Clamping down on students

(The Nut Graph) SPEAKING at the Muslim Students Leadership Convention on 26 July 2009, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he wanted "to see student leaders with dynamic and healthy minds in terms of airing views and opinions".

"I just hope that you can uphold the principle of intellectual honesty in assessing and scrutinising certain issues which arise from time to time," Najib said. However, the premier cautioned young thinkers to avoid becoming "activists" by spreading malicious slander and rumours. "It is important that the undergraduates are not diverted from the right track."

The "right track", of course, is a vague phrase that could mean a variety of things. And it is difficult not to view Najib's statements with some suspicion in the light of a recent surge in arrests of university students and student leaders.

The crime of being anti-Rosmah

Perhaps the first incident in the current series of events was the arrest, on 27 June 2009, of Mohamad Izuddin Helmi Mohd Zaini and Muhammad Syahrul Deen Mohd Rosli, two Universiti Malaya (UM) students studying at UM's Islamic Studies Academy (Api).

The two were detained for seven days on the suspicion of having been involved in the anti-Rosmah Mansor graffiti incident at Api. On 30 June, both were charged for mischief under Sections 427 and 436 of the Penal Code.

Following the arrests, a memorandum submitted by student groups to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) alleged that the duo had been arrested at their residence by plainclothes officers, who sported firearms, but came without warrants or police identification.

The graffiti is easily classified as vandalism, and the scrawls — "demon wife" and "Altantuya's killer", obvious references to the allegations against the prime minister's spouse — are perhaps defamatory. But these were suspects, not yet proven guilty. And how the arrests were made breached the Criminal Procedure Code.

But this wasn't the only case of students being shabbily treated by the authorities.

"Malays only"

On the evening of 12 July, Ong Jing Cheng and Yap Heng Lung, members of Malaysian Youth and Students Democratic Movement (Dema), rode into the UM campus, after clearing campus security. Their destination? The Api. "I just wanted to meet my friends in UM," Ong tells The Nut Graph.

Ong and Yap, former Universiti Sains Malaysia students, were later stopped by UM security officers, who informed them that the "Api was a place for Malays", and that "Chinese should not be there". The police were called, and both were taken to the Pantai police station.

According to Ong, UM security had no good reason to stop him. "We wanted to lodge a report against (the UM security guards)," Ong says. "But the police practised double standards. They only listened to the security guards, but did not let us lodge our report."

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