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Inspiration from two young men

  • Wong Yan Ke has stood up bravely in protest of racism. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Wong's silent protest irked some UM students who subsequently staged a counter-protest in the campus. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily
  • Wong's silent protest irked some UM students who subsequently staged a counter-protest in the campus. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

By TAY TIAN YAN
Sin Chew Daily

Earlier on, we had UM student Yap Wen Qing protesting vice chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim for issuing racist remarks at the Malay Dignity Congress.

Education minister Maszlee Malik responded, “The student should have talked to the VC... I believe he is an open-minded man.”

And then, UM graduate Wong Yan Ke protested at the convocation ceremony with a placard calling for the VC's resignation.

The UM authorities lodged a police report against the student.

Weirdly, the education minister did not say this time that UM should not file a police report and should talk to the student instead.

Very obviously, VC Abdul Rahim is not that open-minded after all.

On his placard, Wong listed five reasons why the VC had to resign. Save for the last one citing the VC's failure to solve the university's financial crisis, which outsiders will not bother too much anyway, the other four have positively struck a chord with most Malaysians.

It was unbecoming for Universiti Malaya to take part in and co-organise the Malay Dignity Congress, more so for its VC to issue racist remarks on the stage.

Theoretically, the VC should have been an esteemed educator, especially for an academically distinguished university.

This VC's performance has nevertheless put him nowhere near that mark.

The congress was inundated with racist agendas that worked in accord with PPBM's political needs and the prime minister's political cause.

It is sad for a VC from such a respected institution to be led by the nose by politicians, to the extent he has tarnished the reputation and image the university has built up over the past century, making the university he is heading an international laughing stock along with three other local public universities.

Abdul Rahim has left an indelible blemish in UM's history, as he has shamed both the university and his country.

As for the thousands of students at this university, the VC has lost his stature as a role model the students can look up to, and moral ground to promote unity and harmony within the campus.

He has in its stead trampled the institution's noble values with his racist slurs and in an indirect way encouraged intra-campus racism that has undermined the otherwise cordial relations among students of different ethnicity.

In any civilised state, such a VC would have been heavily censured, sacked or perhaps even sanctioned by the law.

But, in a country where judiciary is not always upheld and human right consciousness in want, he will invariably be spared any punitive action. With the endorsement of political parties and the power that is, everything he says and does is safe and openly condoned.

Sure enough VC Abdul Rahim -- along with the congress secretariat chief executive Prof Zainal Kling -- will be fully shielded under the government's protective umbrella, but morally speaking, they can never escape public scrutiny.

Wong Yan Ke and Yap Wen Qing have courageously stood up to expose the VC's ugly moral scar.

The moment the placard was raised, perhaps the VC felt an instant blow on his face. After feeling offended and embarrassed, perhaps he would look back at what he did -- if he still had the faintest conscience and ability for self reflection -- whether it conformed to the conduct of civility and morality, or was fair to all the university's students irrespective of race.

Similarly, the moment the placard was raised, lecturers and students sitting inside the hall as well as our ethnically diverse population should have contemplated how much harm racism has done to UM and the nation.

This is the inspiration we can draw from these two exemplary young men at the university.

 

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