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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Student group slams UTM over 6-hour probe for protesting fee hike

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Kuala Lumpur.
PETALING JAYA: A student pressure group has slammed a public university for getting its auxiliary police to investigate three students who organised a protest last month against the imposition of “special fees” at the institution.
Gabungan Pembebasan Akademik (GPA) said the questioning of the students from the MJIIT Voices group by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Kuala Lumpur’s management went on throughout the night on Wednesday, which was during exam week.
MJIIT Voices is a group of students from the Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT), a faculty under UTM established in 2010 by the Malaysian and Japanese governments.
In December, MJIIT urged UTM to remove the “special fees” imposed in addition to its basic semester fees, claiming these affected close to 600 students comprising first- to third-year students who enrolled in the faculty from 2016 to 2018.
Last month, they took to protesting the hike in special fees in front of the UTM KL campus in the city centre, according to GPA spokesman Syazwani Mahmud. Some 200 people gathered and UTM tried to stop the protest.
In a statement today, GPA said the three students were investigated from 5pm to 11pm on Wednesday. These were the same students who managed to pass a memorandum to the UTM pro-vice-chancellor on the day of the protest last month.
The group said this was “unwarranted”, adding that it was done on purpose and against “basic principles of human rights”.
“The (university) management was also aware that the students were sitting for their final semester exams,” GPA added, “and they should have respected the students who were in ‘exam mode’.”
Saying the investigation was done non-stop by the “polis bantuan” (auxiliary police), GPA asked why this was done during Ramadan.
It also claimed the students were intimidated by being told the investigation had to go on in “secret”.
It said the university had, since the protests began, used the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) to “threaten” the students.
Syazwani, meanwhile, claimed a GPA member was manhandled by the police before the protest began.
FMT is trying to contact UTM to verify GPA’s claims.
GPA called for an end to attempts by university managements in the country to violate the rights of students at their institutions, adding that there should be no instance of abuse of power.
It also said the UUCA should not be used to curb the freedom of students.
GPA urged the education ministry and the committee members tasked with studying the abolishment of UUCA to step in and solve the issue. It said UTM had failed to properly manage its student-related affairs.
Last year, the MJIIT students demanded that the university remove the special and enrolment fees from current, past and future semesters.
They told FMT at the time that they also wanted the university to reimburse the special fees paid by students and urged the university to be transparent with its management of student fees. - FMT

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