Tuesday, October 18, 2016

One-Sided 1MDB Forum in UM Another Reminder UUCA Must Go

Media Statement by Yeo Bee Yin, State Assemblywoman for Damansara Utama on Saturday 15 October 2016 in Petaling Jaya.

The one-sided 1MDB forum at Universiti Malaya (UM) organised by the UM students representative council (MPPUM) and Department of Special Affairs (Jasa) featuring 1MDB number one propagandist Arul Kanda Kandasamy was another reminder to us that the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) must be abolished.
It is sad to see Universiti Malaya, which was once a hotbed for student activism and idealism, has become a place for a one-sided-story. When the students held up placards that read ‘1MDB don’t spin’, ‘1MDB - Return the people’s money’, ‘Students want answers’, etc, they were labelled by Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz, a former Umno Youth leader, as “uncivilised”. But seriously, what could be more uncivilised than shamelessly stealing people’s monies?
While we are asking in Malaysia why there was no other side of the 1MDB story presented to the students in UM; across the Pacific Ocean, Washington University in St Louis was the venue for the United States’ second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. What a stark difference. When will we see the day that Universiti Malaya or any university in Malaysia become the host of election debates between political parties?
Although the UCCA was amended in 2012 to allow students to participate in politics outside of the campus, Section 15 still prohibits political activities inside campus and imposes restrictions on students from organisations that the university board determines to be “unsuitable to the interests and well-being of the students or the University”.
Section 15, coupled with Section 4 that strips away autonomy from the universities, makes critical thinking and objective debates impossible in campuses across Malaysia.
Since the enactment of the UUCA, tertiary students in Malaysia have been scared away from national issues. Many students are fearful to participate in political activities. In my short journey as a politician, I have met countless of students who asked me whether their scholarships would be taken away or whether they would be expelled from the universities if they participate in rallies, forums, events or programmes organised by the opposition political parties.
The culture of fear is prevalent. In addition, it is ironic and laughable to see many tertiary institutions offering subjects related to “critical thinking” when the very core spirit of the law that governs them is based on restrictions and controls.

The UUCA must be abolished to break the culture of fear. Putrajaya must give back autonomy to universities so that knowledge and critical thinking can flourish in the universities across Malaysia without restrictions and interventions of the politicians.
As a state legislator of the ruling government in Selangor, I understand the heat a government has to go through with intense criticisms. However, a government must not fear criticisms and run away from them by imposing laws that restrict the right of the people to know the truths and their freedom to express disagreements. We must be able to engage with the people so to uphold the real meaning of democracy and to be the government of the people, by the people and for the people.
In the spirit of impartiality and neutrality, I would like to suggest that UM organise a forum or debate that allows another side of 1MDB story to be told to the students of UM. Nevertheless, with the UUCA still in place, will UM ever dare to allow such forum to take place in the university?