Undergrad law reforms still restrict freedom, says Bar Council
KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — The government must amend parts of the newly tabled laws allowing university students to become members of political parties as they still restricted and limited freedom of expression and association, the Bar Council said today.
"The Malaysian Bar is disappointed with the two Bills (collectively referred to as “Bills”) — relating to the Universities and University Colleges (Amendment) Bill 2012 (“UUCA Bill”) and Private Higher Educational Institutions (Amendment) Bill 2012 — because their provisions regulating the freedoms of association, speech and expression of students violate the freedoms guaranteed under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution," said Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee in a statement.
The lawyer (picture) said the amended provisions were "antithetical" to the government's assurance and promise that it would not restrict individual freedom, and that the new laws still considered university students as undeserving of equal protection of individual rights and freedoms as other Malaysians.
Lim said that while the bills permitted students to become members of a political party, they (students) are still not allowed to be involved in political parties within campus grounds, as well as have any involvement with societies or organisations deemed unlawful by campus authorities.
Lim pointed out that under the amendments, the board of directors of a particular university would still have the ultimate say in determining if the society or organisation that a student intends to join is “unsuitable to the interest and well-being of the students or the university”.
Students, added the Bar Council chief are still barred from standing for election or holding any post in any society or organisation on campus they held any post in a political party.
"The current laws have long prevented local university students of all ages from being actively involved in a significant aspect of the democratic process. It has prevented these Malaysians from expressing their views or doing anything that may reasonably be construed as expressing support for, or sympathy with, or opposition to, political parties," he added.
The council, said Lim fully backed efforts made by some Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) members in mooting for a tabling for a supplementary amendment to the current bills. He also urged the government to not appeal a recent court ruling which declared section 15(5(a) of the UUCA unconstitutional.
Earlier this week the government tabled three Bills for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat, proposing to amend three laws — the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA), Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 (PHEIA) and Education Institutions Act (EIA) (Discipline) Act 1976.
Section 15 of the principal UUCA will be amended to include “activities of students’ society, organisation, body or group”, which allow students to become members of any society, organisation, body or group of persons, whether in or outside Malaysia, including any political party.
However, the amendments also state, under Section 15(2), that the student shall not “become a member of any unlawful society, organisation, body or group of persons, whether in or outside Malaysia”.
The section also prohibits students from participating in any election or hold posts in “any society, organisation, body or group of students in the campus if the student holds any post in a political party”.
They are also prohibited from participating in any political party activities within the campus, under Section 15(2)(d).
The same provisions have also been included via the substitution of Section 47 of the PHEIA and Section 10 of the EIA.