministry had been asked to improve the existing rules and regulations at public institutions of higher learning.
UUCA and Student Activism
Since its introduction in 1971, the University and University Colleges Act 1971 (better known as UUCA) has been harshly criticized. The UUCA is viewed by many student leaders, academicians and human rights activists as having been introduced to meet the political ends of the government of the day.
The UUCA has been amended 3 times, in 1975, 1983 and 1997 respectively, since its introduction. However, the last 2 amendments only covered a few administrative and procedural aspects, which did not directly concern the matter of students’ rights. Now, we see amendments again after a long wait which the Government touts as an expansion of the democratic space for students.
However, in truth the amendments are a far cry from the complete repeal of the UUCA which appears to be the only real means to achieve true academic freedom in Malaysia.
A Brief History of the UUCA
To understand the UUCA and its impact on local universities, one has to know the history of the student movement in this country.
In the early 1960s there was only one university in Malaysia, the University of Malaya, which was established under the University of Malaya Act of 1961.
(Later on, in Section 25(1) of the UUCA, it is provided that the University of Malaya established under the 1961 Act “shall be deemed to be a university established” under the UUCA and the provisions of the 1961 Act “shall subject to the provisions of this Act continue in force for the purposes of the University”).
In the late 1960s, three more universities were established, i.e. UKM, UTM and UPM. The combined forces from these universities strengthened the power of the student movement.
Apart from the social circumstance of the times, the May 13 1969 riots had further influenced students to appreciate that it was their responsibility to uphold the rights of the common people.
On more than one occasion, the students at the time had translated their dissatisfaction by taking part in street demonstrations. For example, in the late 1960s, the general reaction of the students towards the May 13 tragedy was to stage a protest against Tunku Abdul Rahman, which remains the notorious watershed of police intervention in local university affairs.
At or around the same period, students also went against newly legislated laws touching upon the universities’ autonomous powers. One could see UKM students participating in demonstrations together with UM students. These expressions of opinion ran the gamut of causes: the dismissal of Dato’ Abdul Rahman Yaakub as the then Minister of Education, the British foreign policy of condoning apartheid by the South African government, employment matters such as the dismissal of employees by the Raleigh Cycle Company and even when Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was sacked from the ‘Majlis Kerja Tertinggi UMNO’.
These examples of student expression were taken seriously by the government. As a result, the UUCA was passed in 1971 based on a belief that has yet to be proved that the student movement had somehow caused societal disharmony amongst the various races and religions, aggravating the already fragile atmosphere created by the events of 1969.
Another focal point to the encroachment of liberties by the UUCA can be seen from the Baling demonstrations in Kedah that occurred on the 3rd of December 1974, where almost 30,000 people participated to show their support to the farmers who demanded better rubber prices and better living conditions. It was noted that a huge number of student societies all over the country, regardless of race took part in the demonstration.
Because of the show of strength at the Baling demonstrations, the government decided then to amend the UUCA in 1975, to include the infamous Sections 15, 15A, 15B, 15C, 15D and 16.
Post by: Heng Lung