An unrepentant Dr Mahathir Mohamad has defended his use of the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) to quell student protests back when he was in government.
"I didn't do anything that I consider wrong when I was implementing the UUCA.
"I don't feel guilty, my conscience is clear. I did what I thought was best for the country and if you don't agree that is your right to disagree," the former premier said at a forum on the UUCA tonight.
The forum organised by Challenger, was held at Malaysiakini's office in Petaling Jaya and also featured student activist Anis Syafiqah Md Yusof.
The UUCA was introduced in 1971, and Mahathir had amended it in 1975, a year after he became education minister.
Mahathir said it was unfortunate that some students had been expelled for protesting during his time.
"But because of their leaving the university, the others could focus on their studies," he added.
He repeatedly stressed throughout the night that when he was in government, student protests were not allowed because many Malay students were not performing well and needed to focus on their studies.
"If they want to protest, do it after they graduate when they're not being sponsored by anyone," he said.
Mahathir added that back then there were means to seek redress for grievances such as through Parliament and the police.
However, Mahathir said the situation now is different, claiming that there was a breakdown in the rule of law, thus necessitating student protests.
"Because of that I took part in the Bersih rally, and support (student activist) Anis Syafiqah Md Yunos in organising the #TangkapMO1 protest," he added.
Meanwhile Mahathir was evasive when asked repeatedly whether or not he would support the abolishment of the UUCA.
"It is easy for me to say I agree to you but how do you do that?
"You talk a lot but if you can't do anything, how will you do it? I'm a realist, I do what I can do, if I can't do, I don't" he said.
He stressed that nothing could be done as long as Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak is in power, and hence the focus now should solely be on defeating him.- Mkini