No law allows university to withhold, revoke protester’s degree, insists UM Law Society

R. Loheswar
The UM law society is of the opinion that  Wong Yan Ke (left) was innocent of any wrongdoing.  — Picture by Choo Choy May
The UM law society is of the opinion that Wong Yan Ke (left) was innocent of any wrongdoing. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Universiti Malaya (UM) Law Society said today it found no reason nor law to back up its vice-chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim and the university’s move to withhold student activist Wong Yan Ke’s degree.

It said that no general rule exists involving the etiquette expected of a graduate, nor are there any statutes or policies as to the extent students are allowed to protest.

“As the police are now investigating the issue under Section 504 of the Penal Code on intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace, we seek to provide the public a legal and objective perspective on the matter,” the society said in a statement.

While acknowledging UM’s concerns that a convocation ceremony is not the most suitable for a protest, it said there’s a need to take into consideration circumstances surrounding the case.

The law society is of the opinion that not only Wong, but another student Eden Kon Hua En, were innocent of any wrongdoing. 

Kon was barred from participating in his convocation after security personnel found him in possession of placards containing statements that the university deemed provocative.

“The protest had not disrupted the flow and procedure of the ceremony, had not prevented any other student from obtaining their scroll or the enjoyment of the experience of a convocation, not incite any form of violence which is why we stand with the two students and support their right to freedom of expression,” the statement continued. 

Certain parties have petitioned for Wong’s degree to be revoked but the law society pointed out that according to Part IX of “Kaedah-Kaedah Universiti Malaysia (Ijazah Sarjana Muda) 2019” titled “Pengijazahan”, Section 23(2) allows revocation only based on unpaid bills.

In addition, Section 23(3) allows for revocation only on the basis that there are sufficient evidence to show there were falsified documents crucial to his or her fulfilment of the degree requirements or had committed academic dishonesty in the universities view is not worthy to be granted a degree.

Adding to that, the University and University Colleges Act 1971 Schedule Item 1 53 allows the university to strip any conferred academic honour only upon being found guilty of a scandalous act which is defined as willfully giving an officer, employee or authority of the university any information or document which is false or misleading in any material particular in obtaining a degree, diploma, certificate or other academic distinction from the university. 

The individual however must be heard and be decided on a two thirds decision by the board.

“Therefore the UM Law Society believes in the importance of freedom of expression as a fundamental liberty that in this context, enables a student’s right to academic freedom and with that we stand with Wong and Eden who exercised their right and were wrongfully reprimanded by the university authority.

“We hope the university administration does the right by granting them their academic transcripts,” they said.

In parting the law society urged the government to review the University and University Colleges Act 1971 and said it is high time that laws exist to promote a holistic approach on the higher education focusing on the rights of students.

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