Academic movement Gerak backs UM graduate over convocation protest

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 17 Oct 2019

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Academic Movement (Gerak) says it stands behind Universiti Malaya graduate Wong Yan Ke's recent action at the university's convocation.

"Gerak stands firmly behind Wong and his right and freedom to say what he said, even (if he was) saying it in a setting that has been contrived over the years to be sombre and respectful.

"For those who say that it was the wrong venue, we ask, what other more effective venue was there?" the Gerak executive committee asked in a statement on Thursday (Oct 17).

Gerak also said that verbal attacks and depiction of Wong as "biadap" (rude) and racist were silly, unfair and unfounded.

It added that critics had deliberately sidestepped at least two main reasons why this episode took place.

"First, the organisation of the Kongres Maruah Melayu by UM and three other public universities funded by public money, three of which having a multi-ethnic student and teaching population.

"Second, the role played by UM and its vice-chancellor in the congress and whether this has brought the university into disrepute," it said.

Gerak also noted that when the congress was first announced, it had expressed its unease with the event, especially when it sounded like a sabre-rattling, race-baiting gathering rather than an intellectual meeting.

"What transpired was what we suspected and feared – much chest-thumping and very little concrete empirical findings. I

"It was indeed much like a blame – if not a hate – fest, led by the problematic Emeritus Professor Zainal Kling, renowned for once claiming that we were never colonised," it said.

Gerak said the moves by the university, including lodging a police report against Wong; withholding his transcripts and degree; and mustering students to protest against him, smacked of "immaturity, small-mindedness and the overreaching of the powers held by the university authorities".

"Such use of force and censure is not only unnecessary and disgraceful, but also shows little respect for human rights and goes against the spirit and principles of debate and discussion.

"Let us thank him for waking some of us up, but let us look beyond the 'tree' that is Wong Yan Ke," it said.

Gerak called on the public to examine and critique the politicisation of the country's premier universities and the negative implications for academic autonomy, quality, and, most important, academic integrity.

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