Students are saying enough is enough and are standing up to reclaim their right and the past glory of the students movement.
Universiti Malaya is conducting an internal probe on the students who participated in 27 October night’s banned talk by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, even as academics laud them for defending their academic freedom.
The university’s disciplinary board will carry out the investigation under the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 and the university’s constitution, UM media and corporate unit head Izzad Zalman Abd Kadir told The Star.
“We are trying to ascertain the identity of the students who participated in the ceramah.
“We will decide on what kind of action to take against them once we have completed the investigation,” he was quoted as saying.
UM had also lodged a police report against the students for trespassing on private property, saying that the intrusion caused the university’s main gate to collapse.
“The talk was illegally held at the Dataran Dewan Tunku Canselor.
“UM is built on private-owned land. You can’t simply trespass into someone’s property and hold a function there without permission,” Izzad was quoted as saying outside the Pantai police station after lodging the report.
Academics, however, told The Malaysian Insider that the UM administrators’ decision to lock down the campus to prevent the talk had ruined its long tradition of being one of Malaysia’s most intellectually vibrant institutions.
They said the students who defied the ban showed they cherished the principle of academic freedom and wanted to reclaim their rights.
“It’s reflective of youths who want to take back their rights. It’s about them saying enough is enough,” said Professor Zaharom Nain of University of Nottingham’s Malaysia campus.
Abdul Rahman Embong, a Principal Fellow at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas), said the students were reclaiming their movement’s past glory.
Historically, the UM student union was famous for being fiercely independent and influential in the country’s political landscape in the 1950s and 1960s.
“The students are upset because they are patronised as children,” said Professor Andrew Aeria of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
“They take out loans to pay for their education yet they are treated like children. It is insulting.”
UM administrators had tried to bar Anwar from attending a talk held on 27 Octobery, titled “40 years: From UM to prison”, on the eve of his Federal Court appeal against his conviction of sodomising a former aide.
The university’s authorities had allowed staff to leave at 4.00pm and started a lockdown in order to stop Anwar’s talk.
After university staff had left the campus grounds, UM security personnel closed the Kuala Lumpur entrance to all vehicles and redirected incoming and outgoing traffic to the Petaling Jaya entrance.
However, determined UM students and supporters ensured that Anwar was able to enter his alma mater by forcing open the university’s main gate at its Kuala Lumpur/Bangsar entrance and marching onto the campus grounds.
When Anwar arrived outside Dewan Tunku Canselor, the area was pitch black as the university administration’s claims of electrical issues appeared to have some basis.
Anwar then gave his speech under a street light nearby.
The students’ courage in taking on the university administration earned the praise of Negara-Ku co-chair and former Bar Council chairman Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan, who said she was amazed by the fighting spirit displayed by the students.
Describing them as the agents of change in the country, Ambiga had said: “What we see now is change happening, now we are seeing our youth rising up against oppression.”