Press Statement by Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy on 12 December 2018 in Petaling Jaya
Abolish UUCA Immediately
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy issued a press statement today to express our disappointment over the “snails-pace” reform which showed in the minor amendment of University and University College Act (UUCA) few days ago.
We call upon the government to materialise its election manifesto, abolish UUCA immediately to protect the academic freedom of university students and academicians. The PH government should not allow the draconian to continue until 2020.
When BN government announced abolition of Internal Security Act (ISA) in September 2011, the bill abolished ISA was tabled in the parliament in April 2012, which took 7 months to repeal the draconian law. We wonder why couldn’t PH abolish the UUCA after 7 months in power? PH should look into the problem of low efficiency and accelerate the process of institutional reforms.
We remind that the UUCA bill passed in the parliament on World Human Rights Day still contains many provisions that violate freedom of speech and freedom of association. The university authority still has vast power to control and regulate student activities; students cannot join “illegal organisation” and the Vice Chancellor may prohibit students from joining those organisations he deems unsuitable; Students cannot collect funding; Students cannot express support or sympathy to any other organisations; the University authority may take disciplinary action against students who are charged or detained under registered offences.
Such sections show that the government regulates university as overseeing a kindergarten, which reflect the paternalistic mindset that “University knows the best for students”
University is an educational institutions tasked to nurture independent thinking and development of new knowledge. The Ministry of Education’s mindset restricts students’ ability to apply their knowledge and analytical skills. If the government disallows students to criticise current societal issues, this will definitely suppress the development of academic freedom and the effort to nurture intellectuals for our nation. In the long term, the UUCA will defeat the noble aim of producing talents and drive the economic growth. The impact will be overarching.
We contend that university’s mission is to train citizens with critical thinking and stimulate the birth of new knowledge, it is not a place for encouraging loyalty towards particular political party. University students should be given greatest freedom to explore the unknown field of any knowledge, which is apparently far beyond the parochial scope of political freedom.
University student ought to use their knowledge to study and criticise contemporary political ideologies, explain to public what is human rights and ICERD. They should not receive dogmatic education from political parties nor recruited to take part in political activities such as propaganda or joining demonstration.
Ng Geok Chee
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy