Call on academicians from all the public universities to take a united stand to support the University of Malaya Academic Staff Association call for the withdrawal of the Akujanji pledge for lecturers and students

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Wednesday): It must be a great relief to Malaysians committed to democracy and human rights that there is at last an organised  academic response from at least one public university to the  Good Conduct  (Aku Janji) Pledge  for university lecturers and students - as it  is not only the most serious attack, but will institutionalise repression, of   academic and intellectual freedom with far-reaching consequences to Malaysia’s competitiveness in the international marketplace.  

Until the statement by Universiti Malaya Academic Staff Association (PKAUM) that  academics have the  right to reject the Akujanji (loyalty pledge) document imposed on civil servants, concern at the latest erosion of fundamental human rights of free expression and academic freedoms was equally shared by consternation at the lack of response from the academic community, who should have been in the forefront to protest against the Akujanji for being antithetical to human rights and inimical to intellectual freedom.  

The time has come for the academicians from the other public universities to stand up and be counted and to give full support to the PKAUM stand that the Akujanji as presently drafted violates Article 10 of the Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech and  destroys academic freedom  as it would be  a gag on governmental criticism in the academic world - making it impossible for subjects such as economics, social sciences and law to be effectively taught!  

Let the academicians in all the public universities take a united stand that the Akujanji pledge for university lecturers and students should be withdrawn.  

The Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Muhammad should respect the PKAUM stand  that the Akujanji document should be withdrawn and rewritten, taking into account issues which violate basic human rights, academic freedom and workers’ rights.  

Musa should instead  set up a commision to formulate a Charter for Academic Freedom and University Autonomy to promote academic excellence to enable Malaysia to make the successful transition  to a K-economy and information society - the product of the fullest dialogue and consultation involving the government, universities, academicians, students and the civil society.  

As it stands, the akujanji pledge for the civil servants is already questionable, particularly as to whether it would lead to a modern government with better policy making, better responsiveness to what people want, and more effective public services or whether it has lost sight of the core civil service values with selection and promotion based on merit,  political impartiality and the giving of best independent advice to government.  

But the akujanji pledge as formulated is even more inappropriate for the public universities as it threatens academic freedom - which includes the freedom to teach, research, publish and to speak extramurally - and their critical role in the promotion  and preservation of human rights, democracy, sustainable development, justice and  civil society.  

The government must recognise and respect the “anticipatory” or “prophetic” role of universities, or in the words of the UNESCO World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-first Century: Vision and Action (1998), “their critical and forward-looking functions, through continuing analysis of emerging social, economic, cultural and political trends, providing a focus for forecasting, warning and prevention” which will  create a conflict situation  between the akujanji pledges of loyalty to the country with loyalty to the government of the day.  

The Akujanji pledge for university lecturers and students should be withdrawn or the public universities in Malaysia will become a laughing stock of the international academic world.  


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman