Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Student Leaders Support Call For UUCA Reform

PETALING JAYA: Student leaders from public universities support the Court of Appeal’s judgment on Monday that Section 15 (5) (a) of the Universities and University Act (UUCA) is unconstitutional, since it violates the Federal Constitution’s provision for freedom of expression.

Section 15(5) (a) prohibits tertiary students from expressing support of or opposing political parties or from participating in politics.

Universiti Malaya (UM) student council president Mohd Syahid Mohd Zaini said they do not support the UUCA because it runs contrary to three basic rights in the Federal Constitution and human rights, which are freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

“The UUCA is not relevant and should be abolished. It has been amended five times and still, there are provisions that prohibit such freedom; we fear those who amended it have their own political interest,” said Syahid, 22.

He added that every citizen is entitled to express views on every issue in the country, but it must be based on facts.

“We appeal to the universities to allow political parties to come on campus. The parties must represent both sides of the political divide and they should debate and discuss in an intellectual manner (and) not through emotional discourse to indoctrinate students to support their party,” he said.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) student council president Ahmad Muzzamil Muhd Hairi also supported the abolishment of the UUCA, which he said was repressive of students’ rights.

“However, if this is not possible, I hope that the amendment process of Section 15 will include student representatives,” said the accounting student, who also hoped that the amended law will have a new name, since students have associated UUCA with fears of being expelled by the university.

Universiti Teknologi MARA student council president Mohd Farid Zuhri Ismail expects the case to be brought to the Supreme Court and he is unsure if the judgment would stay the same in the end.

From a personal perspective, the law undergraduate sees the ruling as an honour for students and a step towards becoming a developed nation because tertiary students will become more mature through participation in national issues, without fear of university action.

“However, it will be a loss if students spend all their time politicking instead of studying. The university, as a place to gain knowledge, is an avenue to exchange ideas, but if they are too caught up in politics, they may not accept other views that are opposed to their political beliefs,” cautioned Farid, 21.

With some 500,000 undergraduates in the country, president of the Universiti Putra Malaysiastudent council, Mohd Iqbal Ismat Noordin, said the government should make UUCA more relevant to current times and give students more exposure to politics so that they can make good decisions in future.

“In Malaysia, our tertiary students are still not ready for political openness. I’m not saying that they are not mature, but that the exposure to politics was not given during school days. Once they enter university and are exposed to politics, many will just believe what they are told,” said Iqbal, 21.

Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) student council president Muhammad Idzuan Jamalludin also welcomed the judgment but said what is more important now is that tertiary students learn how to express their views in a proper manner, with or without the UUCA amendment.

“Whether it is amended or not, if (we) are not mature in expressing our views, if we still shout and hold demonstrations, we cannot blame the UUCA, political parties or anyone but ourselves, the students,” he added.

Idzuan said that through the Student Parliament in USM - the first among local public universities - student leaders could raise various issues with the university and external parties.

He is also assisting a few other public university student councils to establish their student parliaments.

“We need to find our own ways (to highlight issues), we don’t need to depend on political parties. We have our rights and identities as tertiary students,” he said.

Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin was reported to have told reporters yesterday that he would bring the court decision to the Cabinet.

Currently, all public university undergraduates are required to sign a pledge that they would abide by the UUCA, otherwise their examination result slips would be withheld.

The Court of Appeal judgment was part of the “UKM4” case where four UKM students who attended the Hulu Selangor by-election campaign last year were required by the university to answer charges before a disciplinary tribunal.

All four political science students were found not guilty and had graduated.

No comments:

Islamic Song