MEDIA STATEMENT (10 December 2014)
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) is disappointed with the Universiti Malaya authorities for insisting on punishing seven of the eight Universiti Malaya students known as UM8 over the invitation for the parliamentary Opposition Leader to speak in campus.
Universities are the apex of learning and debate. In universities, knowledge is transmitted and ideas explored in pursuit of truth. In universities, students learn to develop critical thinking by testing the truth of ideas through discussion and debate – skills that will equip them to become future leaders of the country.
Hence, in the interest of the long-term well-being of society and the nation, the freedom of expression of students must be respected and upheld. This includes the freedom to invite and to hear any person of their own choosing through orderly means.
BERSIH 2.0 urges all authorities, not only those in UM, to respect students’ rights. No citizen should be penalised for exercising their democratic and constitutional right to seek information and express their opinions, and this includes the UM8.
BERSIH 2.0 is proud of the UM8 and the academic community for rising up against institutional censorship.
Their courage is all the more reason why universities, and UM in particular, must show leadership that is expected of institutions of higher learning: drop the suspension and fines of all seven students; let them seek information, speak and associate as long as they are not advocating hate speech or violence.
The public trend against censorship is clear as seen from the opposition to the many oppressive laws, such as the now-defunct Internal Security Act and more recently the Sedition Act; the more the authorities wield their power to oppress, the more those oppressed will rise to challenge them. That was the clear lesson from the Bersih rallies.
The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0, which comprises –
Chairperson: Maria Chin Abdullah; Deputy Chairperson: Sarajun Hoda Abdul Hassan; Treasurer: Masjaliza Hamzah; national representatives: Prof Madya Dr Abdul Halim bin Yusoff, Farhana binti Abdul Halim, Fadiah Nadwa Fikri and New Sin Yew; vice-chairpersons: Jannie Lasimbang (Sabah), Ahmad b. Awang Ali (Sarawak), Abd Halim b. Wan Ismail (East Peninsula), Thomas Fann (South Peninsula), Simon Lee Ying Wai (Central Peninsula) and Dato’ Dr Toh Kin Woon (North Peninsula).