It is to be expected that family and friends will grieve over the loss of a loved one.
And in the recent case of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) student S Vinosiny, there is the added dimension of deep concern surrounding her shocking death a week after she returned to campus.
It, therefore, stands to reason that her heartbroken father R Sivakumar is adamant about finding out what led to the sudden death of his beloved daughter, especially when he felt that the university management had not been entirely forthcoming about the matter.
Although the university management had promised no cover-up of the cause of death and offered to provide the family with “appropriate assistance”, Sivakumar could sense their lack of transparency in the matter.
The university’s stance neither helps to comfort the father nor enhances its own image as an institution guided by compassion.
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The 20-year-old is believed to have suffered a fatal electric shock in her dormitory room, which ran counter to the university’s version that the cause remains unknown.
The alleged stonewalling of the university management has also led Sivakumar to mull over the possibility of taking legal action against the university.
Given such a situation, he felt Vinosiny’s death should instead prompt the authorities to investigate the cause of her death and make known its results as soon as possible so that immediate and proper steps could be taken to prevent a possible recurrence of the tragedy.
Doing so would save the lives of other students, especially if there is fear or suspicion that the university’s buildings and facilities are generally not well maintained. Such a scenario may also apply to many other universities in the country.
This is also the reason concerned students of UUM were said to have planned to hold vigils, forums and dialogues related to Vinosiny’s death – and rightly so.
It is, however, baffling to learn that the university management chose instead to put a gag order recently on any student activity on campus associated with Vinosiny’s tragedy.
Are we to understand that a collective expression of grief and concern and holding of discussions over Vinosiny’s death by the university students are considered a serious offence deserving of punishment to be meted out by the university authorities?
And, are we to assume that human sympathy is to be doused by the cold arrogance of an administrative fiat?
Does the notion of compassion differ so drastically between Sivakumar and the students on the one hand and the university management on the other so that to be caring and concerned becomes debatable?
Any attempt to put this tragedy under wraps would only draw more public attention and suspicion that something is amiss.
Any secretiveness will not square with the public expectation of a university to demonstrate transparency, accountability, clear-headed thinking and compassion at all times.
Furthermore, any censorship goes against the freedom of expression, which should be one of the cornerstones of academic freedom and robustness. To ban dialogues and discussions will be construed as intellectual laziness and dereliction of duty on the part of the university.
Vinosiny must not have died in vain. The tragedy should serve as a reminder that truth and compassion must prevail. – The Malaysian insight