University of Malaya (UM) engineering graduate Wong Yan Ke, currently embroiled in controversy for protesting at his convocation ceremony against vice-chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Rashid, said he had done so as a last resort.
Allegations against Rahim:
- Never responded to students’ issues, including increased tuition fees, student buses, campus WiFi
- UM Students Union attempted to organise a peace negotiation session between Rahim and Wong yesterday evening, but Rahim did not wish to participate
- Failure to ensure safety at the university as seen by during a fire at the economics faculty in August, numerous cases of robberies on campus
- Failure to promote racial tolerance and unity among diverse ethnic groups in UM by engaging in the organisation of the Malay Dignity Congress
The 23-year old alumni from Penang claimed that during his time as a student activist, he and other fellow activists had protested about many issues, including increased tuition fees, student buses, campus WiFi, and others.
“We sent letters asking for meeting dates, as well as memorandums, to the vice-chancellor’s office. Despite numerous instances, they never responded to our demands,” he told reporters outside the Petaling police station, after providing a statement over the incident.
Accompanied by his legal counsel Asheeq Ali, Wong said those criticising him for protesting at the convocation on Monday have little inkling of what was going on.
“When you say correct place and time, tell me when is appropriate? The vice-chancellor himself has never wanted to answer to us students.
“In part, why I protested was to democratise the campus. He has never been held accountable to either us or the academicians, and is only a puppet of the politicians,” he said.
Adding that Abdul Rahim had many shortcomings as vice-chancellor, Wong said the final straw was his participation in the recent Malay Dignity Congress earlier this month, where he gave a speech warning of Malay loss of political dominance and for non-Malays to follow the country’s social contracts.
“We can especially see this after he damaged the university’s reputation, misusing it for his own political agenda.
“In my view, I suspect that action is being taken against me as he is afraid others may follow my lead in protesting against him, as many already opposed his actions during the congress. He is trying to make sure dissenting voices against him are suppressed,” he said.
Wong also mentioned that the UM Students Union attempted to organise a peace negotiation session between Abdul Rahim and himself yesterday evening, with the UM Academic Staff Union as an observer.
“I attended the session, but the vice-chancellor did not wish to participate, nor did he answer any of the union’s attempts to contact him. When I realised this was the case, I also left after spending some time waiting for him to show up,” he said.
Wong also dismissed allegations that he is a member of a political party or that he has received funding from any political organisation.
“I have heard it all before, even the claims that I am actually a DAP member. I have never been a member of any political party before or since.
“As far as I am concerned, it is the act of some netizens who are out to smear me, the type who tend to brush anyone who does not support their agenda as a DAP member,” he said.
Wong also made fun of such allegations, stating that he has been photographed with various political figures before.
“I even took pictures with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Does that mean I am a double agent?” he said.
The convocation ceremony on Monday, officiated by the Sultan of Perak Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, saw Wong verbally protest against Abdul Rahim when he went on stage to collect is degree scroll, as well as holding up a placard accusing the vice-chancellor of racism.
His actions resulted in a mixed response on social media with some condemning him for tarnishing a solemn occasion, while others praised his courage in taking a stance.
Following a number of police reports lodged against him over the incident, Wong is currently being investigated under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentionally insulting or provoking a person or person, with the intent or knowledge that doing so will break the public peace.
Meanwhile, the Universiti Malaya Academic Staff Association (PKAUM) today said protests by student activists during the institution’s ongoing graduation ceremony were likely driven by existing dissatisfaction over various alleged “misacts” by their vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim Hasim.
“PKAUM takes note of the unfortunate circumstance in which an engineering graduate Wong Yan Ke had to resort to drastic action to highlight the fact that he felt the university failed to represent unity amongst Malaysians by participating in the Malay Dignity Congress.
“Furthermore, PKAUM is also thoroughly aggrieved at the outright unfair targeting of Edan Kon Hua En who was denied the right to attend his own convocation ceremony […]
“The protest itself is likely to be driven by an already unhappy student community due to the many misdemeanours and misactions of the UM vice-chancellor,” association secretary Noraishah Mydin Haji Abdul Aziz said in a statement.
Even so, PKAUM stated that while it supported Wong’s right to express himself, it disagreed with Wong choice of platform as it marred the convocation ceremony for his fellow graduates and their families.
Noraishah went on to list several alleged misacts by Rahim including failure to ensure safety at the university as seen by during a fire at the economics faculty in August as well as numerous cases of robberies on campus and failure to promote racial tolerance and unity among the many diverse ethnic groups in UM by engaging in the organisation of the Malay Dignity Congress.
She added many students and academic staff were also opposed to the university’s involvement in the congress which took place in Shah Alam on Oct 6.
It was organised by Universiti Malaya’s Malay Excellence Studies Centre in collaboration with UiTM, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Sultan Idris Education University.
“PKAUM asks where are the voice of reason and the arm of justice in diminishing the powers of politically hungry vice-chancellors who use all instruments within their organisation and all political means to ensure that they remain in power, many not fit to fill in the first place.
“UM must act now to prevent further tensions developing amongst increasingly racially charged student groups before the situation escalates,” the statement read.