Malaysian university warns staff members over political activities

PETALING JAYA - Universiti Malaya (UM) staff have been prohibited from organising political activities within and outside the country.

They should comply with the Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge) Act, which forbade involvement in political activities, said UM registrar Yusoff Musa.

"UM staff have an obligation to be loyal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the country, the Government and UM at all times," he said in a circular dated Dec 23.

"To ensure that UM's interests are not affected, the university administration has decided that all UM staff, including those who are on study leave, holiday, or attending seminars or courses in or out of the country, comply with Rule 20 under Part II of the Second Schedule of the Act, and not be actively involved as organisers of any political activity."

Although the circular was dated Dec 23, some UM staff said they only received the letter at their offices yesterday.

Responding to the circular, UM Academic Staff Union (PKAUM) president Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom said the rights of UM staff were protected by the Federal Constitution.

"Therefore, any infringement of the rights of any of UM staff members shall be opposed by the union on the grounds that by virtue of the Constitution, any action taken by the university has to be bound by the limitations and protections set out in the Constitution," he said.

The Statutory Bodies (Discipline and Surcharge Act) Act states that managerial and professional staff from statutory bodies (including universities) cannot take "an active part" in political activities or wear party emblems. They are also not allowed to make public statements that would "convey a partisan view on any matter which is an issue between political parties". They can, however, be ordinary members of any political party.

UM's International & Corporate Relations Office said the circular was just a "friendly reminder" to the university's staff. "It is not a new rule and has been in use by all statutory bodies," it said.