Amendments allow students to be in politics

(NST) – The wheels of political reform continue with students of institutions of higher learning to be allowed to become members of political parties under the amendments to three laws tabled yesterday.

They are the Universities and University Colleges (Amendment) Act 2012, Private Higher Educational Institutions (Amendment) Act 2012 and Educational Institutions (Discipline) (Amendment) Act 2012.

The bills were tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin. The second reading is expected next week.

The amendment bills came after a pledge made by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on Nov 24 to amend laws to allow students of institutions of higher learning to join political parties.

The key changes are:

  1. Students of public and private institutions of higher learning are allowed to become members of political parties.
  2. Students, however, are not allowed to bring political activities to the campus.
  3. Students holding posts in political parties are prohibited from contesting campus elections or holding posts in students’ societies, organisations, bodies or groups.
  4. Students and their societies, organisations, bodies and groups are allowed to express their views for any political party.
  5. Students are allowed to make statements  on  matters related to their studies or research or express themselves at lawful seminars or symposiums.
  6. Students are prohibited from giving their views for any unlawful organisations or those deemed unsuitable to the interests or well-being of students or the higher institutions.

Currently, the law does not allow any students to become members of political parties.

A new clause has been introduced in the Universities and University Colleges Bill which requires the director-general of Education to keep and maintain the National Higher Education Register. This means a higher educational institution has to maintain a database, which will be made accessible to the minister.

The bill also seeks to establish a Students’ Complaints Committee, which is empowered to conduct investigations or inquiries into any complaints made by a student.

Under the amendment to the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act, the chief executive of the private higher educational institutions will have to comply with the directive of the registrar-general to regulate students’ activities in campus.    Those who fail to comply can be fined up to RM50,000.

At a press conference later, Khaled said the amendments were proof that the government is committed to reforms.    He gave an assurance that students who held political posts or even won in the next general election could continue  their studies.
He said the restriction on political activities within campus would ensure that students’ studies were not disrupted.

“This restriction will maintain neutrality in the campus and for the students to focus on their studies.”

Khaled said the Students’ Complaints Committee was a platform for students with problems but have no avenue to put forth their grouses.

He suggested that the committee be headed by the vice-chancellor, with student representatives and the alumni as members.

Asked on what action could be taken against students found to have abused the acts, Khaled said it would be up to their  universities.

“There won’t be any criminal penalties. The universities will only take disciplinary action.”