Rakyat akan mengingati gerakan pelajar yang berjiwa besar dengan penuh keinsafan
5:24PM Dec 14, 2011
In the run-up to a rally demanding the revival of academic freedom on Saturday, 30 students gathered to picket in Kuala Lumpur’s central transit hub today.
However, barely minutes into the protest, police charged in and arrested 15 students, who have been taken to the beat base on the premises. They are waiting for their lawyers to arrive.
Led by Movement for Academic Freedom (Bebas) chairperson Mohd Safwan Anang, the students staged a flashmob at the main entrance to the lobby.
They had gathered in a silent protest, armed with placards protesting the oppression of academic freedom.
Their demands included the guarantee of academic autonomy and the repeal of the controversial Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA).
Although they were surrounded by some 25 police personnel who ordered them to disperse, the group was steadfast and defied the warnings.
They held up their placards reading ‘We unite for academic freedom’ and ‘Give back university autonomy’, as well as A4-size posters reading ‘Freedom’.
Brickfields district police chief Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid gave them two minutes to convey their message and disperse.
However, the students, who were initially stationary, followed Mohd Safwan when he suddenly moved towards the crowd of commuters and onlookers.
The police reacted. In the tussle, they grabbed the placards and posters, and detained the students.
Wan Bari was overheard instructing his officers to bring in the Black Maria. It is not known yet whether those arrested will be taken elsewhere.
‘It threatened public peace’
Speaking to reporters while the details of the students were being recorded, Wan Bari said police had granted the demonstrators enough time to deliver their message.
“We gave them two minutes to disperse peacefully. But before the two minutes ended, they started marching in the KL Sentral hallway… this is, of course, unacceptable.
“It threatened public peace and caused inconvenience to the people who were commuting at the peak hour,” he said.
According to him, the 15 students arrested – 14 Malays and a Chinese – are from Universiti Malaya, Universiti Putera Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Selangor, Universiti Tun Abdul Razak and Selangor International Islamic University College.
Wan Bari added that the students were being held under Section 27 of the Police Act for illegal assembly and they were taken to the Jalan Travers police station for their statements to be recorded.
Lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri told Malaysiakini that police denied the students their right to be represented.
“They even refused to let us into the police station earlier, but now we are in and are waiting for the students to be released,” she said.
After being held for six hours, the 15 were released on police bail at 11.15pm.
Denied legal representation
In a related development, Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah responded to Twitter posts claiming that the 15 were denied access to lawyers.
He first said that he was “monitoring the situation” and later wrote that he has received information that the police had allowed the group to talk to their lawyers.
However, Fadiah denied Saifuddin’s claim and said the police were steadfast in thwarting the lawyers from meeting their clients.
Meanwhile, about 50 students had congregated outside the police station this evening “in solidarity” with their peers and later joined by former Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan.
According to Fadiah, a small commotion had take place the police had again attempted to arrest a student who was taking photos of the vigil but it was prevented after the lawyers interfered.
After being held for six hours the 15 were finally released on police bail at around 11.15pm.
|Koh Jun Lin
7:50PM Dec 17, 2011
The protest coincided with a roundtable discussion on the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) that the protestors say has “killed student activism in Malaysia”.
The initial group of roughly 200 set off from Masjid Jamek in the heart of Kuala Lumpur at 2pm and reached the Umno headquarters at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) two hours later.
Along the way, the marchers chanted slogans and the procession gathered steam as their numbers swelled.
The peaceful demonstration, organised by the Reclaim Academic Freedom Movement (Bebas) student coalition, succeeded in handing a memorandum listing their demands to Deputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah.
The marchers also spread the word on their demands to onlookers through distributing leaflets, and a speech during a brief stop outside Sogo shopping complex.
“We are university students who can think, not secondary school students under the government’s control.
“We have the ability to manage our own affairs,” Bebas chairperson Muhammad Safwan Anang told curious shoppers through a loud-hailer.
They called for the abolition of the UUCA, the Educational Institutions (Discipline) Act and the Private Educational Institutions Act, because they “violate human rights especially that of university students”.
In addition, they demanded greater freedom of expression for both academics and their students, freedom for students to participate in politics, and autonomy for students to manage campus elections and club activities.
Saifuddin: Students showed maturity
Upon receiving the memorandum outside Umno’s headquarters, Saifuddin (below, speaking) congratulated the students for “showing their maturity by marching peacefully” and promised their opinions would be heard.
“Even if there is not much I can do, I guarantee that we will listen to you carefully,” said Saifuddin, who chaired the roundtable discussion on UUCA earlier today.
Meanwhile, the students also stopped outside Suhakam’s office en route to PWTC.
There they handed Muhammad Sha’ani the memorandum, and an impromptu Speaker’s Corner on the sidewalk where disgruntled students took turns to voice their grouses.
Muhammad Sha’ani said he would study the memorandum and forward their concerns to the relevant authorities.
“I hope Suhakam will look into the matter, and prepare an alternative Bill to replace the UUCA,” said Batu MP Tian Chua (right, in white), who was present at the protest.
He said he hopes that changes to the Act would be done through public consultation, unlike the Public Assembly Bill that was passed in Parliament only a week after it was first tabled.
In contrast to Bebas’ earlier protest at KL Sentral on Thursday that saw the protestors arrested within minutes, about a dozen police officers under ASP W Karthik helped the protestors navigate through the busy traffic and did not interfere with the protest.