Several students have accused Dr Mahathir Mohamad of using their movement and student activist Anis Syafiqah Md Yusof to bring down Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
This was based on the former premier's answers during a forum on the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) 1971 held at the Malaysiakini office yesterday, which did not directly state whether he is now against the law he helped strengthen as education minister.
Instead, the students claimed Mahathir repeatedly stressed on the need to bring down the prime minister.
Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) undergraduate Mukmin Nantang said Mahathir is giving the impression that he is on their side, but was actually using them for his agenda.
“My friends and I are unhappy with the ideas and points put forth by Mahathir, not only during the forum but also during the question-and-answer-session.
“Mahathir failed to state his stand on the problems faced by students and the people.
“Now we see the scenario of Mahathir trying to use student activists, trying to confuse them as if he wants to support them.
“But we see that he (only) wants to bring down Najib and did not state a stand that rejected all the wrongs he had done. He is using Anis and other student activists,” he told Malaysiakini when met after the forum.
The third-year creative arts students also said UMS students planned to issue a statement to reject Mahathir.
“We are of the view that if his legacy continues, his cronies and family will get power but the people will remain downtrodden,” he added.
'He spun a lot of stories'
For Universiti Malaya (UM) student Daniel Mizan Qayyum, his dissatisfaction was based on the fact that Mahathir’s responses on UUCA only touched on students and protests.
“When we talk about UUCA, it is not only about demonstrations but much more than that.
“His (Mahathir)’s arguments that UUCA was introduced so that students can focus on their studies…if that is so, then what Anis had said was in contradiction with his argument, so we can judge Mahathir's sincerity in supporting Anis and make a hypothesis,” he argued.
“UUCA is a product of Mahathir's time. We do not know how thick is his skin now…He wants to undo all that he has done,” he added.
UM student Suhail Wan Azhar, who was fined for his involvement in the “Tangkap MO1” rally, claimed Mahathir was not being honest over his stand on UUCA as he admitted to empowering the Act in 1974.
“Today he has to concede that UUCA has killed student activism. UUCA killed students' talents and creativity. I don’t think we should be discussing about UUCA (in general) but whether or not students are allowed to go out and protest.
“That should be the main narrative (for discussion)… But Mahathir's statements were as if students should not protest and instead focus on studies,” he said.
Another public university student, Rahman Imuda described Mahathir’s responses as humorous.
“I feel like it (responses) was quite funny. There were many questions addressed to Mahathir which he did not properly answer. Instead, he chose to play safe and spun a lot of stories,” he said.
During the forum organised by youth movement Challenger, Mahathir said he disagreed with students protesting during his administration.
He argued that this was because the majority of students were funded by taxpayers and there were other ways of expressing dissatisfaction with the authorities.
However, Mahathir insisted that there was no longer a functioning rule of law in Malaysia and public demonstrations were the only way to protest against the authorities.- Mkini