UM student group slams VC for saying Najib clown caricature was ‘provocative’

A student group from Universiti Malaya (UM) has lambasted its vice-chancellor for describing a clown caricature of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as “provocation”.

(The Star) – Suara Siswa said they regretted an unclear statement by Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim (pic) who said that unwelcome incidents could be avoided if all sides avoided provocative words and actions.

“We would like to remind the vice-chancellor that the use of images that have elements of satire, whether in films, illustrations, or comics, are the norm and has been accepted as a reasonable form of criticism around the world,” they said in a statement.

They added that the caricature had long been used in demonstrations, and the seven students who had used it last week had gathered peacefully without uttering anything unpleasant.

Suara Siswa also said apart from politics, there was a need to address the use of violence to shut down criticism and differences of opinion.

“This is not only for the seven students but to defend the freedom of expression and (the freedom) to assemble as stated in the Federal Constitution,” they said, adding that they hoped the police would speed up a probe into the incident.

On March 21, students demonstrating against Najib were allegedly manhandled by the former prime minister’s supporters.

The students were demonstrating across the street of a restaurant near the university where Najib was speaking.

A video of the scuffle showed Najib’s supporters, including Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam, accosting the students who were behind a railing.

Student Wong Yan Ke, from the University of Malaya Association of New Youth, was allegedly manhandled during the incident.

Two interns from news portal Malaysiakini were also said to have been harassed by the same group of Najib supporters.

Police reports have been lodged over the incident.

Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik reminded universities to always support students and their freedom of expression as long as it was not something that contravened the laws of the country and university regulations.