PETALING JAYA: Student activists have denounced proposed changes to the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) as “insulting”.
They say that the main amendment, which would allow students to join political parties, held little meaning for them.
“Allowing students to join political parties is nothing to be proud of,” student activist Adam Adli told FMT.
“Nothing much can be done by merely joining a political party. They are insulting students by doing this.”
He said students were demanding the right to full political expression.
“Much bigger things need to be done, like looking at the right to form unions.”
Adam shot to public notice last October, when he lowered a flag bearing the Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s portrait during a protest outside the Umno headquarters here. He has since been suspended from the Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris for three semesters.
He said the UUCA should have been abolished altogether.
The amendments were tabled in Parliament today. While allowing tertiary-level students to join political parties, they bar these students from contesting in campus elections and from campaigning for their parties inside campuses.
The amendments also give university authorities the power to decide which organisations students could not join.
In April 2010, four Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia students were hauled up for campaigning during the Hulu Selangor by-election, an act prohibited by the UUCA.
The Court of Appeal has since ruled that the prohibition of political campaigning went against Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which provides for freedom of expression.
Looking at the larger issue
According to Malaysian Students Solidarity (SMM) chairman Muhammad Safwan Anang, no student for or against the UUCA wanted any amendments to the law.
“Even the pro-government, pro-Najib students did not want the UUCA to be amended,” he said.
“We don’t know whose wish it was to amend Section 15. The larger issue here is student autonomy, not membership in a political party. Give us the ability to run campus elections ourselves.
He too called for total abolition of the law. “These amendments are only cosmetic,” he said.
He also said the amendments in fact allowed for further politicise the student realm, adding that Umno had started stepping into campuses.
Higher Education Minister Khaled Nordin, who tabled the amendments today, said the changes were aimed at curbing the influence of political parties on campuses.