Students seeking to maintain Mandarin class fear reprisal
Ng Boon Hooi

8:00pm, Wed: Universiti Teknologi Malaysia students who are campaigning for a voluntarily-held Mandarin class to be restored in their university are worried that they will be punished by the authorities for speaking out on the issue.

A source close to the students told malaysiakini that during a surprise meeting with Deputy Education Minister Hon Choon Kim today, deputy vice-chancellor for students affairs Prof Mohamed Mansor Abdullah told the students to refrain from stating their views to the press.

The Mandarin class was initiated in 1998 by the Student Representatives Council, with about 20 students volunteering to teach the language.

Since then, more than 500 students, university staff and lecturers have enrolled in the class, with non-Chinese constituting 70 percent of the students.

Last November, the university had issued a letter saying that vice-chancellor Prof Mohd Zulkifli Mohd Ghazali had asked that the Mandarin class be cancelled, and English be promoted in its place instead.

Following appeals against the directive, in February, Mansor gave two conditions for the continuation of the Mandarin class, that the class had to be recognised by the Faculty of Development, Management and Human Resources and that the teachers had to be qualified.

For the past months, the Mandarin class committee had sought to discuss the issue with the authorities. After they were refused a meeting several times, the student leaders launched a signature campaign to seek the support of students.

On Monday, they went to see Mansor, hoping to discuss the situation. Instead, they were rebuked for the press reports on the issue, and were unexpectedly asked to meet with Hon, who visited the university this morning.

The students have denied that they had issued a press statement on the matter. In the meeting with Hon today, Mansor asked the students to explain in writing to the university how the issue was leaked to the media.

The source close to the students, however, intimated that they would not send an explanatory letter to the university unless formally requested. No solution Meanwhile, Hon told the students leaders that he will leave it to the university to handle the matter.

“He reiterated that the university should settle the case, and that his objective is to help resolve the problem, not to be a hero,” said the source close to the students, adding that Hon kept stressing his support for the government’s education policies.

The students leaders also submitted to Hon a memorandum on the issue, enclosing 3,760 signatures from students and the Charter of Students’ Rights.

“The meeting with Hon did not provide any concrete solution to the termination of the Mandarin class,” said the source.