Former UM students say graduate’s action “reasonable and within law”.
MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong has taken the Education Ministry (MoE) to task over the controversial protest during Universiti Malaya’s (UM) convocation ceremony on Monday.
He said MoE’s failure to address students’ grievances against the Vice-Chancellor (VC), Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim, had led to student activist Wong Yan Ke protesting during the convocation.
He said, although the ceremony was not the right platform for Wong to express his dissatisfaction, he still had a right to air his views.
“As far as freedom of speech is concerned, I think yes, all citizens are entitled to their view.
“You can express your disagreement over the speech by the VC. I think this is the student’s right so it’s okay.
“What was the cause? It was due to the speech by the VC.
“That was the cause of the whole fracas so we should address the issue from the root cause,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.
Wee said both the Education Minister, Dr Maszlee Malik, and his deputy, Teo Nie Ching, had failed to address the issue.
He said the ministry should step in rather than hope the issue will go away.
“The speech by the vice-chancellor is the cause of the whole fracas.
“This is under your ministry, so you can’t let this issue get out of hand.
He also said he believed that Abdul Rahim should be reprimanded for his speech at the Malay Dignity Congress on Oct 6.
“A lot of people say we should do this and that, but when you become overzealous, things will go beyond your control.
“I hope the DAP leaders who used to preach social justice, saying they want this and that…well this is an acid test for them to gauge their wisdom to see if they are able to manage such an issue well,” he said.
On Monday, UM lodged a police report against Wong after he staged a solo protest calling for Abdul Rahim’s resignation.
Wong had allegedly shouted, “Ini Tanah Malaysia” while carrying a placard with the words “Tolak Rasis” (reject racism) and “Undur VC” (step down VC) on stage after receiving his degree scroll.
He said it was done to protest against Abdul Rahim’s speech at the congress, claiming that the speech was racially charged and as a graduate, he had a right to criticize and call for the individual to be courteous.
Yesterday, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) called for Abdul Rahim to resign if he was unable to take criticism from students or was unwilling to provide a safe space for students to engage in discourse.
The Malay Dignity Congress was organised by four public universities – Universiti Malaya (UM), Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI), Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) – to discuss and find solutions to problems faced by the Malays.
Meanwhile, a group of UM alumni has expressed support for Wong.
In a petition signed by 171 former UM students, the group said Wong’s action was reasonable and in accordance with the law.
“Wong took less than 10 seconds to unfurl a placard and yell. His action did not disrupt the flow of the convocation ceremony,” it said.
The alumni group opined that Wong’s had raised awareness to the society in regard to the vice-chancellor’s irresponsible speech.
“We must also remember that the Federal Constitution and Universiti Malaya’s constitution do not prohibit university students from verbally asking the vice-chancellor to resign.”
The group also criticized the university for preventing another graduate from entering the hall to receive the scroll, saying that UM could be seen as trying to create “white terror” in the university.
The group urged Maszlee and Teo to instruct the UM management to retract the police report against Wong.
It also wants Maszlee to explain his attendance at the Malay Dignity Congress.
“This is because he would be seen as supporting the racist statements at the congress.”