Student claims UMS staff used scare tactics to stop forum on Nazi salute

Some of the students who attended the ‘Hitler: A symbol of defiance or oppression?’ forum at a venue outside the university.

KOTA KINABALU: A Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) student has claimed she was harassed by staff and lecturers for organising a forum on Nov 30 on the Hitler salute furore by a graduate

Yeyen Khoo, the university’s literature club president, claimed she had been constantly summoned and texted by members of the UMS staff demanding that she call off or postpone her forum “Hitler: A symbol of oppression or defiance?”

Khoo alleged the group had used the names of the vice-chancellor and the deputy vice-chancellor as scare tactics to stop her from going ahead with the forum.

The forum was jointly organised by UMS student literature club, Suara Mahasiswa UMS, and an NGO called Borneo Comrade.

“Due to the constant pressure from them, I decided to hold the forum off-campus.

“But that too did not stop the harassment from the university staff and lecturers from the Humanities, Arts and Heritage Faculty, who kept on texting and calling me to call off the event.

“They felt the forum will bring further shame to the university following the Hitler salute incident,” she told FMT.

Yeyen Khoo says she was told by lecturers not to hold forum.

Khoo, however, decided to proceed with the event on Nov 30.

“We felt the forum would be able to clear the university’s name and rid the university of negative public perception,” she told FMT.

Khoo was yesterday called in by the university’s deputy vice-chancellor of the Student Affairs Department Associate Professor Raman Noordin. After explaining to him the objectives of the forum, Raman welcomed the forum.

When contacted, Raman told FMT he had met Khoo to familiarise himself with the club and to get more details on the forum.

“I have accepted her explanation on the forum. UMS welcomes any forum or event that will allow its students to be more critical in their thinking, as long as they follow the university guidelines.

“I would have attended the forum myself if I had been informed about it,” he said.

Raman said his department had also issued a notice to clubs that his office encouraged any debate, talks or forums that are organised by student bodies.

“This is in line with the education ministry’s call to provide greater freedom of association for students to express their views.

“The humanisation of such culture is stated in the First Thrust of the National Education Development Plan 2015-2025 and is part of the process of producing a holistic graduate,” he said.

When asked about the harassment from the staff, Raman said he would meet Khoo’s faculty dean to get her view on the matter and will look into further refining existing procedures for student bodies to organise events in UMS in the future without the interference of any third parties.

UMS came under public scrutiny after one of its graduates decided to do the Nazi-style salute during the university’s convocation ceremony recently.

The incident also earned condemnation from the German embassy in Malaysia which highlighted the terrible suffering brought upon by the Nazi regime during World War II.

The graduate claimed his gesture was in protest of the “Jewish dominance of the world and support for the Palestinians in Gaza”.