Confusion arose after Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) today cancelled an upcoming event featuring Asia's top debater Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, after two public universities had indefinitely postponed talks featuring the youth.
The cancellations came after the influential 20-something became part of the 45 who signed the Citizens' Declaration calling for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s resignation last Friday.
While Syed Saddiq said he was given vague reasons as to why the event was cancelled, Unimas said its management had never approved the event, which was organised by a group of students, in the first place.
"Actually the event had not been approved by the management and the paperwork had not been read by the management yet, but before we could go through it, the students rescinded their application," a Unimas public relations officer told Malaysiakini today.
However, one of the student organisers, when contacted by Malaysiakini , said the event had been approved by the authorities.
“Everything was going smoothly until two days ago," the student, who declined to be named, said.
When news of Syed Saddiq claiming to be blocked from speaking at Universiti Tenaga Nasional (Uniten) and Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim) broke out two days ago, the student said the student organisers had been called in by the board of colleges under Unimas.
They were told that the event had to be cancelled because the board did not want any unnecessary attention on Unimas, he said.
"We don't have the power to say no (to the board). We really wanted this to go on and we tried our best," he said.
The event was titled 'The art of speaking up: Our patriotic duty' and was to be held on campus this Saturday.
Meanwhile, Syed Saddiq told Malaysiakini he also just found out today about the cancellation of the event.
He said the organisers had earlier mentioned that they were being pressured to stop the event, but had reassured him that it would be fine if they changed the topic to something not political in nature.
Despite changing the topic to an “exceptionally non-political” one, Syed Saddiq said the event had still been cancelled.
"I am unhappy and very disappointed because I honestly thought that (Higher Education Minister) Idris Jusoh was a reformer when it came to the Malaysian education system," he said.
He previously said Higher Education Ministry had stopped him from speaking at Uniten and Usim.
Syed Saddiq said he was told by the organisers that he would "bring in external provocation", and that the programmes were postponed until the "political scene gets better".
However, Idris said his ministry had no hand in it, and that the universities had used their autonomy to block the youth from speaking on campus.
But Syed Saddiq found this answer very unsatisfactory and arbitrary. “Now he is saying that it is not (under) his jurisdiction and that it is the university's jurisdiction.
"I find it very odd that someone who had used my success in debating to his ministry's credit, now in this instance, will not stand next to me. I feel very used," he said.