The Minister of Higher Education Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin announced that yesterday five public universities – Universiti Malaya, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia – are to enjoy autonomy. This move however is meaningless as the draconian University and University Colleges Act is still in force.
It has been proven time and time again that the UUCA has been a major hurdle for university autonomy and academic freedom. The government’s decision to amend Section 15 of the UUCA is a lame concession as it does nothing to address the culture of fear and centralisation of power that the UUCA has engendered. Students, the civil society and the Opposition have been consistently arguing this for decades but it took the UKM 4 landmark decision for the government to finally acknowledge this fact.
Indeed, we are still waiting for the bipartisan committee that the Deputy Minister for Higher Education Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, announced in December to materialise. Such a committee — if it does indeed take place — will look at the alternative legislation to the UUCA as proposed by student leaders in 2008.
At the same time, our party deeply regrets the decision by the Kolej Universiti Insaniah Kedah (KUIN) to apply the UUCA on five of its students. We hope that justice will prevail in this case and that all Pakatan states will show their commitment against the UUCA by not allowing a repeat of such incidents. We have fought for too long and too hard to allow such abuses of fundamental rights to continue.