Home Civil Society Voices University’s action against protester reveals ‘small-mindedness’

University’s action against protester reveals ‘small-mindedness’

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The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) is astounded and appalled at the concerted backlash that university student’s simple act of civil disobedience has caused.

The dust evidently still hasn’t settled on the ill-conceived Malay Dignity Congress held almost two weeks ago.

While some academics have publicly responded, no academic body has released a statement, leaving one lone young graduate to wake us all up the last weekend to what the congress was all about.

When engineering graduate, Wong Yan Ke walked up the University of Malaya stage to collect his scroll and then unveiled his little hand-written poster while calling the vice-chancellor out as a racist for his role in the congress, perhaps he didn’t suspect that the whole administrative machinery in the university would come down to crush him.

In this regard, even Gerak is astounded and appalled at the concerted backlash that Wong’s simple act of civil disobedience has caused. Were it not so serious, this whole episode could have been something out of a Monty Python movie.

In this regard, like more organisations that are speaking out now, Gerak stands firmly behind Wong and his right and freedom to say what he said – even saying it in a setting that has been contrived over the years to be sombre and respectful. The key word here is `contrived.

For those who say that it was the wrong venue, we ask, what other more effective venue was there?

At any rate, now supporters of the status quo and of the vice-chancellor are tripping over themselves to attack Wong, depicting him as “biadap” (rude), “lacking class” and worse, though predictably, a “racist”.

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Gerak believes that these attacks are silly, unfair and unfounded. Worse, they deliberately sidestep and hide at least two main reasons why this whole episode took place.

First, the organising of the congress by the University of Malaya and three other public universities funded by public money, three of which having a multi-ethnic student and teaching population.

Second, the role played by the university and its vice-chancellor in the congress and whether this has brought the university into disrepute.

When the congress was first announced, Gerak expressed our unease with it, especially when it sounded like a sabre-rattling, race-baiting gathering rather than an intellectual meeting.

But we were then quickly assured by a senior official that it was a congress to discuss “research findings” that, in turn, could dispassionately inform policy.

What transpired instead was what we suspected and feared – much chest-thumping and very little concrete empirical findings. It was indeed much like a blame if not a hate-fest, led by problematic emeritus professor Zainal Kling, renowned for once claiming that we were never colonised.

Be that as it may, this congress and University of Malaya’s involvement was what Wong’s action was related to. This is something we cannot simply push aside in assessing his action.

Lodging a police report against Wong, withholding his transcripts and degree, and mustering disciplined but bored-looking students to protest against him all smack of immaturity, small-mindedness and the overreaching of the powers held by the university authorities.

Such use of force and censure is not only unnecessary and disgraceful, but also shows little respect for human rights and goes against the spirit and principles of debate and discussion.

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Such principles are precisely what Gerak has long been fighting for and what the education minister has consistently encouraged and supported in our attempts at bringing much-needed reforms to our education system.

Hence, let us thank him for waking some of us up, but let us look beyond the “tree” that is Wong Yan Ke.

Indeed, let us examine and critique the “wood” that is essentially the politicisation of our premier universities and the negative implications for academic autonomy, quality, and, most important, academic integrity.

Gerak Executive Committee

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
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Kamal Badri
21 Oct 2019 8.53am

It was a very sad incident where a … shouted during convocation. Is this the SRJK product? Uncivilised student…

Brian Tsai
21 Oct 2019 6.38pm
Reply to  Kamal Badri

1) Kamal Badri….. who are you to define what is ‘civilized’ and what is not?

If all you can do is label a person as … because you disagree with their conduct and question vernacular school…. does that make you ‘more civilized’? XD XD XD!!!

What’s next, are you going to go around, claiming other protest in the world as ‘uncivilized conduct’ …. just because you disagree?

Is your definition of ‘civilized’ applying to those who make speeches with racial elements? Perhaps, you can claim white supremacy public speeches are ‘civilized’ too? XD XD XD!!!

21 Oct 2019 6.29am

When Malaysian Universities are infested with … the future generation of this country is going straight down the drain. Track records proofs…… UM Standard and International Rating in the 1970s compared to the past 15 years or even present. All the way down to the most horrible pathetic state.
What more do you need?????Thats the report card of Shame on all Past & Present Leaders….

KLeng Leong
KLeng Leong
21 Oct 2019 3.18am

We have all been taken for a ride. There is no malaysia baru! It is all about political survival and greed!

Theres Chin
20 Oct 2019 10.45pm

Well written and precisely pointed. Yes, credit goes to Wong for his firm stand against bigotry. In the first place the issue was brought upon itself by the actions of those involved in their, laughable, lack of so-called maruah which they should take responsibility – instead of attacking her student. Wong’s action was only a reaction to the questionable professionlism of the so-called learned seniors who should by now humbly be searching their hearts. Hopefully institutions of higher learning realize the need for qualified professionals to bring the best of his best into the profession and not for the sake of image or any “i-owe-you”. Nor should the post simply be given to any Tom, Dato or Harry.

Kam Chee Ng
20 Oct 2019 8.16pm

If the government wish to see Malaysia will become a Asia tiger in 2030 ,please put the right person in education industry.University is the future hope of the country,we need positive thinking young generation to help Malaysia grow instead of putting racial element to support them to play politic in this industry

Ravinder Singh
20 Oct 2019 7.44pm

The University was practicing MIGHT IS RIGHT! And this is happening in other departments and agencies also. An UNDIGNIFIED ACT while talking of DIGNITY ! There is no syariah-compliant whistle-blowing, like there is syariah-compliant lying?

Sangga Sinnayah
20 Oct 2019 7.22pm


Joseph Sabah
20 Oct 2019 7.02pm


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