The first pledge in the “Aku Janji” of good conduct being imposed on all the lecturers and the 200,000 undergraduates in all the public universities states: “I shall at all times give my loyalty to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the country and the Government”.
There is no controversy to the pledge of loyalty to the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the country but the inclusion of the pledge of “loyalty to the government” is most debatable and questionable as to whether it is in the best interest of the nation as “loyalty to the government” may not necessary be in consonance and may even be in conflict with “loyalty to the Yang di Pertuan Agong and the country”.
Will a lecturer or undergraduate who criticises any government policy or measure, whether in terms of implementation or merit, be regarded as lacking in “loyalty to the government” and open to disciplinary action including suspension and dismissal?
Do we want only sycophants in the public universities and are we trying to create a docile, passive and submissive academia and nation - which is the recipe for a nation of sheep and mediocrity?
The status of university lecturers and students cannot be equated to that of the civil service, which owes a loyalty to the government of the day, irrespective of political party as it is imperative that civil servants, whatever their private political views, should maintain their political neutrality under one political party or another.
Higher education, however, is a completely different pursuit from the civil service and the notion of pledge of loyalty to the government as distinct from loyalty to King and country is completely alien to the notions of academic freedom, autonomy, responsibility and ethics which have been accepted as part of the universal human rights of mankind in the 21st century.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation
(UNESCO) World Declaration on Higher Education for the 21st Century 1998,
for instance, on the “ethical role, autonomy, responsibility and
anticipatory function” of universities spelt out six roles for
higher education institutions and their personnel and students, viz:
The Aku Janji pledge of “loyalty to the government” will be tantamout to Malaysia repudiating the UNESCO World Declaration on Higher Education for the twenty-first Century: Vision and Action (1998).
Is the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) prepared to invoke powers under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1957 to advise the government and to conduct an inquiry into the Code of Good Conduct being made mandatory on all lecturers and students of all public universities and to examine it in the light of the World Declaration on Higher Education for the 21st Century?