PETALING JAYA: Student activist Wong Yan Ke created a stir while receiving his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Universiti Malaya today when he carried a protest placard on stage, demanding the resignation of the vice-chancellor.
At the time of Wong’s protest, vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim was seated at the front row of the hall where the convocation ceremonies were held.
Wong later told FMT that his protest against Rahim was carried out because the university’s name had been used for racial and political reasons as one of four universities who organised the Malay Dignity Congress in Shah Alam.
Rahim was reported to have made a racially-charged speech at the congress, which made headlines after chief organiser Zainal Kling said Malaysia was for Malays as Thailand was for Thais, China for Chinese, and India for Indians.
Wong’s placard said students had a right to judge their university academic staff. “The message behind this act is that when students or lecturers find a leader to be unqualified, then we have the valid right to criticise. Also, to ask for that individual to carry their responsibility in giving an explanation to us,” he said.
He also posted a lengthy explanation on Facebook about his action and the reasons for his protest.
When contacted by FMT, Rahim’s office said a statement would be issued later.
Several video clips have been circulated online showing Wong shouting “This is Malaysian land”, which drew shouts from the audience. Online commenters said Wong had shown disrespect for the ceremony and the feelings of other graduates.
However, he said he had not acted impulsively and had received the advice and views of several people, including lecturers and friends. He said Rahim’s remarks at the congress had led other academics and students to question the academic validity of the demands Rahim had made.
Wong has been active in student politics as president of the Universiti Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany) and in March this year he was involved in a fracas with Umno politician Lokman Adam, while Wong was carrying a clown-face cutout mocking former prime minister Najib Razak outside a restaurant where Najib was speaking.
On Tuesday, Rahim came under criticism from UM student union vice-president Yap Wen Qing who urged him to apologise to all Malaysians and resign because he had not solved problems at the UM campus. Yap said every residential college at UM had been forced to send Malay students to attend the congress.
The congress was organised on Oct 6 by UM, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Universiti Teknologi MARA. It was opened by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and was also attended by PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang and Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa.