Musa should withdraw the akujanji pledge for university lecturers and students and set up a commision to formulate a Charter for Academic Freedom and University Autonomy to enable Malaysia to make the successful transition  to a K-economy and information society

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Saturday): The statement by the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad that the government is willing to make changes to the contents in the agreement of good conduct or Akujanji for undergraduates is most welcome, for it is clearly inappropriate for university undergraduates to be treated like the 900,000 civil servants.

In fact, it is also inappropriate to put the lecturers of the public universities on par with the civil servants in requiring them to make a similar pledge of good conduct, which goes against the fundamental  principles of academic freedom and the objective of achieving academic excellence.

The akujanji pledge for university lecturers and students should be withdrawn to be replaced by one which upholds academic freedom and promotes academic excellence to prepare the nation for the successful transition to a K-economy and information society - and it should be the product of the fullest dialogue and consultation involving the government, the universities, the academicians, the students and the civil society.

As it stands, the akujanji pledge for the civil servants is already questionable, particularly as to whether it would lead to a modern government with better policy making, better responsiveness to what people want, and more effective public services or whether it has lost sight of the core civil service values with selection and promotion based on merit,  political impartiality and the giving of best independent advice to government.

But the akujanji pledge as formulated is even more inappropriate for the public universities as it threatens academic freedom - which includes the freedom to teach, research, publish and to speak extramurally - and their critical role in the promotion  and preservation of human rights, democracy, sustainable development, justice and  civil society.

The government must recognise and respect the “antiicpatory” or “prophetic” role of universities, or in the words of the UNESCO World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-first Century: Vision and Action (1998), “their critical and forward-looking functions, through continuing analysis of emerging social, economic, cultural and political trends, providing a focus for forecasting, warning and prevention” which will  create a conflict situation  between the akujanji pledges of loyalty to the country with loyalty to the government of the day.

As a former vice chancellor of University Sains Malaysia,  Musa should appreciate the importance of academic freedom if Malaysia is to achieve her ambition to become an international centre of academic excellence.

He should withdraw the akujanji requirement for university lecturers and students and instead set up a commission involving academicians, students and civil society representatives to formulate a Charter on Academic Freedom and University Autonomy which could be a model instrument for universities of developing nations to educate highly-qualified graduates and responsible citizens to meet present and future needs in the transition to a K-economy and information society.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman