THE DAP Socialist Youth (DAPSY) National Varsity Affairs Bureau urges the new government helmed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and the newly appointed Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin to prioritise higher education reforms, particularly abolishing the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) to revive campus democracy and student autonomy.
Recently, the Universiti Malaya (UM) student union, IIUM (International Islamic University) student union, UM Association of New Youth (UMANY), and dozens of student activist groups have jointly called upon the new government to implement three higher education reforms, namely abolishing UUCA, reviving student unions, and appointing a competent individual to be the new higher education minister.
DAPSY supports student unions and student activist groups’ calls for higher education reforms and urges the new government and Khaled to re-launch the plan to abolish UUCA by guaranteeing the rights of academics, university staff, and students to question, criticise, pursuing truth, and self-governance.
Khaled was the then higher education minister in UMNO’s government from 2008 to 2013. Now that he has been appointed as the minister in the new government, he must demonstrate his sincerity and determination in pushing forward reforms by re-launching the plan to abolish UUCA in order to gain the trust of varsity students and citizens at large.
Moreover, the PH government began strenuous efforts to abolish UUCA when it came to power in 2018, including amending UUCA to allow students’ political involvement and drafting new legislation to replace the draconian UUCA.
Unfortunately, the effort halted ever since the Barisan Nasional (BN)-Perikatan Nasional (PN) government became the backdoor government for it intended to utilise the UUCA to repress students once again.
Since the UUCA was implemented, the BN government often used it as a political weapon to suppress students who dare question government policies and speak the truth.
As a result, many students became victims under the repressive law, and justice has yet to be served. For instance, in 2014, UM student union invited the then-opposition leader Anwar to give a public lecture at UM. The UM management soon took stern actions, including suspension, against student leaders who planned and organised the public lecture.
Therefore, DAPSY urges the new government and the Higher Education Ministry to listen to the demands made by student activists and initiate reforms, particularly abolishing the UUCA.
Furthermore, DAPSY would like to propose to the ministry to establish a committee or special task force on abolishing the UUCA, members of which should include renowned and credible academics and student activities, in order to thoroughly study and formulate the plan to repeal the UUCA and replace it with a new act that truly guarantees academic freedom and student autonomy.
It is high time to empower our universities and higher education institutions to rediscover their truth-seeking mission without fear or favour. — Dec 4, 2022
Main photo credit: Malaysiakini