Thursday, January 19, 2012

PAS Told to Reject UUCA

Last evening I attended the CIMA Toastmasters meeting and the last minute pull-out of two speakers resulted in me being re-assigned as the Grammarian. What was disappointing was that we didn’t start on time. We were late by twenty-five minutes! I prodded the Toastmaster-of-the-Evening and only then did we commence the meeting. Sadly, I detected a lackadaisical attitude to this issue of punctuality. Aargh-h-h! This ugly habit that Malaysian Toastmasters is picking up is upsetting me! But all is not lost. The robust applause is their one saving grace. I would give this meeting a 3 out of a 10.

On Tuesday, Indrahanians organized the sixth installment of the in-house Speechcraft program – this time the lead speaker was Dennis Wee. This meeting started off on a languid note but when Wee came on, earnest energy enveloped the room. Guess who is coming on for the next Speechcraft? Me! And I will be touching on “Effective Evaluation”.

Yesterday, student activists called on PAS and the Pakatan government in Kedah led by the Islamic party to toe the coalition’s line and reject the use of the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) to restrain academic freedom.

Some 20 students braved heavy rain to gather in front of PAS’s headquarters to demand the party make a clear stand on the suspension of five students from Kolej Universiti Insaniah (Kuin), the Alor Setar-based varsity whose chairman is Kedah Mentri Besar Azizan Abdul Razak. They also strung an effigy of a dead body in front of the entrance. According to the students, the “corpse” symbolized the “death of university student idealism”.

“There is no double-standard. We marched to PWTC (Umno headquarters) and now PAS. What is their stand?” Movement for Academic Freedom (Bebas) chairman Safwan Anang said.

The “Kuin Five” were hauled up before a disciplinary committee on May 25, 2011 for breaching the UUCA by participating in a demonstration, making speeches with loudspeakers and holding a press conference to protest the use of a religious teaching block to house a smart school. Mohd Faiz Mohd Arshad was suspended for two semesters while the rest were barred for one semester and given warning letters.

Students are right to demand academic freedom. PAS must respond immediately to this entreaty.

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