University disciplinary rules turning the universities into barrack camps

Speech by DAP Secretary-General and Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, at the meeting of the Federal Territory DAP Committee on Saturday, 27th Sept. 1975at 8.00 p.m.

University disciplinary rules turning the universities into barrack camps.

It has been announce that new university disciplinary regulations, in the form of University of Malaya (Disciplinary of Students) Rules 1975, had been turned made, and other universities would have similar disciplinary regulations.

A reading of the regulations showed that the University of Malaya and other universities have been turned from institutions of higher learning and free intellectual adventure into highly-regimented barrack camps, and which would create a new breed of pockets dictators.

The university rules cover general, hostel and road traffic discipline. Punishment may be in the form of a fine of up to a maximum of $200, suspension or expulsion from the university.

A student cannot appeal to the High Court in the case of any miscarriage of justice, which have such far-reaching consequences of destroying his future. He can only appeal to the Education Minister, who may either reduce or enhance the sentence.

It is highly dangerous to vest such wide powers in the disciplinary staff of the university, without proper checks and controls, for it can so easily degenerate into abuses. The appeal of the Education Minister is not adequate check or control, for as the Vice-Chancellor in charge of discipline is the personal nominee of the Education Minister himself, the Education Minister will invariably upload the sentences meted out to the students.

The only proper safeguard is access to the courts appeal against excesses and abuses of power.

In the armed services, there ia s separate persecutory and punitive system for offences against the armed services regulations, different from that of the ordinary courts of law. I have come across many instances where the ordinary soldier suffered petty tyrannies and oppressions, and are bullied by the ordinary superiors and have no recourse or redress because of the highly regimented system and the exclusive nature of the court-martials which for all practical purposes exclude the outside courts the power to redress and check its abuses of power. This offends against the very spirit and principle of the rule of law.

Now, horror of horrors, such highly draconian and authoritarian regulations are extended from the armed services to the universities. The question we must ask, is whether we are trying to turn the universities into barrack grounds, and produce, independent-minded thinkers and problem-solvers of tomorrow, but regimented, mindless slaves to authority?

Under the new rules, students are prohibited from conducting themselves in any manner detrimental or prejudicial to the interest, well-being or good name of the university and its employees, public order, safety or security, morals or discipline, whether within or without campus.

This is also provide that the moment a student is charged in a court of law for a criminal offence, he will be immediately suspended from the university, no matter when the case may come up for hearing.

Here again, the government is charging the time-honoured principle, that a man is innocent until proved guilty. This provision also make it easy for the university’s disciplinary authority, who is none other than the Minister of Education’ s representative, to intimidate or hold the power of ‘life and death’ as far as one’s academic life is concerned, over the student, and bully him into a mindless robot.

These university regulations must be opposed by all Malaysians who want our universities to become the training grounds for creative, imaginative and bold Malaysians, and not the burial ground of idealism, social conscience and imagination.