However, the outrage felt by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia students over the ban on Chinese New Year celebration by UTM Deputy Vice Chancellor Zulkifli Mohd Ghazali in refusing to give approval for their Chinese New Year annual exhibition shows that nothing has been done in these directions as yet despite their appointment for more than two months.
The Education Minister should explain in Parliament why Zulkifli had at the last minute turned down the application by the Chinese New Year Exhibition Committee to hold the annual exhibition and why he objected to the holding of a Chinese New Year Exhibition.
The students had started preparations for the exhibition since last October after they had obtained verbal approval and encouragement from the Unit Kebudayaan under the department of Hal Ehwal Pelajar (Students Affairs).
Despite the intervention of the Students Representative Council, the organisers were told on Feb. 14 of Zulkifli’s refusal to give approval despite earlier agreement, putting the Chinese New Year exhibition off until the next semester to make way for a Rakan Muda’s National Cultural Festival (Pesta Kebudayaan Kebangsaan).
Students have complained that since Zulkifli was appointed deputy vice
chancellor in 1997, university policy on students’ activities has
become more stringent and some of the activities of the Buddhist
Society and Islamic Students Society were also banned by the authority
due to technical reasons.
The Education Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, both from academic backgrounds, should restore campus democracy and ensure that UTM ban on Chinese New Year exhibition by students is not repeated.
They should inculcate in the vice chancellors in the local universities the importance of showing respect to cultures of all races which make up Malaysia.
In fact, a Deputy Vice Chancellor who could ban the holding of a Chinese New Year exhibition by students raises a larger question as to his suitability to hold such a sensitive position in a plural society like Malaysia.