Agora Society strongly condemns the cowardly act perpetrated by the University of Malaya in lodging a police report against student activist Wong Yan Ke.
The police report was made in light of Yan Ke’s solo protest calling for the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim. A protest of such nature certainly does not merit a police report but only serves to jeopardise whatever goodwill or reputation that the university still had left.
Agora Society is gravely disappointed that this once-great education institution has resorted to the police to help in investigating its own student for expressing his views about the vice-chancellor.
It is our view that the university, being the most prominent university in Malaysia, does not deserve to be associated with values such as open-mindedness and professionalism, which are ironically on full display in its official website.
According to a news report, the university has cited Yan Ke’s one-man protest as being disrespectful of the protocol and running of the ceremony.
But video evidence suggests that Yan Ke’s action did not disrupt the ceremony but merely startled a part of the crowd. Contrary to what the university has alleged, the ceremony on that day ended peacefully, and grievances were only shown after the ceremony and among certain sections of the crowd. This did not in any way disrupt the flow of the event that day.
Therefore, Yan Ke did not in any way disrespect the ceremony, but his action has inadvertently ruffled a few feathers of the powers that be in the university. If the university is unable to tolerate criticism and dissent from a lone student, then it is debatable that it could truly live up to its ideals of being an internationally renowned institution of higher learning in research, innovation, publication and teaching.
Agora Society also strongly disagrees with the notion that Yan Ke’s action has tarnished the reputation of the University of Malaya, as alleged by the latter.
Yan Ke’s call for a more tolerant university and Malaysia should be applauded instead, and a reputable university should instead defend any student with a progressive stance like Yan Ke.
The only move we have seen that is tarnishing the university’s reputation currently is the police report made against a recalcitrant student and the defending of a purportedly racist vice-chancellor.
Furthermore, UM has since followed up its police reports by barring another fellow student and associate of Yan Ke, Edan Kon Hua En, from attending his convocation ceremony for fear of disrupting public order. Edan has promised that he would not be protesting or displaying a placard but to no avail.
Agora Society questions the need for such harsh action in denying a student his finest moment in university even when he has promised there would be no protest during the ceremony.
Yan Ke is also worried that he might not be receiving his transcript for openly defying the vice-chancellor. Given the university’s recent attitude towards dissent and Yan Ke’s transcript being mysteriously smudged and experiencing printing difficulties, the graduate’s worry is not unfounded. Agora Society wants to remind the university not to engage in personal and petty revenge for denying a young graduate’s four years of achievement.
The Pakatan Harapan government’s response has been equally damning as they were calling for academic freedom and a more tolerant Malaysia ahead of the last general election. Yet they were nowhere to be seen in this whole incident. It is also disappointing that the police have since taken action by summoning Yan Ke for further investigation.
It is undisputedly clear that what Abdul Rahim Hashim uttered recently is not befitting the so-called “New Malaysia” and his views should be rebuked and challenged.
Criticism of the university and calls for the resignation of its vice-chancellor, stemming from civil society and the public, have since risen, and Agora Society is unequivocally supportive of it. We also wish to express solidarity with all the students who harbour the same view as Yan Ke.
Lastly, we remind the University of Malaya that a university is a place that should embrace diverse and though-provoking ideologies and debate them professionally and rationally.
Thus, we urge the university to withdraw its unnecessary police report if it still harbours any intention of defending academic freedom and the reputation of the University of Malaya.
Agora Society Malaysia is a loose network of individuals who believe in the principles of democracy and good governance.