The Universiti Malaya Academic Staff Association (PKAUM) today said protests by student activists during the institution's ongoing graduation ceremony was likely driven by existing dissatisfaction over various alleged “misacts” by their vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim Hasim.
"PKAUM takes note of the unfortunate circumstance in which an engineering graduate Wong Yan Ke had to resort to drastic action to highlight the fact that he felt the university failed to represent unity amongst Malaysians by participating in the Malay Dignity Congress.
"Furthermore, PKAUM is also thoroughly aggrieved at the outright unfair targeting of Edan Kon Hua En who was denied the right to attend his own convocation ceremony [...]
"The protest itself is likely to be driven by an already unhappy student community due to the many misdemeanours and misactions of the UM vice-chancellor," association secretary Noraishah Mydin Haji Abdul Aziz said in a statement.
Even so, PKAUM stated that while it supported Wong’s right to express himself, it disagreed with Wong choice of platform as it marred the convocation ceremony for his fellow graduates and their families.
Noraishah went on to list several alleged misacts by Rahim including failure to ensure safety at the university as seen by during a fire at the economics faculty in August as well as numerous cases of robberies on campus and failure to promote racial tolerance and unity among the many diverse ethnic groups in UM by engaging in the organisation of the Malay Dignity Congress.
She added many students and academic staff were also opposed to the university’s involvement in the congress which took place in Shah Alam on Oct 6.
It was organised by Universiti Malaya’s Malay Excellence Studies Centre in collaboration with UiTM, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Sultan Idris Education University.
“PKAUM asks where are the voice of reason and the arm of justice in diminishing the powers of politically hungry vice-chancellors who use all instruments within their organisation and all political means to ensure that they remain in power, many not fit to fill in the first place.
“UM must act now to prevent further tensions developing amongst increasingly racially charged student groups before the situation escalates,” the statement read.
Wong had on Monday courted UM anger when he unfurled a banner accusing Rahim of racism and called for the latter's resignation immediately after receiving his graduation scroll on stage at the Dewan Tun Canselor.
This was followed by the barring of Kon from participating in his convocation the next day after auxiliary police found a folded placard upon his person which they suspected he planned to use in a similar protest in support of Wong.
Both graduates were against alleged racist elements in Abdul Rahim’s speech during the Malay Dignity Congress in which latter purportedly claimed last year’s change in government had eliminated Malay political dominance.
Rahim was also claimed to have asserted that Malay privileges were being questioned and warned others not to challenge the social contract.
Wong was called in to give his statement to police today after UM lodged a police report against him.
In the case of Kon, the university today accused him of intending to disrupt proceedings.
Among the reasons cited for barring Kon from his graduation were that a placard containing “provocative words” was found on Kon and a Facebook posting in which he “incited” other students to join in the protest to seek Rahim’s resignation during graduation proceedings.
UM has repeatedly claimed it respected freedom of speech but asserted it should be practised at the right time and place.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad earlier today also stated that while students have the right to demonstrate, a convocation ceremony was not the right place to do so.
Prior to this, Universiti Malaya Student Union vice-president Yap Wen Qing had also called for Rahim’s resignation over his speech.
Yap had pointed out that Rahim should apologise to students over the matter and for allegedly failing to look after UM finances and welfare of students of all races and religious beliefs.
The Malay Dignity Congress was attended by more than 5,000 people, including Mahathir and several Umno, PAS and Pakatan Harapan leaders.