Review the Universities and University Colleges
Act as part of the efforts to create an environment for excellence in
by Dr Tan Seng Giaw
(Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday):
In the last four articles, we have propounded our vision, not only of
replacing the Review Committee with the Royal Commission, the change of
attitude and building 35 universities, but also the choice of languages in
these universities. Today, we concentrate on the atmosphere in the campuses.
What do we need to make our education world-class?
Are there laws to deal with security in universities in other countries?
Yes, there are. For example, in 1989, the American Congress passed the Crime
Awareness and Campus Security Act following the death of Jeanne Clery at
Lehigh University in 1986. In 1998, this act was amended and renamed The
Jeanne Clery Act. This is not for the curtailment of freedom of students and
staff members unlike the Universities and University Colleges Act.
Besides crimes, student and staff member freedom, we have to tackle various
forms of extremism, especially after 911 in New York in 2001 and the Bali
explosion in 2002. The names such as Al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiah (JI), Majlis
Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM, previously known
as Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia) loom large. Have they infiltrated our
universities? To what extent are our universities crucibles for terrorism? A
Royal Commission will be able to get to the roots of all forms of extremism.
Commenting on the scourge of terrorism in his 2003 New Year message, the
Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that unless the root
causes were identified and eliminated, the end to terrorism would not be in
sight in the near future.
Then, the Prime Minister referred to those Malaysians whom he thought wanted
to resort to terrorism, by highlighting this country as unlike other nations
with Governments that had failed to bring about development or overcome
poverty, nor has the Malaysian Government used violence to obtain power.
TERRORISM IN UNIVERSITIES
Although the Government prattles about eliminating root causes of terrorism,
development, eradicating poverty and not using violence to obtain power, we
often find it lacking in transparency and accountability. We feel that it
has done scarcely enough including the identification and elimination of
root causes of terrorism. There is not even a white paper on the state of
terrorism in Malaysia.
We don’t know about terrorism within and outside the universities. All we
hear is the arrest of KMM members and Dr Mahathir revealed the organization
as planning to create an Islamic State uniting Malaysia, Indonesia and the
Meanwhile, foreign media portray Malaysia as a place with terrorist
connection or a ‘terrorist centre’. The Government denies it. Let us prove
to the world that this country is free from terrorism. Lim Kit Siang has
proposed a three-point strategy to eradicate this international perception,
namely a National Round-Table Conference, a White Paper and a deliberate
Hitherto, some 60 KMM suspects including Nik Adli, the son of Kelantan
Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Aziz, have been locked up under ISA. How many
fugitives are there? In what way are they linked with JI and al-Qaeda?
By October last year, it was already Phase IV of the Internal Security Act
(ISA) arrest against KMM. By 27 November, 2002, the police detained another
three men with alleged links to KMM. However, the Inspector-General of
Police Tan Sri Norian Mai did not identify those detained, insisting:
”Sometimes when we carry out these arrests, we are not obliged to inform the
public due to the nature of investigations.”
We have heard that Yazid Sufaat, the former army captain detained under ISA
as an alleged KMM operative, hosted three people linked to the al-Qaeda
network, two of whom later took part in the 911 attack. Yazid was said to
have been interviewed by US Central Intelligence Agency officers in
Kamunting detention centre for hosting the third person – Zacarias Moussaoui.
The latter has been charged in the US for his part in the 911. As a
US-trained chemist, Yazid has been reported as having bought four tonnes of
ammonium nitrate that could be used to make bombs.
How many KMM suspects connected to universities have been arrested or are on
the run? For instance, media reported on 16 February, 2002, that Universiti
Teknologi Malayisa (UTM) lecturers Roshelmy Md Sharif, Idris Salim and Dr
Abdullah Daud of the Science, Engineering and Geoinformation Faculty were
among 23 people detained for their alleged involvement in KMM. By, 27
September, 2002, Wan Min Wan Mat another UTM lecturer thought to be Johor
KMM chief had been picked up whereas his colleagues Dr Azahari Husin and
Shamsul Bahri Hussein, Abdul Razak @ Farouk Abdul Hamid, Amran @ Henry
Mansor, Mohd Rafi Udin, Zulkipli Marzuki, Noor Din Mohd Top and Zulkefli @
Musa bin And Hir were still at large. There are rewards ranging from
RM10,000 to RM30,000 for information that could lead to the detention of KMM
UNIVERSITIES & UNIVERSITY COLLEGES ACT, UCCA
We require effective laws to
eradicate terrorism and other destructive activities among students. The
Government is using ISA for all purposes, detaining suspects at will. This
is controversial. The Opposition feels that the Government is abusing ISA.
When Dr Mahathir was the Education Minister in the mid-70s last century, he
was responsible for the UCCA to control student dissent that culminated in
the campus unrest. The act befell on the students like the sword of Democles.
But, the 10-year Education Development Blueprint does not mention the
effects of UCCA on the atmosphere in the campuses. Talking about reform in
education, we must address this aspect.
Before the 1970s, the students were boisterous. They flocked to debating
chambers. They took part in numerous exciting activities. They went for
challenges including demonstrations. Myriad opinions were expressed and
dissenting voices were heard, so much so that the then Prime Minister, the
late Tun Hussein, was getting jittery. The Government passed the UCCA and
used ISA to detain students.
The UCCA, among other things, provides for stricter prohibition on students
and staff members, power of Vice-Chancellor and disciplinary board. For
example, no person, while he is a student of the University, shall be a
member of, or shall in any manner associate with, any society, political
party, trade union or any organization, body or group of persons whatsoever,
whether or not it is established under any law, whether it is in the
University or outside the University, and whether it is in Malaysia or
outside Malaysia, except as may be provided by or under the Constitution, or
except as may be approved in advance in writing by the Vice-Chancellor.
Thus, the act results in stuffy milieu, making students and staff members
wary of challenging activities. In this modern era, how can it be amended to
create a better milieu for all?
We require an open atmosphere to let students express their creative and
enquiring minds. We don’t want them to be terrorists or criminals. But, we
want them to explore. We like them to take part in non-terrorist,
non-criminal and non-subversive activities. Why is it that such things are
not happening in the campuses?
There are leaders who believe in using UCCA to eradicate extremists and
other undesirable elements. They think that this is the only way to keep the
campuses peaceful. Yes, we must get rid of extremists and other deviants.
Without UCCA, will the campuses be in chaos?
It is time that the Prime Minister studies the effects of UCCA on our
universities in the past nearly three decades. The Royal Commission can be
useful here. Is it the act that dampens the fervour of students? Are there
other factors that keep them silent, minding their own business?
* Dr Tan Seng Giaw,
DAP National Vice-Chairman and MP for Kepong