[UPDATED with the press release issued by Bar Council President, Ragunath Kesavan, calling for action against the four UKM students to be dropped and the link to “Who’s your daddy?” by Constitutional Law Committee member, Kwan Will Sen.]
LoyarBurok is publishing below, an article it received from The Worried Student who is speaking out against the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA), recently enforced on four UKM students for showing support or sympathies to a political party during the Hulu-Selangor by-election.
The Worried Student:
Recently, four students from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia were charged under the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) for showing sympathy or support towards a political party. They were caught with “campaign materials” that expressed support or sympathy to Pakatan Rakyat during the Hulu Selangor by-election where the rakyat of Hulu Selangor had a major party with tons of freebies, complete with police raids and posters of people having a cold one, which sounds a lot like a night at Zouk, minus the hipsters. Unless you count the erroneously labeled “first lady” as being hip. She has quite the following.
These students are now awaiting trial in their university’s very own tribunal which does not allow for proper legal representation. Expulsion from their studies would be the heaviest sentence, which in this case, is quite likely since these students are heavily involved in spearheading student movements related to political activism and to take them out would be to, at least in their view, stunt the growth of such radicalism and deviousness.
One of the said students came out to say, in his defence, that he was merely in Hulu Selangor to observe the process of an election on the ground as an invaluable experience to his field of study, Political Science and that he obtained prior permission, albeit indirectly, from his lecturer.
Now, let us all be honest here since we rarely are. Let us not hide behind this cloak of “for purposes of academic studies” as allowed for under the UUCA. For if we do that, every time a case like this appears, we tend to be more reactive than proactive. When one is reactive, one merely saves a few lives in the present. When one is proactive, one can prevent such things from happening again in the future thereby according students’ more freedom in the form of ideas, expressions, and actions to contribute to a healthy and thriving democracy.
The question here should then be: What exactly is the problem of having students participate in such political activities, even to the extent of supporting or campaigning for a political party?
The answer is – a megaton of problems – to those in power, that is. There is a reason why these university students are treated like criminals while doing exactly what a good student ought to be doing. It is because of fear – and I dare say the fear is justified. The powers-that-be fear the ability of bright, intelligent and passionate young minds for they might change the status-quo and those in power may no longer hold on to it.
They know the weak, corrupt, and unjust among them shall fall if the students manage to rise, to speak, be heard and the worst fear of them all, be understood. All those arguments on separating students from politics to avoid them from straying from their studies are unfounded. In the 60’s and 70’s, some of the best students were political and social activists which included the likes of Khong Kim Hoong and Syed Hamid Ali in Universiti Malaya; even the UKM 4 who are currently being charged, are not your average students. Those arguments are simply brought forth to suppress student activism. Fellow students and youths, do not fall prey to these lies.
The last I heard, we were all still living in a country where the Constitution, and not Parliament, is supreme, despite what people may like to believe. The student movements in the country have been saying that the charges against the UKM 4 students are unconstitutional based on Article 119 whereby every citizen above 21 years of age has the right to vote and with that, comes the implied right to express and participate in politics. Now, I am no law professor or Malik Imtiaz, but I would go on further to say that the UUCA violates Article 10 of the Federal Constitution.
Article 10 allows for freedom of speech and expression except ONLY on 8 grounds which the Parliament may make laws on. These 8 grounds include national security, international relations, public order, morality, protection of privileges of parliament or provide against contempt of court, defamation or incitement to any offence.
Now, carefully look at those grounds and you will find that participation in politics, of which everyone is allowed to except university students, apparently, do not come under any of those grounds. So the section in UUCA where it states that students are not allowed to sympathise, criticize or show support for any political party should be unconstitutional and therefore invalid. Unless of course someone has mistaken national security for government security. Some of you might be confused already.
A student leader in a recent press conference said that if students cannot be around the locations of by-elections as was directed by the Minister of Higher Education, then at the next general election, maybe the Ministry should fly all the University students out of the country. Because if they won’t, Air Asia will – albeit at a small but very reasonable price.
We also need to wonder why the only student activists caught are only from one side of the political divide. Police acting as the state’s machinery to curtail opposition? Don’t be ridiculous! On a more serious note, we have to acknowledge that such a case involving the UKM 4 is not something frivolous.
These students may actually lose their degrees which they have worked so hard to earn, because of being in the right and this is the ticket to their future lives and means of living being taken away from them. It would also be a crying shame to lose such students with something more to give to society than just being mere human capital as many are these days, feeding blindly the mouth of capitalism.
Fellow youths, stop listening to the idea of youths and belia that those telecommunication companies, corporations, and government are propagating. You will only end up losing more prepaid money. Fellow students, we are the threat that could bring change to this country – let us relive the days of student activism.
Let us not fear them the way they fear us and even if we do, let it not be greater than theirs. Our greatest enemy is not them, it is apathy. Do not let them hijack your nation. Come and answer the call to solidarity for our fellow students and demand the charges against the UKM 4 to be dropped. Make no mistake, this is a call to arms, but we use no weapons, except those contained in the hearts and minds of the young.
Bangkit Mahasiswa, Bangkit!
Sign the petition to protest this act here.
LB: The Worried Student is the pen name of a student in one of Malaysia’s universities, who fears facing disciplinary action under the oppressive Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 for writing this.
The Malaysian Bar deplores University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM)’s action in using the draconian Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) to institute disciplinary action against four political science undergraduates.
UUCA is unconstitutional, as it negates the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. It is anachronistic and has no place in any democratic society. Furthermore, the prohibition against legal representation for the students is unacceptable, in light of the potential penalties and the repercussions facing the students. By comparison, lecturers are permitted to be represented by legal counsel.
The four undergraduates – Muhammad Hilman bin Idham, Muhammad Ismail bin Aminuddin, Azlin Shafina Mohamad Adzha and Woon King Chai – have been asked to appear before the University’s disciplinary board to answer charges that they “expressed support or sympathies” for a political party during the recent Hulu Selangor by-election in an alleged violation of section 15(5)(a) of UUCA.
The Malaysian Bar views section 15(5)(a) of UUCA as being inconsistent with Article 10 of the Federal Constitution in that it renders the rights of students to express themselves, to assemble peacefully, and to form associations, ineffective and illusory. It is neither a reasonable restriction permitted under Article 10(2) nor a law proportionate to the democratic needs of Malaysia.
To bar Malaysian students from taking an active role in politics during the course of their tertiary education is repressive, unjust and illogical. The continued existence of the many stifling UUCA provisions UUCA denies university students the opportunity to fully participate in the nation’s democratic process, thereby serving to hinder valuable social discourse as well as the students’ intellectual and spiritual growth.
The Malaysian Bar calls for the formation of a credible Parliamentary Select Committee to conduct a comprehensive and meaningful review of UUCA with a view towards bringing it in line with current developments and repealing the many provisions that curtail the democratic freedom of students.
Pending such a review, the Malaysian Bar calls on UKM to drop the proposed charges against the four undergraduate students.
2 June 2010
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