We have not heard of anything about the National Student’s Party (Parti Mahasiswa Negara, PMN) after its launch nine days ago. Forgive me, I don’t even know that its name has been changed to Malaysian Student’s Party (Parti Mahasiswa Malaysia, PMM).
But the Higher Education Minister Mustapha Mohamed hasn’t forgotten about them. He warned students not to join the student party as it is prohibited by the University and University College Act 1971 (UUCA). “If you want to join politics, do so after you graduate,” said the Minister, as quoted by Malaysiakini.
PMM has made it clear that it would defy the UUCA which is seen as unconstitutional. GAMIS, the Islamic student group which produces majority of the party’s leadership, has for a long while objected to the draconian law.
The question now is: how will PMM respond to the Minister?
The party has said that it wants to field candidates in the coming elections. Will its candidates make their contest a referendum on UUCA in their contested constituencies? Can they make the opposition parties pledge concrete actions in abolishing the act, such as promising a private member bill of a replacement bill within the first year of the new parliament? If they cannot even do that, I wonder what real difference can the new party make.
If taking the UUCA to the electoral arena is exactly what they intend to do, I suggest they go one step further: calling for the repeal of Article 10(3) of the Federal Constitution.
What is this Article 10(3) about? The Constitution originally only restricted our freedom of association on three grounds: “the security of the Federation or any part thereof”, “public order” and “morality” (Clause (2)). The Clause (3) added when Malaysia is formed allows further restriction “imposed by any law relating to labour or education”.
In other words, if not for Article 10(3), UUCA would have been unconstitutional not only in spirit, but also in letters.
If you are against UUCA, you must first go against Article 10(3). And in doing so, you can build a wider coalition with many allies, not least the trade union sector which has also fallen victim to this evil Clause (3).
Will our student leaders show Malaysians that they can – at least will try to – make a real difference?
I use the word “evil”, not in a religious sense, but in the tradition of Thomas Paine.