Idris draws flak for ‘study first, protest later’ remark

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PETALING JAYA: A student participating in a rally will not necessarily neglect his or her studies, Bersih 2.0 Chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said.

“That (participating in rallies) doesn’t mean that they (students) will not go back and study. These students know their priorities,” she told FMT when contacted.

Chin was responding to earlier remarks by Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh reminding students to focus on their studies first before participating in street rallies.

“In fact, some of these students are top students and I doubt they will neglect their studies.

“I’m confident they will excel in their fields,” Chin said.

Chin also reminded Idris that “it is the right of students to express their views”.

Idris’ comments earlier was on the #tangkapMO1 rally being organised by local university students on Aug 27 to pressure the authorities to bring charges against the unnamed “Malaysia Official 1” stated in civil suits brought by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to recover assets purchased using allegedly embezzled funds from 1MDB.

The spokesperson for the rally, Syafiqah Anis, also remained defiant, saying the protest is being done in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

“We are not doing anything that is against the Constitution. In fact, the rally is being held in line with the law,” she told FMT.

Syafiqah praised Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi for urging the higher education ministry to not take any action against students who voiced out against the government last month.

“We support Zahid’s stance on this matter. It is indeed our right to protest. We believe that with the history of Zahid’s political struggle, he must have understood that our struggle is free from any influence and is not tainted by narrow political agendas.

“Therefore, the government should take a positive stance regarding student activism, instead of being prejudiced.”

Student activist Fahmi Zainol also disagreed with Idris, claiming that some university students are far more matured than some Cabinet members.

“Don’t treat university students like school kids. In fact, students today are more mature than some ministers.”

Fahmi said protesting and studying are two important elements that a student should have, because they demonstrate patriotism.

“Demonstrating is our last resort after we sent a few memorandums to arrest, charge and punish ‘Malaysian Official 1’.

“Instead, the Cabinet ministers should have revealed who ‘Malaysian Official 1’ is instead of scaring students who voiced out their frustration.”

The DoJ lawsuits will see the US trying to recover over USD3.5 billion (RM14 billion) allegedly misappropriated from 1MDB over a four-year period and used to purchase luxury property, including a hotel and mansions in Beverly Hills, among other assets.

Student activist Amar Attan pointed out that the fundamental reason for a university being built was to create a society that was more civilised and to know the good or bad, theoretically and practically.

“Nobody can deny the rights of a student to be part of a democratic process to speak out. Thus, the statement by Idris is politically biased.”