Gabrielle Chong | Jan 16, 09 5:10pm
To vent their frustrations at what they perceive as a blatant case of discrimination, a group of students today put up a banner at a canteen in Universiti Malaya (UM) to protest the closing down of a Chinese food stall.
However, the banner, bearing the message, “Uncle Lim’s stall has been closed down for (30) days” in both Chinese and Malay, was taken down by security personnel.
The stall, located in the 12th college of UM, was closed down after the sole Chinese food stall operator in the university failed to renew his license to operate the stall. Students have since complained about the unfairness of the incident and the inferior quality of the food at the new stall.
Lian Chiew Yi, a final year law student who organised a press conference for the protest today, maintained that the issue was not about race or food quality, but one of student autonomy.
“If the school authorities had involved students in discussions regarding policy matters, such an incident would not have happened. For example, there is not a single Indian food stall in UM. This shows that the school authorities have failed to serve the needs of the students”, said Chiew Yi.
“It is relevant that we organise this protest when the student elections are just around the corner. It is time that our students demand greater independence and self-autonomy.”
At 2.10pm, however, the banner was taken down by security personnel.
Siah Chee Sing, a senior student at UM, who notified the security personnel, remarked that he took action because he was concerned about the commotion at the canteen.
He noted that many students who wanted to buy lunch at the new stall were intimidated by the presence of reporters.
When pressed on the issue of the banner, Chee Sing replied, “I have no comments about the banner. However, I do not understand why there should be a need for such a protest when the same cooks who used to work for Uncle Lim (the former stall operator) have been re-employed. The food served has never been different”.
Security personnel step in
In a separate incident, a group of reporters were stopped by three UM security personnel as they were about to leave the press conference. The reporters were ordered to show their proof of permission to enter university grounds.
Although the reporters replied that they had entered the campus without any problems, one of the security guards, who identified himself as “Fazly”, warned Malaysiakini reporter Lee Way Loon, “This is not your house. You can’t simply come in here. Don’t act (arrogant)”.
However, the matter was settled after the reporters handed over their name cards to a security officer.
The same group of reporters then left for another press conference on the discovery of a pig head at the Islamic Studies Center surau, where they carried out their work without disturbance.