Posted: 26 Oct 2014 06:12 AM PDT
I deplore the latest acts of intimidation by Universiti Malaya against Fahmi Zainol, the democratically elected president of the UM Student Council, which is the highest student body in the university. In issuing the show-cause letter to Fahmi as well as banning me from attending the Monday event (titled ‘Anwar Ibrahim: 40 years from UM to jail'), the university's deputy vice-chancellor Rohana Yusof is showing utter contempt to the rights and dignity of not just Fahmi but the thousands of students themselves.
Universiti Malaya must support academic freedom and the deputy VC must stop talking like an UMNO branch leader and start showing some intellectual backbone. To suggest that the event would 'damage the image' of the university defies logic. On the contrary, such an event would help to enhance its image as an institution that fosters vibrant discourse on socio-economic and political developments. Awareness of such developments is a crucial aspect of the academic and intellectual development of students particularly in institutions of higher learning. You cannot sweep under the carpet issues such as the rising cost of living, social injustice and the use of the Sedition Act as a tool of political repression and the economically oppressive National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN).
Rather than trampling on the fundamental rights of the students in exercising their freedom of association and expression, the university authorities should instead focus its attention on how best to improve the university's international ranking. While I applaud the courageous stance of Fahmi in braving the threats of expulsion and criminal prosecution, I remind the powers that be that they cannot expect to remain in power indefinitely. They must stop the current campaign of marginalising and intimidating student leaders, academicians, professors and lecturers who dare to question the establishment.
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