Student activist, Wong Yan Ke was barred from entering Universiti Malaya (UM)’s Dewan Tunku Canselor despite being invited by the Universiti Malaya Student Union (UMSU) to speak as a panellist for a forum titled Freedom of Speech in Campuses as part of the university’s orientation programme.
Taking it to Twitter, Wong shared how he was stopped by the auxiliary police officers when entering the hall. He added that UMSU representatives tried to negotiate to allow Wong to speak at the forum, but they insisted that Wong should not be there.
“UMSU decided to escort me to enter the hall from backstage around 11. Less than 5 min, the event was put to a halt after UM sabotaged by shutting down the PA system. Students were forced to leave,” Wong said.
1. Was invited by Student Union-UMSU to attend an academic forum titled ‘Freedom of speech in the campus’ during the Universiti Malaya orientation week with Prof Azmi Sharom. I was stopped by the security at the entrance around 10.30am, more staffs were sent to surround the hall. pic.twitter.com/SxEPyZ6tUk— Wong Yan Ke (@yankewong96) October 13, 2022
In 2019, Wong protested against the then vice-chancellor (VC)’s remarks and called for his resignation. Wong alleged that the then VC is promoting racism and hatred through a speech made during the Malay Dignity Congress on 6 October 2019.
“Three years later, nothing changes even we have a new lineup of top management. They react the same towards dissenters,” Wong wrote.
“When we tried to discuss the matter academically using the so-called ‘proper platform’, UM chose to silence us. Therefore, they can’t blame us for being radical, protesting, escalate the movement to make our voices heard. How UM reacted today breaks the myth of ‘proper platform’,” he added.
As advice to the juniors, Wong urged them to think critically and make a comparative study of the country’s academic freedom, culture and activities with other countries and “figure out why UM regress instead of progress”.
Meanwhile, The Vibes reported that some students had complained about Wong’s presence as a panelist at the forum.
According to final-year student Amirul Fahmi, Wong had a ‘bad reputation’ at UM and he claims that Wong’s involvement in university programmes would have painted the institute in a bad light.
“I stand by my decision to lodge a complaint against Wong. There was nothing legally wrong with my act and I did not intend to restrict anyone’s freedom of speech,” he said.
“There are many other more suitable people they (UMSU) could have invited to speak at the forum. Why did they have to platform someone with a bad reputation in UM?”
On the other hand, UMSU president Ooi Guo Shen explained that they invited Wong as a last-minute substitute for the human rights group Suaram, who was unable to attend the forum due to “emergency circumstances”.
“Wong also has experience in dealing with student-related matters as he was part of the technical committee formed by the Education Ministry in 2018 for the abolishment of Auku,” Ooi said.
Commenting on the complaint lodged by Amirul, Ooi said that he has the right to lodge a complaint but this does not mean the university has to stop the event.
“If Wong says anything wrong during the event, UM can take action later. Instead, they chose to pre-censor and deny students the right to make up their own minds,” he said.