The UM protest: Hypocrisy over right to freedom of expression and speech

Hafidz Baharom

18 10月 2019, 6:38 早上

Updated a year ago


LETTER | If you still haven’t heard, a Universiti Malaya graduate decided to take a stand against what he perceives to be the racist antics of his vice-chancellor.

As usual, the Malaysian population is again divided into camps – those who agree with his actions, and the dithering mass of humanity that believes such freedoms should only be applicable when convenient to themselves.

The most astounding hypocritical argument is that it was a ceremony with others involved and it ruined the mood. Why? Did the graduate interfere with the photo sessions for your own sons and daughters?

Can you imagine if a tourist said this after saving up for a holiday and ending up in the Bersih protests?

How dare you protest and ruin their long-awaited vacation in Kuala Lumpur with your antics! Sounds ridiculous, right?

Same goes for the people arguing against the rights of speech and expression. It is a horrible argument. Should people then not protest dignitaries from foreign countries coming for an international conference like the G8, Opec, Apec and such?

Because, if so, even Khairy Jamaluddin has something to answer for his casted arm protest of yesteryears against Condoleezza Rice.

The youths have every right to protest wherever they wish to, regardless of the forum. There is no sacrosanct authority over what platform and event one can or cannot express themselves. Those barriers are subjective and set in individual brains, not collective thought.

And more importantly, nobody was harmed physically, nobody was slightly inconvenienced other than the damage control department of UM, and everyone continued on with their convocation ceremony.

Heck, he wasn’t even spreading fake news 

Heck, he wasn’t even spreading fake news with his allegations on why the VC had to resign. And this is something the university and their vice-chancellor have to answer for – why in God’s name would you let the VC attend a racist propaganda event when he represents a university with a diverse student population.

Oddly enough, the damage control department of UM did not seem to have a spin on that issue.

So why are Malaysians divided?

I have no idea – to me, the whole thing is a non-issue. It seems very hypocritical to somehow advocate freedom of speech and expression as sacrosanct, and then turn around and say you can’t do it if you’re a student.

So yes, I will back the student’s actions and words, perhaps having an unpopular opinion among those in his varsity and such – because you have every right to voice it out even if people brand you a moron, an idiot, an “otak rosak” fellow.

Because there will always be ramifications on what you say, even if it is among your closest and dearest.

However, I believe the graduate will be vindicated by his stance with the passage of time, if only because universities and their leaderships should be more independent and stop attending and bowing down to government pressure when it comes to divisive agendas.

Vice-chancellors need to understand that when they attend events, they don’t just represent themselves or the people who agree with them, but also those who will be against such stances.

And there should be a platform for them to voice out their disagreements and an avenue to speak – the fact that there was no such platform then and even now in universities is the reason why they took it to the convocation.

Students should not be herded like sheep. People shouldn’t be herded like sheep. To insist on authoritarian style decorum to please your ego and make things look pleasant to outsiders should really stop in this day and age.

Unfortunately, it seems many out there believe in toeing lines and being hypocritical, rather than accept that such freedoms apply to all sides.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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