Don’t blame campus uprisings on UUCA changes, Saifuddin tells Umno hardliners

(The Malaysian Insider) – Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah has hit back at critics within Umno who blame controversial acts by university students and lecturers on the deputy higher education minister’s support for more academic freedom.

The Umno supreme council member told The Malaysian Insider that none of these controversies comes under the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), which is set to be amended in the March parliamentary sitting to allow students to be politically active.

“They keep saying ‘even without amending the UUCA, you already see all this unruly behaviour.’ But none of these things falls under the UUCA. It is irrelevant to the issue of academic freedom,” said the Temerloh MP, who has been Putrajaya’s pointman for its proposed amendment.

He said that constitutional expert Abdul Aziz Bari’s suspension from the International Islamic University in October, which led to protests from hundreds of students, concerned alleged seditious remarks by the professor with regards to the Selangor Sultan.

“Adam Adli bringing down the banner is trespass and the demonstration in support of him was an illegal gathering. None of that is covered under the UUCA,” he said.

Earlier this month, undergraduate Adam Adli Abdul Halim was suspended for three semesters by Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) for allegedly bringing the institution into disrepute.

The student activist was earlier probed for his role in a controversy that was sparked by his lowering of a banner bearing the likeness of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak here last month.

On December 17, about 100 student activists had marched to the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) to hand over a six-point memorandum on academic freedom to Saifuddin.

Adam, 22, had lowered and then raised a banner of Umno president Najib outside the party’s headquarters, immediately drawing criticism from the public and some government officials.

Hardliners within Umno had blamed Saifuddin for the incident, saying it would not have happened if he did not welcome the protestors.