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Are our students free?

“We do not prohibit students from voicing their opinions on political issues. Students now even have speaker corners.”

DEPUTY Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, saying university students were bound by the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971 and should not be involved in politics. He cited concern over their academic performance should students be involved in politics.

Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said amendments to the UUCA were sufficient to allow students more freedom of expression.

The UUCA amendments were passed in 2008. With the amendments, university students can now join societies outside campus. However, they are still barred from joining political parties. The only concession is that the government allows students to meet with politicians, including from the opposition, at seminars, forums and talks.  (Source: Varsity students told to stay out of politics, New Straits Times, 11 Aug 2010)

“They found out who I was and what I going to present. They didn’t want any trouble from the HEP (Badan Hal Ehwal Pelajar).”

Filmmaker and historian Fahmi Reza, on the cancellation of his Student Power lecture at Universiti Malaya. Fahmi’s lecture on the history of the student movement in the 1960s was cancelled three times by the university administration. As part of his application to present his lecture on campus, he was asked to provide a detailed script of his lecture to the administration.

Fahmi’s lecture was also banned in Universiti Teknologi Mara, and students had to scramble to host the lecture at a venue outside the university grounds. (Source: Student Power lecture repeatedly banned on campus, The Nut Graph, 13 Aug 2010)

“My advice to UKM undergraduates is to weigh the pros and cons first before participating in activities that are against the Universities and University Colleges Act.”

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) vice-chancellor Professor Tan Sri Dr Sharifah Hapsah Syed Hassan, commenting on reports that UKM students had been involved in the Hulu Selangor by-election. She said disciplinary action would be taken if they were found guilty of campaigning, and that UKM would cooperate with the police.

UKM brought disciplinary charges against four political science students who had been in Hulu Selangor to observe the by-election campaign. The students managed to obtain a court injunction to delay the disciplinary proceedings. The students have filed a court action challenging the UUCA‘s Section 15(5)(a), which they are charged under, saying it is too wide and contravenes the Federal Constitution. (Source: UKM students face action for campaigning, The Star, 25 Apr 2010)

“As political science students, it is a practice for us to conduct fieldwork. I have observed many previous by-elections and never faced this problem before.”

“Medical students carry out their fieldwork in hospitals and engineering students carry out theirs at sites, so it is with political science students who have to witness by-elections in order to better understand our choice of career. We were not there to campaign.”

UKM student Muhammad Hilman Idham, expressing outrage at the disciplinary proceedings initiated by his university. (Source: Vexed student rep: Come GE, do we flee?, Free Malaysia Today, 18 May 2010)

“In the 1960s, our university students were free, autonomous and independent. Now they are oppressed and colonised by the university administration. Our mahasiswa are now treated like kids. The university administration continuously controls what type of politics or history the students are allowed to be exposed to.”

“The students were mature enough to manage their own affairs well in the 1960s. They ran their own canteen, students’ council elections and newspapers; bought their own buses to transport students around campus … and could organise political activities on campus. The university administration rarely interfered. Instead of going forward, we’re now moving backward.”

Fahmi, on how student independence and freedom has degenerated from the 1960s to today. (Source: Student Power lecture repeatedly banned on campus, The Nut Graph, 13 Aug 2010)

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3 Responses to “Are our students free?”

  1. frags says:

    What, with [programmes] like BTN? Even with amendments, their minds are trapped.

  2. terence says:

    I think part of the problem is the defeatist mentality driven into the students making them increasingly apathetic and communalised. The government has successfully bred the perfect ‘Malay’, un-questioning, unthinking sheep willing to accept and not ‘make waves’. The rush of ‘youth’ being told ‘they can do anything’ is being overshadowed by messages of a dark sinister plots and machinations.

    Instead of youthful exuberance, we have backward thinking Malaysians who bitterly complain but don’t do much to fix things.

    • BahGah says:

      “Instead of youthful exuberance, we have backward thinking Malaysians who bitterly complain but don’t do much to fix things.”

      It is sad how this sentence perfectly describes Malaysians.

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