UKM should start having open dialogues with its students instead of punishing them for expressing their views

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 27th of June, 2015

On Monday, 29th of June, 2015, the Student Office Affairs at UKM will call up 13 students who were involved in a protest on the 27th of March, 2015, over the issue of water disruptions to a number of residential colleges in the university, some of which had been without water for more than two weeks.

The freedom to assemble peacefully is enshrined in Article 10.1(b) of the Federal Constitution and the students’ demonstration on the 27th of March, 2015, was definitely peaceful.

One of the accusations being levelled at the students by UKM is the fact that they handed me a memorandum during the protest on the 27th of March (See Attachment 1). I was informed that the students were organizing this protest and as the MP for Serdang, which UKM is part of, I felt that it was my duty and responsibility to listen to the problems facing the students as a result of these water cuts.

I was also told that the students had asked UKM to organize a briefing involving SYABAS, the UKM authorities and student representatives so that more information could be given to the students including the reasons behind the water cuts and the possible solutions moving of forward.

After the protest on the 27th of March, 2015, I wrote to the Vice Chancellor of UKM on the 16th of April (see Attachment 2) to seek for a meeting for us to discuss the best way to work together to solve the water problems in UKM which are not new and has been happening over the past 10 years. Unfortunately, till now, I have not received any information or correspondence from UKM in response to my letter.

This kind of attitude reflects the larger problem at hand – which is the unwillingness of UKM to engage in an open and transparent dialogue with all the stakeholders including student leaders over an important issue which seriously impacted the well-being of students in the affected residential colleges. Rather than punishing them, the UKM authorities should be working together with the students and other stakeholders such as SYABAS, the local ADUN and MP, the local authority and the state government in order to solve the problem at hand.

As long as this sort of attitude prevails in our public universities, whatever talk of trying to attain the status of a world class university will be empty rhetoric, devoid of substance. How can a public university speak about attaining academic excellence when it continues to shackle its own students?

Attachment 1: UKM 13: Tatatertib Protes Air

Attachment 2: UKM 13: Surat 16 April 2015 Krisis Air UKM