Universiti Malaya graduate's protest: Ministry mediating

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Education Ministry is mediating between a graduate and his university in a raging controversy over strong pro-Malay views uttered by the school's vice-chancellor and the right to protest against it.

Universiti Malaya's (UM) graduate Wong Yan Ke received his scroll on stage on Monday during its convocation ceremony.

As he was walking away, the 23-year-old civil engineering graduate unfurled a placard on stage asking UM vice-chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim to resign for making a controversial speech about Malay rights at the Malay Dignity Congress earlier this month.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said yesterday that the ministry is engaging with both UM and Mr Wong to resolve the matter, according to the Malaysiakini news site.

"We are still in the process of engaging both parties to solve this matter amicably. We need both sides to engage and not to be enraged," he said.

The university has refused to give Mr Wong his academic transcript, which could make it tough for him to find a job, amid heated debate in Malaysia on whether it was appropriate to protest on stage during the convocation ceremony.

There have been calls for UM to strip him of the degree.

UM has also lodged a police report against the graduate.

Mr Abdul Rahim had claimed at the congress that Malay dominance in politics had been eliminated after the 2018 general election, and warned ethnic minorities not to challenge Malay privileges under the country's social contract.

Questions have been raised by the Malaysian opposition on whether UM and three other universities - supposedly bastions of free speech and public discourse - should have organised an overt political event with racial overtones.

UM issued a statement saying that while it supports freedom of expression, it denounces Mr Wong's actions for not respecting the ceremony.

Human rights organisation Suara Rakyat Malaysia has called for the UM vice-chancellor to resign if he is unwilling to provide a safe space for students to engage in discourse.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2019, with the headline 'UM grad's protest: Ministry mediating'. Print Edition | Subscribe