Missing Bobo, and the UKM4
Writer: Lord Bobo
Published: Fri, 11 Nov 2011
I was shocked and aghast that the weekly Ask Lord Bobo column was not in my trusty Selangor Times last week! What happened to the Lord? Traumatised, by email
TRAUMATISED – you need to get out more. But anyway, if you must know, the Lord was busy averting an intergalactic catastrophe that would have reduced Earth to the size of a marble. And no, you don’t need to thank the Lord. We’re quite used to your ungrateful ways.
Lord Bobo. I’ve been reading a lot about this UUCA UKM4 thing. What’s the big deal? Is my life as a university student going to get better? Will I pass my exams more easily? Salahuddin, by email
YOU will recall that the UKM4 consists of four political science students studying at the National University of Malaysia who were disciplined for, well, taking part in politics! Muhammad Hilman bin Idham, Woon King Chai, Muhammad Ismail bin Aminuddin and Azlin Shafina binti Mohamad Adza, had been found in the constituency of Hulu Selangor during the campaign period for the parliamentary by-election there.
Disciplinary charges were brought against them by UKM because of this. UKM accused them of infringing section 15(5) (a) of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971. That section provides that no student “shall express or do anything which may reasonably be construed as expressing support for or sympathy with or opposition to any political party, whether in or outside Malaysia”.
The UKM4 argued that this provision was unconstitutional since Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution provides that “every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression”.
However, this right is subject to Article 10(2)(a) which provides that Parliament may by law impose “such restrictions as it deems necessary or expedient in the interest of the security of the Federation or any part thereof, friendly relations with other countries, public order or morality and restrictions designed to protect the privileges of Parliament or of any Legislative Assembly or to provide against contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to any offence”.
The Court of Appeal in a 2-1 majority decision held that s. 15(5)(a) was unconstitutional. One of the majority judges, Hishamuddin Yunos JCA, pointed out the incongruity that these students could vote and enter into contracts, but could not express support for a political party.
The other judge in the majority, Linton Albert JCA, pointed out the manifest “absurdity” in the section by the very facts of the case, where the four were subjected to disciplinary proceedings merely for being present in a place where a by-election was being held.
Court decisions nullifying provisions of law because the law is unconstitutional are very rare in Malaysia, and the Court decision in this case was a huge success for student activists throughout Malaysia.
His Supreme Eminenceness would also like to humbly point out that the most awesome blawg LoyarBurok was the first to highlight the UKM4’s predicament and bring their case to prominence. The ridiculous nature of section 15(5)(a) can be seen in the discrimination it metes out against students in Malaysia – Malaysian students studying abroad are not prohibited from taking part in the various Kelab Umno, MCA and MIC overseas.
Will your life as a student get any better? Well, you probably won’t feel any difference. As Professor Azmi Sharom pointed out in his column in another, inferior, periodical – only a political nerd would get excited about this decision.
But if you embrace the spirit of this judgment by the Court of Appeal – which celebrates freedom of expression as a means to achieve a holistic development of Malaysians as participants in our civil society – then you would be well advised to get more involved in politics, now that you are able to. There’s no need to join a political party – just come join the wonderful friendly people at UndiMsia! who are seeking to empower Malaysians with the tools to hold politicians to account. What fun!
I was most impressed with the majority of the judges in the UKM4 case. I think this means our judiciary has now proved itself to be independent, and a lot the criticism of judges (including by you, most revered Lord Bobo) are unwarranted. Will you be apologising and retracting your criticism? Chong, via email
AS my good friend and pupil Aristotle is famously supposed to have said, “One swallow does not a summer make, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.”
A few weeks ago, the judiciary also denied MP Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj permission to bring judicial review to question the Special Constituency Allocation, which is apparently only being given to Barisan Nasional MPs to distribute.
These same courts also ratified the “coup” in Perak, which saw the democratically elected government unceremoniously replaced by the State opposition in dubious circumstances. (Read LoyarBurok’s first book, Perak: A State of Crisis, for the full low-down). And yes, Lord Bobo does indeed claim to be the inspiration for much of Aristotle’s ideas and words. Disbelieve it at your peril.