Student council says rule restricts intellectual growth
Ng Boon Hooi

12,March-The Universiti Malaya Students Representative Council today protested against the implementation of a little-known rule which forbids campus officials from criticising the government.

The council’s objection came after a lecturer received a show-cause letter for her vocal support of a controversy-roiled 70-year-old Chinese school.

Claiming that no one has been informed about the existence of the Statutory Bodies Act 2000, council president Mohamad Fuad Mohd Ikhwan told malaysiakini that the act has no place in a country that upholds justice and democracy.

“The act will restrict the freedom of intellectuals to express their opinions and consequently jeopardise the development of the country,” said Mohd Fuad.

Malaysiakini reported last Monday that Prof Chia Oai Peng, of the Literature and Social Science Faculty, received a show-cause letter from university vice-chancellor Prof Dr Anuar Zaini Md Zain for her e-mail postings on the Damansara Chinese school issue in a discussion group last month (Lecturer asked to show cause for Internet postings, March 5) Chia, who is a former member of the Parent-Teacher Association of SJK (C) Damansara, had told malaysiakini that the postings referred to in the show-cause letter were made to correct some erroneous information on the issue.

According to Chia, the Damansara school was initially slated to move to Bandar Utama, which is closer to the old site.

However, that plan was ‘hijacked’ by a number of influential individuals, who gave the allocated school in Bandar Utama to SJK Puay Chai (II).

In January, students at the Damansara school were directed by the Education Ministry to temporarily transfer to Puay Chai (II) - a few kilometres away - while awaiting the completion of the new building in Tropicana.

The authorities have been unable to provide a clear explanation as to what would happen to the historic school and its abandoned site. The majority of the students have moved to Puay Chai (II) but 74 have stayed put and are continuing their classes at a neighbourhood temple.

Written approval Anuar told Chia in the show-cause letter that her statements had touched on government policies, hence they could be regarded to have violated the Statutory Bodies Act 2000 (Disciplinary and Surcharge).

Mohd Fuad said the student body is specifically concerned about Regulation 18(1) of the Act, which stipulates that a university officer cannot make public statements, whether oral or written, that criticise government policies without written approval from the education minister.

In addition, an officer cannot make any public statements that can bring embarrassment to the government. “As long as the act is not amended, university lecturers, officials and staff will be muzzled.

And we are worried that lecturers can no longer freely give their opinions,” Mohd Fuad said. He added that politicians should not interfere with the independence of the universities.

When contacted by malaysiakini today, vice-chancellor Anuar declined to comment on the show-cause letter sent to Chia. His secretary said that the issue was an internal matter.