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    Updated on Friday, March 15, 2002 11:15 PM

Academics have right to reject Akujanji document: varsity body

3:54pm Tue Mar 12th, 2002
Susan Loone,malaysiakini

Universiti Malaya Staff Association today said academics have the right to reject the Akujanji (loyalty pledge) document imposed on civil servants.

UMSA chairperson Rosli H Mamat said as long as the nature of the document was not explained in detail, the association cannot guarantee that academics will adhere to the requirements of the contract.

The association is also asking that the circular from the Public Services Department requiring academics to sign the document be withdrawn and rewritten, taking into account issues which had violated basic human rights, academic freedom and workers’ rights.

“We demand that the exercise of signing the loyalty pledge be postponed until further studies have been done on the issue,” Rosli said in a press statement today.

Rosli said the pledge makes it an offence for any academic staff to comment on government policies (whether favourably or critically) without ministerial permission, as such it becomes a prevalent threat to all academics.

“This Akujanji is, therefore, an affront to academic freedom. In principle it is repulsive and in practical terms it is unnecessary as the laws it refers to are already in force,” he added.

“As academics, this would mean that we would be prevented from doing our work properly. How can there be a gag on governmental criticism in the academic world if subjects such as economics, social sciences and law are to be effectively taught?” he queried.

An insult

Rosli said the document could also be interpreted as taking away academics’ rights for seeking help from bodies such as the courts and Human Rights Commission (Suhakam).

He added that the document was “an insult” to hardworking academics as it questions one’s integrity and is forcing a class of people to put their names down on a document that says they agree to laws and rules that work against them and their profession.

The Public Services Department had issued a circular to the university in December last year asking the academics to sign the document by the end of this month.

Rosli said academics were upset with several reports in the media accusing them of being disloyal to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, country and government for questioning the document.

If the nine-point document was meant to pledge loyalty to those three entities, Rosli said, the academics would definitely sign it.

“However, the issue of loyalty is only one-ninth of the entire Akujanji document. What we are questioning are issues which are against academic freedom, workers’ rights and rights as a citizen of this country,” said Rosli.

He said the association had made efforts to clarify the issues in the document but failed to get a satisfactory answer.

“Even questions put forward officially by the association have not been answered accurately,” he added.

“The document is said to be just a reminder but it appears to be more like an agreement. What is the point of signing this document?” he queried.

Rosli said the association was upset that its views, which were raised in October last year, were not entertained by the relevant authorities.

“We knew all along that the document will be a problem to us,” he added.

Penalised accordingly

Meanwhile, in Parliament today, Parliamentary Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department Khamsiyah Yeop said the government was not aware of any group that was reluctant to sign the document.

She said the ministry was satisfied with the acceptance of the document by the country’s civil servants, which number around 800,000.

Khamsiyah was answering a question posed by Goh Siow Huat (Rasah-BN) who wanted to know whether there are government officers who are reluctant to sign the document.

On a question by the same MP on how the government planned to enforce the document after it has been signed, Khamsiyah said the situation will be monitored very closely.

She said those who did not adhere to the requirements of the document will be penalised accordingly.

“They will first be given a warning, a fine, followed by stripping of monetary benefits such as allowances. They may also be demoted and eventually asked to leave the service,” she warned.

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