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Saturday, November 08, 2008

My Participation in a Roundtable Meeting

UUCA: Abolish or amend?
Rahmah Ghazali | Nov 8, 08 10:25am
The Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) has long been deemed controversial, especially among academicians, politicians, NGOs and students. But how far are they willing to go to make their objections known in Parliament?

As the much awaited debate is just three weeks away, many are preparing to go all out to make their views on the matter heard.

round-table uuca parliament building 071108 panelistsIn a round-table discussion on the Act chaired by opposition member of parliament Charles Santiago yesterday, academics from Gerakan Mahasiswa Mansuhkan AUKU (GMMA), Persatuan Kakitangan Akademik UM (PKAUM), International Islamic University Malaysia’s Academics and Staff Association (IIUMASA), Gerakan Demokratik Pemuda dan Mahasiswa Malaysia (Dema) and the National Union for Private Higher Education Learning’s academic staff (KAPTS) unanimously spoke against the amendments.

The panelists, who spoke in the two-hour discussion, said the amendments would only “restrict the critical minds of students” and send them into “a state of fear”.

As time is ticking away to the second-reading of the Act to allow it to be debated in Parliament, Santiago and the panel suggested that academicians, politicians, students and even parents play a role in investigating the core problems of the proposed amendments.

mtuc syabas pc 091007 charles santiagoIf the amendments are passed, students will risk facing disciplinary action instead of prosecution if found to be involved in political parties or unlawful organisations.

Other latitudes of the altered Act also allow for the enrolment of politicians in university courses without having to sacrifice their political careers, at the discretion of the vice-chancellor of the university.

The UUCA has been widely condemned by student bodies in the country who feel that they should be given the freedom to voice their opinions on both local and international political issues.

Against Federal Constitution

Faridzul Nasaruddin representing GMMA said the Act should be abolished on the grounds that it went against the Federal Constitution and United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

“It should let us express ourselves, especially on political issues. But this Act clearly goes against our basic human rights,” Faridzul said.

Dema representative Niew Ti Hooi also expressed her disgust at the amendments, saying the law was made “to instill fear”.

anthony lokeRasah parliamentarian Anthony Loke (left) agreed, saying, “the Act would only create fear among students as early as the first week of their lives in university”.

“Most of the students do not have a basic knowledge of what the Act is all about. However, when they first join university, they will learn that this Act will go against their will but they will have to accept it.

“Thus, many of them will have this idea of going to university with one purpose, to study and nothing else. That is why we do not have many students who are critical in their thinking,” Loke said.

round-table uuca parliament building 071108 andrew khooMeanwhile, according to deputy chairperson of the Bar Council’s Human Rights Committee, Andrew Khoo (left), the amendments were made because the government feared students.

“Because they are scared of the students’ bravery and idealism, the amendments were made,” said Andrew, citing a massive anti-Vietnam war protest involving students in the US in the 1960s as an example.

Persatuan Kakitangan Akademik UM (PKAUM) Azmi Sharom was also on the same page with the panelists, saying the amendments would only serve to control the governance of the university and student behaviour.

“That is why the amendments are not going to help,” added Azmi.

Don’t just protest and walk out

As the debate on the amendments will be held in Parliament in the second week of December, National Union for Higher Education Learning academic staff secretary-general, Faisal Mustaffa, said it should be held in a professional manner.

He added that it is vital for the opposition to settle the issue democratically with the government. Hence, they should only choose to protest or walk out of Parliament as a last resort.

Santiago said academicians and students should approach their constituency representatives to voice their concerns over the amendments.

“That way, they (elected reps) will address the problem as we come from their constituency,” he said.

Among others, the panelists also suggested that academicians and students collaborate to get their messages across, including issuing a joint-memorandum.

“The MPs should also be involved in this matter, and it would be easier if we could send a memorandum to them personally,” said Faridzul.



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