Maszlee to universities: Criticise attack on UM students strongly, don’t take easy way out

Ida Lim
Students protest Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s meet-and-greet session in front of Restoran Amjal near Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur March 22, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, March 24 — Public university administrators should strongly condemn the Friday attack on Universiti Malaya (UM) students, Education Minister Maszlee Malik said today.

Weighing in on the incident when UM students protesting against Datuk Seri Najib Razak were physically attacked by the latter’s supporters, Maszlee reminded universities’ management to always uphold the views and freedom of undergraduates as long as it does not violate the country’s laws and the university’s rules.

“It is not appropriate for the university management to show a vague attitude and take the easy way when our undergraduates are attacked by irresponsible quarters.

“This happened a few days ago and the same incident can happen in other campuses if everyone takes a perfunctory approach,” he said in a statement today.

“All vice-chancellors especially should display an attitude of condemning the uncivilised actions of a group of individuals who attacked these undergraduates,” he added.

In his latest statement on the incident, Maszlee did not specifically pinpoint any university in his criticism and reminder.

But his statement comes a day after UM issued a statement on the incident, with the university confirming that six of its students had held placards outside the university campus and that they did not suffer any serious injuries from the attack.

While saying that it consistently gave its students the freedom to voice their views and acknowledging the undergraduates’ role in nation-building through active participation in political activities, UM also took the view that it did not support “provocation”.

“At the same time, UM does not support any form of acts of verbal or visual provocation, either by the students or by certain groups, in light of the fact that Malaysian society is heading towards a civil society based on courtesy and politeness,” UM had said yesterday.

UM also cited its vice-chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim as saying that the attack could have been avoided if all involved had refrained from “provocative” words and actions.

The vice-chancellor was also cited expressing hope that all those involved in the incident — regardless of whether they are the students or the supporters of a “certain group” — would act more maturely in the future without using force.

Maszlee in his first statement on Friday had told undergraduates to not be ashamed and to press forward to state the truth, while also saying that universities are not a place for gangsters and extremists and that the authorities should take action if violence was involved.

The Friday incident which went viral saw a group of Najib’s supporters hurl verbal racial abuse at the students for holding up placards, with the placards demanding he return the people’s money and asking where funds of RM2.6 billion had gone.

Upon the students’ refusal to give up their placards, the group became physically aggressive, reportedly slapping them, pulling at their hair, strangling them, and destroying their items. The supporters subsequently filed a police report over the incident later at night.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim in a statement last night said that police has so far received 12 police reports over the Friday incident, with statements recorded from 10 witnesses to assist in investigations under Section 160 of the Penal Code.

Among other things, Mazlan said the police went to the scene immediately after receiving information on the scuffle, adding that the police had succeeded in bringing the situation under control and rescuing the undergraduates who were surrounded by Najib’s supporters to avoid the incident from worsening.

Maszlan said that members of the public with information on the incident can contact senior investigating officer ASP Mohd Firdaus Sharil at 012-3388164, investigating officer Insp Aaron Anthony Doss at 014-9018596 or Kuala Lumpur police hotline 03-2115 9999 or any nearby police station.

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