KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 ― Universiti Malaya graduate Wong Yan Ke’s solo demonstration to demand the resignation of its vice-chancellor over the Malay Dignity Congress is commendable as a stand against racism, a student movement said today.
The Coalition for Academic Freedom (GPA) thanked Wong for his courage, calling the demonstration at the latter’s own recent convocation ceremony an eye-opener on the need for the elimination of racism.
GPA, which is a student coalition, highlighted that the Federal Constitution's Article 10 provides for freedom of speech for all Malaysians.
“In a democratic space, stating one's views even if alone is the courage of the youths,” it said in a statement, alluding to Wong's solo protest during his ceremony for his graduation.
Wong was reported to have carried a placard to the stage during UM's convocation ceremony while receiving his bachelor's degree, with the placard urging the university's vice-chancellor to resign.
In voicing support for Wong's actions, GPA said the actions of four universities including UM in organising the Malay Dignity Congress allegedly showed a major “literacy problem” in the country's education system.
GPA further said it was an insult to the country's education institutions when university leaders allegedly uttered racial comments.
“There is no space and platform for racism to continue to exist in university. There is no middle ground in tackling the issue of racism other than face the issues and fears of a certain ethnicity with honesty and to accept differences,” the coalition said.
The coalition also urged all university students to turn their focus back to UM vice-chancellor's actions, instead of Wong's actions which it said was merely a medium to bring across his message.
University of Malaya Association of New Youth's (Umany) political education unit's head Yap Wen Qing confirmed to Malay Mail that the student group will be holding a press conference at 3pm today regarding Wong's protest and UM's response.
Wong was previously the chairman of Umany.
Earlier today, UM issued a two-page statement regarding Wong's solo protest yesterday at UM's 59th convocation.
While it did not name the student who carried out the protest, the university said the civil engineering graduate had carried a placard with the words “Undur VC” (Step down VC) and “Tolak Rasis” (Reject Racist) and shouted “Ini tanah Malaysia” (This is Malaysian land) onstage when receiving the scroll.
Slamming Wong's actions, UM said the protest was in breach of protocol and ceremony and had tarnished the university's name.
Calling the protest rude and unacceptable, UM said it had lodged a police report over the incident and will be leaving it to the authorities to investigate and take further steps.
In an indication of the mixed reactions from Wong's act of protest yesterday, a petition has been started yesterday on Change.org to call for UM to retract Wong's degree.
The petition purported to be started by Penggerak Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya is addressed to the UM vice-chancellor and has at the time of writing garnered 48,492 signatures.
The online petition also defends the actions of the UM vice-chancellor during the Malay Dignity Congress.