I am deeply concerned over reports that a UiTM Sabah student, Mohd Fathihie Gadius, is facing disciplinary action over his Facebook posts against the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Mohd Fathihie received a letter dated 28 April which accuses him of breaching the Educational Institutions (Discipline) Act 1976, i.e. for “making a public statement via social media website Facebook which can encourage acts which breach the code of conduct, cause disruption (and) defiance” via various postings from October 2013-January 2014.
If found guilty, Mohd Fathihie can be suspended from the university and barred from the campus.
This is just another example of the crying lack of academic freedom in Malaysian universities.
Wasn’t it not so long ago that Prime Minister Najib Razak was promising to amend the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971, saying that his administration “had faith in the ability of undergraduates to be matured in their thinking and be responsible citizens.”?
Well, this latest incident of harassment of a student for independent thinking shows what a hollow sham this has all been—like all Najib Razak’s failed attempts at reform.
This is surely a gross abuse of common sense and civil liberties.
These university students are citizens of Malaysia and have the right to express their views on issues of public importance—including the GST.
Our universities and colleges should be proud to have students like Mohd Fathihie, who are able and unafraid to question policies with vigour. UiTM, as an institution founded to promote education for the Bumiputeras should be proud of young Bumiputera students who can muster intellectual independence.
That he should be subject to vilification is a clear sign that something has gone very wrong with our system of higher education.
Our universities and colleges attempt to clamp down on freedom of thought and expression is the main contributor to the poor standing and reputation of our institutions of higher learning.
It would appear that the authorities of UiTM have no problems with allowing their campuses to be used as a platform for UMNO-BN political events or even racist discourses but are dead set against their students having an opinion on crucial issues affecting the country’s economic well-being. After all it is the bottom 40 percent – which are predominantly Malay and Bumiputera – that will be affected by regressive taxes such as GST.
Malaysians—particularly the Malays and Bumiputera—must ask whether their interests and the minds of the younger generation are being well-served by UiTM.
UiTM and the Ministry of Education owe Malaysians an explanation over this sorry and sordid affair.