UM graduate claims trial over alleged provocative remarks in VC protest

Wong Yan Ke is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 26, 2020. ― Pictures by Firdaus Latif
Wong Yan Ke is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 26, 2020. ― Pictures by Firdaus Latif

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 — Universiti Malaya (UM) graduate Wong Yan Ke has claimed trial at the Magistrate’s Court today for allegedly attempting to provoke a breach of the peace over his protest against the university’s vice-chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim during his graduation ceremony in October last year. 

He is accused of committing the offence around 10am at Dewan Tunku Canselor, Universiti Malaya, Jalan Lingkungan Budi on October 14, 2019.

According to the charge, he is accused of humiliating Abdul Rahim and guests present during the university’s 59th convocation with the knowledge of anger incited following the incident would cause a breach of peace.

The charge, under Section 504 of the Penal Code, carries imprisonment which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both, upon conviction.

Wong, who is 24 this year, pleaded not guilty to the charge when read by a court interpreter.

Deputy public prosecutor Mohd Sophian Zakaria then offered RM10,000 bail with one surety with additional condition as it was a public interest case and a stern reminder to the accused.

Among the additional conditions the prosecution asked for the court to consider was to compel the accused to report to a nearest police station monthly.

Lawyer Rajsurian Pillai who represented Wong, then argued for the court to impose a lower bail as his client had rendered full cooperation to the authorities the whole time, before further arguing that bails were meant to secure an accused’s attendance.

“The investigating officer himself can confirm my client had attended every meeting with the police. There is nothing to prove he is either going to abscond, tamper with the evidence or disturb witnesses.

“I do not see reason to impose [bail]. He merely voiced his opinion according to his constitutional right under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution,” he said during mitigation.

Lawyer Rajsurian Pillai speaks to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 26, 2020.
Lawyer Rajsurian Pillai speaks to reporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court February 26, 2020.

Rajsurian also said his client who had since graduated, is now unemployed and has no prior criminal record.

Magistrate Fardiana Haryanti Ahmad Razali then set bail at RM3,000 with one surety with no additional condition.

She also fixed the case for mention on March 26.

Watching briefs were held by lawyer Siti Kasim for Malaysian Action For Justice and Unity (Maju) foundation; with lawyers Vince Tan and SP Chaura for the Malaysian Bar.

On October 14, 2019, Wong had staged a solo protest during UM’s 59th convocation, and he was said to have carried a placard bearing the words “Undur VC” (Step down VC) and “Tolak Rasis” (Reject Racist) and shouted “Ini tanah Malaysia” (This is Malaysian soil) onstage when receiving the scroll for his bachelor’s degree.

UM issued a press statement the next day criticising Wong’s actions, which it said was a breach of protocol and had allegedly tarnished the university’s name.

It also said then that it lodged a police report over the incident.

Following that and other police reports lodged against him over the protest, Wong was questioned by the police on October 16 for investigations under Section 504.

Wong previously told the media that his protest was an act of last resort after previous attempts to engage with the vice-chancellor’s office, and also criticised the vice-chancellor’s speech in the Malay Dignity Congress held the same month which had alleged racial elements as allegedly damaging to the university’s reputation.

Abdul Rahim had reportedly spoken about the decline in Malays’ political dominance and that Malay privileges were being questioned, among other things.

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