M’sian students in UK, Ireland moot declaration on their rights

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PETALING JAYA: A proposal has been mooted among Malaysian student bodies in the UK and Ireland to create a declaration on student activities and discourse, so as to uphold one’s fundamental rights without fear of “repercussion”.

The move comes on the heels of a decision made at the United Kingdom & Eire Council of Malaysian Students’ (UKEC) ordinary general meeting in February where presidents and vice-presidents of affiliated bodies voted in favour of having an agreed guideline on permitted student activities and discourse.

UKEC is an umbrella body and coalition of Malaysian student societies across Britain and Ireland.

According to a post on the Facebook page of the United Kingdom & Eire Malaysian Law Students’ Union (KPUM) yesterday, the declaration would strive to go “beyond” the guideline and evolve from the initial idea.

It said a guideline may serve as a “double-edge sword” by putting priority on restriction rather than empowerment.

“The proposal is instead suggesting the creation of a declaration by Malaysian students in the UK & Eire regardless of their affiliation or background, all of whom shall agree to come together and respect, protect and uphold their own fundamental rights,” the post said.

“The declaration shall be based on the rights laid out within our Federal Constitution, aiming to clarify and to finally resolve the dispute on what a student should or should not do, reinstating once again confidence in students to exercise these rights without fear of repercussion,” it added.

It said the final draft of the declaration shall be voted on during UKEC’s annual general meeting where leaders of the affiliated bodies shall decide whether or not they agree to be a signatory.

Student John Goh, commented that the declaration had been sorely needed in the past few years.

He said while Malaysian students in the UK had more freedom than those studying in Malaysia, they had an apparently similar “culture of fear”.

“As a student in the UK, I find that the declaration would be a helpful tool in rallying students together to protect one another in the event that a student should face any form of intimidation and harassment by any entity,” he said.

“The recently published story in a student blog by a student who started a petition to remove our prime minister’s portrait in the University of Nottingham is a clear example of why such a declaration is needed.

“The story is a revealing one and shows the ugly side of the Malaysian community, which used threats of violence in an attempt to stop the student from expressing his/her rights,” he added.

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