Political freedom for students, lecturers should have limits, says academician

THERE should be limitations on the freedom to participate in politics that will be given to students and lecturers through the amendments to provisions in the Universities and University Colleges Act (Auku) of 1971, according to an academician.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia legal advisor Associate Prof Dr Salawati Mat Basir said this was essential to prevent lecturers and students from neglecting their core duties of teaching and learning when participating in political activities off campus.

“I believe that even if the permission is given, there should be restrictions in place to prevent abuse of power. I don’t see anything wrong with the amendment as long as it does not interfere with a student’s primary obligations of being a student and learning,” she told Bernama.

“If a student wants to be a candidate (for elections), there must be conditions…it’s not that all students including those who fail their exam can simply be a candidate. Likewise, lecturers must be clean, have not been subject to disciplinary action and have good service.”

On March 19, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said that even though the government stated that AUKU 1971 would not be repealed, some provisions in the act that restricted the freedom of students and lecturers would be removed.

Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia, meanwhile, is of the opinion that lecturers should be given the opportunity to participate directly in politics.

This to allow intellectuals who have conducted a lot of research and have extensive knowledge of the country’s administration to express their views, according to Azizuddin.

“I agree with the idea of allowing lecturers to engage in politics such as joining a political party and holding positions in a political party. But, there should be clear guidelines to prevent them from leaving their core responsibilities, if they get involved in politics,” he said.

On the freedom given to students to participate in politics off campus, Azizuddin opined that it should not disrupt order on campus or the learning and teaching process at the university.

National Student Consultative Council (MPPK) secretary-general Rasydan Mohd Hassan said students should be allowed to openly participate in political activities because it was in line with the Undi 18 agenda at the national level.

“I’m of the view that amendments to the act are very relevant because they are in line with the student empowerment agenda and there are several provisions in AUKU, the Universiti Teknologi MARA Act (Act 173/174); the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act (ACT 555) that prevent the realisation of such agendas, including those pertaining to their activity and financial management.

“Through this empowerment agenda, our students will be more resilient and adaptable in accordance with global needs,” he said. — March 24, 2023


Main photo credit: Bernama

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