Minister shows disdain for students, deputy says attacks ‘matter of concern’
By Clara Chooi
April 19, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, April 19 — Malaysia’s two top higher education officials today issued vastly contradictory remarks on the alleged assault on the student activists at Dataran Merdeka, with minister Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin refusing to sympathise with the group while his deputy Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah expressing concern.
In a Twitter posting this morning, Khaled (picture), responding to reports of the attack, pointed out that no one had told the group to camp out at the iconic square in the first place.
“Takde siapa pun suruh berkhemah di Dataran, bila berlaku apa2 perkara, jgn tagih simpati,” he wrote. [Translation: No one asked them to camp out at Dataran, when anything happens, do not be so addicted to sympathy.]
But when approached in Parliament here, Saifuddin said he was relieved that no serious injuries were recorded in the early-morning fracas, adding that it was a “matter of concern”.
The deputy minister also repeated his view that the students “have a right to be there” although not everyone agreed with their views.
The group of student activists has been camping out in tents, in shifts, since last Saturday after hundreds of them marched across the city’s capital to lobby for free tertiary education, after being disenchanted by pay-back terms and conditions over the government’s higher education loan scheme.
But this morning, the group claimed they were attacked by a mob of about 60 to 70 thugs garbed in black who demanded that they return home.