Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Slap on the Wrist forthcoming for UPM Hoodlums?

From the rash of articles that have popped out of the woodwork about the UPM canteen incident, I am able to distil 3 headings for this blog.

1. The incident at UPM is not the first or only incident.
2. The reaction from UPM's faculty is muted.
3. What is the real issue here?!

1. Other incidents.

There have been other similar incidents in UM and USM, besides UPM.

UPM (the incident with the video).
Below are excerpts from news reports about the basis of the incident:

UPM's Students Progressive Front (SPF) coordinator and student Ooi Tze Min, 22, described how some 50 members of the ruling student body allegedly humiliated him and six others in one of the canteens.

The SPF had set up a counter to assist new students but was told to leave because they were not recognised by the university and its student body.

There are also pictures of Ooi pasted at bus stops around the university with a caption blaming him for the student unrest.

“All we wanted to do was to help new students in financial difficulties, and getting the used to their new surroundings and bus routes,” Ooi said.

“We did not do anything wrong, yet we were shouted at and bullied,” he added.

Wong Teck Chi, described how three members of the UMANY association were bullied after identifying and helping new students at the 12th residential college.

“Our members had their bags taken and were prevented from leaving by college and student affairs officers,” he said.

He said they had reported the incident to the safety department.
Lee Huat Seng claimed that university officials had told first-year students on July 12 not to participate in any SPF activities the next day.

“The authorities threatened students with cancelling their PTPTN loans if they were found attending such activities,” he said.
It seems that the established student organisations and faculty of our local universities don't welcome new organisations. Even if the objective and activities of those organisations are simply to help new students acclimatise to uni life etc. Why the dislike? Why the over-reaction? Is there a co-relation between the fact that these new societies generally comprise non-Malay students and the established ones are fully Malay and pro-establishment (which is comprised of a predominantly Malay faculty anyway)?

2. Official reactions.
Universiti Putra Malaysia has described the bullying incident at its canteen as “a very unfortunate incident."

All the students should stay cool," said its academic and international affairs deputy vice-chancellor Prof Dr Radin Umar Radin Soladi.

"We are very concerned with what happened." He added that the student affairs department was investigating the matter. “The whole sequence and all aspects of the incident will be looked at before anyone is reprimanded," he said. Prof Radin said the students could have discussed the problem with mutual respect.

“I was made to understand that a number of boys involved had just finished a rugby game and were probably pumped up because of this,” he said. Prof Radin added that from an academic point of view, there would be greater focus on teaching students soft skills such as having mutual respect for one another.
The very muted reaction of UPM's faculty has a very bad stink that a slap on a wrist is on the cards. What has a rugby game got to do with anything? Bringing it up is just ridiculous.

Some comments on the internet have identified some of the individual gangsters in the video to be the offspring of certain communal political party leaders, who could be in a position to orchestrate just such a slap on the wrist. These allegations are of course unverified.

3. The real issue.

It's not about the registration and certification of clubs and societies. It's not about misunderstandings or differences in opinions between organisations. The relationship between the SPF, UMANY or whatever with other 'registered' clubs and societies are not the concern. It's not even an issue.

It is about the fact that there are certain groups of students who feel that their viewpoint is the singlular acceptable viewpoint. And even more importantly, it's about the fact that they feel they are entitled to bully, threaten, intimidate and curb the rights & freedoms of other students based on their own prejudices.

And it's about the fact that a potentially violent situation (certainly a definite situation of criminal intimidation, reckless endangerment and issuing of threats to afflict bodily harm), might end with the wrongdoers getting off scot free with nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

Our government, our universities, our leaders must display some courage to tackle incidents like this headon. Make these monsters examples to deter future such incidents by putting them in jail. They are all above 18, and need to be responsible for their crimes. And if their parents protest, put them in jail too for raising animals instead of children.

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