PETALING JAYA • Malaysia's Cabinet has approved legal amendments that will allow college and university students to participate in political activities on campus.
The amendments to the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971 will involve abolishing sections which curtail students' questioning of politicians and prevent students from engaging in party events where they study, Education Minister Maszlee Malik said in a media statement.
He said the move is in line with government efforts to strengthen democracy and provide more room for university students to speak up and engage in political activities on campus.
This move will also produce graduates who are "balanced" and able to "express opinions" on current issues, he said.
The government has also announced plans to lower the voting age to 18 years old, from 21 years old currently.
The UUCA provisions were tightened to restrict student activism in 1975 after the Baling protests of December 1974.
Then, thousands of university students demonstrated in the small town of Baling, Kedah, in solidarity with rubber tappers, who were struggling to make ends meet after global rubber prices collapsed.
They were led by then prominent student activists such as current prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim and social activist Hishamuddin Rais.
Since 1975, the restrictions have applied to students not only at public universities, but also at private higher education institutions, polytechnics, community colleges and teacher institutes.
Dr Maszlee said the draft Bill on the proposed amendments of several UUCA provisions is expected to be tabled at the current Parliament session, which will end in mid-December.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK