About 800 students gathered at Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon in a rally to demand for clean and fair campus elections.
Starting at 2.30pm, the student group began to march from the mosque towards Dataran Merdeka and on to Sogo Department Store at Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman.
At the iconic square at the intersections of Jalan Parlimen and Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the students sang 'Negaraku' before proceeding towards Sogo.
They carried with them the national flag and banners bearing slogans such as ‘transparent elections', ‘allocate funds for candidates' and ‘fix election dates'.
While on their march they shouted "rise up, youth", "reject fraud" and "long live the students". Also spotted was the pro-student mascot 'Mat Gempak'.
Police personnel were seen at Dataran Merdeka and Masjid Jamek giving instructions to the students to use the sidewalks and not obstruct traffic, but otherwise did not interfere in the rally.
"This rally was not notified to the Dang Wangi police chief as required by Section 9 of the Public Assembly Act 2012.
"If you insist (on marching), I ask for your cooperation not to obstruct traffic. But I must remind you, this is an offence," a police officer was heard speaking to the students' leaders just seconds after the march started.
Despite agreeing to stay on the sidewalks, the students occupied at least one lane on the road throughout their march.
The students are upset that the campus elections date has been fixed for next week, at the last minute.
The move has sparked critics such as the coalition for free and fair elections Bersih 2.0 to ask if the government was trying to manipulate the campus polls.
Another grievance was an alleged conspiracy involving the Prime Minister's Department, the police and the National Civics Bureau to meddle with the campus elections, dubbed ‘Ops 2020'.
Whilst Umno Youth exco member Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz, who was named as an attendee in the purportedly leaked Ops 2020 meetings minutes, said the minutes were fake, the students have insisted that it was authentic.
"We don't object if Umno or BN wants to enter the campus. They may openly come and meet the students. However we reject the use of government institutions (for campus politics)," said student coalition Pro-Mahasiswa Nasional (PMN) chairperson Edikoup Lakip Sediyanto at a press conference after the rally.
Among the six other student groups present include representatives from Gabungan Mahasiswa Islam Semalaysia (Gamis), Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM), and Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (Dema).
The students made six demands in relation to campus elections, which were supposed to be held in March, but have been postponed to between Sept 20 to Sept 25.
- Allow individual universities to decide on the campus election date and fix it.
- The outgoing student council leaders should be given decision-making powers in managing the running of the elections.
- Form independent bodies that to monitor the campus elections.
- Ensure a transparent electoral system, such as by having an electronic polling system that also prints out the voter's choice to be cast as a ballot, so that recounts can be made if necessary.
- Allow the freedom to campaign for the election, including a five-day campaign period, to allow students to use any media of their choice for campaigning.
- Provide election candidates with a campaign allocation whether in the form of financial or material support.
A memorandum would be sent to the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) as well, sometime next week.
"If they (the university) have responded, it is always to say, ‘we will discuss the matter'," he said.
Wary of political violence
The students were also apparently wary of the recent spate of political violence, and the leaders had repeatedly said through the loudhailer, "We reject all forms of provocation. If there is any, it did not come from us."
When the students gather around their leaders to hear their speeches outside Sogo, one person who was apparently the protest's rally marshal, gave a warning to all would-be agent provocateurs.
"Any provocation done by participants or outsiders, if our personnel catches you, you are finished," he said twice before the protest's leaders took turns to address the crowd.
Edikoup estimated the crowd size at about 800.
After about 30 minutes of speeches, the students began marching back to Dataran Merdeka where they were barred from entering by the police.
The students instead gathered on a road island nearby to read a declaration, sing the national anthem, say a prayer, and then disperse peacefully at about 4pm.
The reading of the declaration pledging support for greater transparency in campus campus elections was led by Edikoup.