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Convocation protests not proper but no need to revoke degrees: Syed Saddiq

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Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has expressed sympathy for the Universiti Malaya graduates who protested against the university’s vice-chancellor, Abdul Rahim Hashim.

However, he said, while he respects the graduates’ freedom of expression and opposes action being taken against them, convocation ceremonies are not the appropriate venues to hold protests.

In a post published through his Instagram account last night, Syed Saddiq said convocations are a special occasion for students to celebrate their achievements while their parents look on with pride.

Such a joyous and meaningful occasion should not be marred by protests, he said.

“Perhaps the graduation scroll is not important to us, but for our parents, it is something very meaningful and joyous.

“I do not deny students’ freedom of expression, but I personally believe that is not the best place to hold protests because the day is not just for us but also our friends and their families.

“Every person is free to express their views, and that is something I’ve fought for since long ago. So, I understand how it feels when our voices are stifled, and we are punished simply because we disagree with the university administration or the country.

“In celebrating everyone’s opinions, we must also be prepared to agree to disagree.

“Therefore, I disagree with calls to retract the students’ degrees. We can criticise and condemn them without seizing the degree that they worked hard for four years to attain,” Syed Saddiq said, without referring to the UM activists by name.

His stand echoes that of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who said convocations are neither the right time nor place for protests.

On Monday, UM graduate Wong Yan Ke staged a protest against Rahim by unfurling a placard and yelled "Tolak rasis. Undur VC. Ini Tanah Malaysia (Reject racism. VC withdraw (his statements). This is Tanah Malaysia)”.

The placard listed reasons why Abdul Rahim should step down. Wong did this on stage at UM’s convocation ceremony, after receiving his scroll.

The next day, another graduate, Edan Kon Hua En, attempted the same stunt but was foiled by the university's security force.

The protests were aimed at Rahim over his alleged racist speech at the Malay Dignity Congress on Oct 6.

The university condemned Wong’s actions and lodged a police report against him. He is now being investigated under Section 504 of the Penal Code, which deals with an intentional insult to provoke a breach of peace.

Wong also claimed that the university had withheld his academic transcript on “flimsy” grounds.

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Dulu, saya pernah disekat daripada menghadiri majlis konvokesyen kerana kelantangan saya menentang rasuah & salahguna kuasa. Siapa yang tak nak hadir majlis konvokesyen sendiri setelah 4 tahun berpenat lelah menuntut ilmu? Akhirnya, “majlis konvokesyen” di Airport bersama mama & abuyah. . Dalam kita bebas bersuara, kita juga perlu belajar untuk menghormati keadaan atau situasi setempat. . Jangan disebabkan kita, saat gembira dan bermakna orang lain tercalar. Majlis Konvokesyen adalah majlis untuk kita meraikan kejayaan para pelajar dan yang lebih penting, untuk ibu bapa bangga melihat anak-anak mereka bersarung jubah dan menerima segenggam ijazah. . Mungkin bagi kita, segulung ijazah tidak penting, tetapi bagi ibu dan bapa kita, itu sangat bermakna dan membahagiakan. . Saya tidak nafikan hak pelajar untuk bersuara tetapi saya secara peribadi percaya itu bukanlah tempat yang terbaik untuk protes kerana hari itu bukan sahaja untuk diri kita sendiri, tetapi untuk kawan-kawan dan keluarga mereka juga. . Setiap orang bebas untuk bersuara dan itulah juga yang saya perjuangkan sejak dahulu lagi. Jadi, saya faham bagaimana rasanya suara kita disekat, dikenakan tindakan hanya kerana tidak setuju dengan pentadbiran universiti mahupun negara. . Dalam meraikan pendapat semua pihak, kita harus bersedia untuk bersetuju dengan yang tidak bersetuju. . Oleh itu, saya tidak bersetuju dengan gesaan untuk menarik balik ijazah pelajar itu. Kita boleh kritik & kecam tindakan beliau tanpa merampas ijazah yang diusahakan selama lebih 4 tahun. . Ruang kebebasan harus dipandu dengan sikap bertanggungjawab. Saya menghormati hak demokrasi setiap rakyat tetapi setiap tindakan harus datang bersamanya tanggungjawab. Kita raikan demokrasi yang matang dan tanggungjawab ini harus dipikul oleh pelajar dan universiti. . Apa-apapun, tahniah saya ucapkan kepada semua siswa yang sudah berjaya merangkul segulung ijazah. Make your Malaysia proud!

A post shared by Syed Saddiq (@syedsaddiq) on

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