Students in the dark over govt’s decision on non-abolishment of AUKU

Mahasiswa Keadilan Malaysia president Irfan Mahzan speaks during a press conference in Parliament August 12, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Mahasiswa Keadilan Malaysia president Irfan Mahzan speaks during a press conference in Parliament August 12, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — Student representatives have raised concerns over the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government’s decision to not repeal the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 or AUKU 1971.

Irfan Mahzan who is part of the Mahasiswa Keadilan Malaysia said this decision has placed in a grey area the activities that students have planned based on the decision made by the previous Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, and that was to abolish the Act.

“Some of the university student bodies have changed their names to ‘Student Union’ instead of the previous ‘Student Representative Council.’

“But after the PN government’s decision, now we’re stuck. We don’t know if the activities that we have planned, based on the understanding that AUKU would be abolished, are legal anymore,” said Irfan during a press conference at the Parliament building.

The students’ reaction comes after the government made a decision to keep the Act, deeming it still relevant.

In a Parliamentary written reply dated July 27, the government said it had decided not to repeal the Act any time soon.

The written reply also said that the Act, apart from regulating student affairs, is also used to manage matters relating to a university, as well as its staff, powers and constitution.

In addition, the written reply said the Act has been amended twice — in 2012 and 2019 — to allow students to participate in political activities.

However, students still fear that the Act could be used as a tool to intimidate them.

On the same note, National Association of Malaysian Muslim Students president Farhan Rosli called on the PN government to proceed with repealing the Act.

He added that the matter should not be politicised.

“This should neither be a PH nor PN issue. This is about students, lecturers and university administrations.

“(Former prime minister) Datuk Seri Najib Razak started this initiative (of repealing AUKU) and PH continued it and since this is a good initiative, it should be continued so that students and lecturers will be able to make contributions to the nation,” he said.

Voicing the students’ concerns, DAP’s Kulai MP Teo Nie Ching has called on the PN government to continue the previous administration’s initiative of introducing a new Act to replace the AUKU 1971.

“Based on our (PH) timeline, the newly drafted Act would’ve been tabled at the end of this year, around the same time as the tabling of Budget 2021.

“There is nothing controversial about this new Act and I hope it will get the support of the PN government,” she said during the press conference.

She also reminded PN that none of them had raised any objections to the new Act when it was tabled in 2018.

“In fact, they (PN) asked us to expedite it,” she added.

In March last year, education minister under the PH government Maszlee Malik said the ministry was formulating a proposal to replace AUKU with a more progressive and dynamic law by 2020.

In December 2018, the Dewan Rakyat unanimously approved amendments to AUKU 1971, thereby paving the way for student involvement in politics.

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