Students turn on Pakatan, says Kedah still using UUCA

(The Malaysian Insider) – Student activists called today on PAS and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Kedah government led by the Islamic party to toe the coalition’s line and reject the use of the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) to restrict academic freedom.

Some 20 students braved heavy rain to gather in front of PAS’s headquarters here, demanding the party make a clear stand on the suspension of five students from Kolej Universiti Insaniah (Kuin), the Alor Setar-based varsity whose chairman is Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak.

“There is no double-standard. We marched to PWTC (Umno headquarters) and now PAS. What is their stand?” Movement for Academic Freedom (Bebas) chairman Safwan Anang said.

He added that as Kuin had also barred activists from holding a forum on campus last night, “we need to know if Kedah will continue to use the UUCA.”

Shukri Razab, who chairs the coalition of student bodies Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), also said there has been no response from Kedah or PAS despite a memorandum being handed over to Azizan on December 29 last year.

He told reporters that SMM has been on a roadshow across Malaysia which will culminate in a “grand finale on March 8 to call on all governments, state and federal, to respect academic freedom.”

Although Barisan Nasional (BN) has promised to amend section 15 of the UUCA to allow students to become members of political parties, PR leaders, including PAS vice president Datuk Mahfuz Omar and central committee member Dzulkefly Ahmad have called for students to be given total academic freedom.

The “Kuin Five” were hauled up before a disciplinary committee on May 25, 2011 for breaching the UUCA by participating in a demonstration, making speeches with loudspeakers and holding a press conference to protest the use of a religious teaching block to house a smart school.

Mohd Faiz Mohd Arshad was suspended for two semesters while the rest were barred for one semester and given warning letters.

Although the suspension was meted out nearly eight months ago with four of the five having already served their one-semester bans, the activists have continued to pursue the matter in court.

However, the Kuala Lumpur High Court postponed today’s hearing on the suit to challenge the suspension without giving a new date.