Students stand down, Occupy Dataran continues

Teoh El Sen | April 20, 2012
The students will resume camping after the royal concert. The other movement says the small space can accommodate everyone.
KUALA LUMPUR: The Occupy Dataran movement, which has also been camping alongside university students protesting at Dataran Merdeka, will continue its activities despite a concert celebrating the installation of the new Yang di-Pertuan Agong at the iconic site tomorrow.
The students, who have been fighting for the scrapping of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN), however said today that they would stand down and only resume camping on Sunday evening “out of respect for the royal event”.
Fahmi Rezza, the main driver of the Occupy Dataran movement, said: “We believe that the concert and our small space here can be held together. We can share this public space.”
Expressing disappointment that the students are getting more media attention, Fahmi said: “Truth is, it’s not just about PTPTN, it’s not just about students. There is us who have been ‘occupying’ Dataran since July last year.”
He said while his movement supported the students’ rights to voice out their grievances, his movement has not decided whether to support the same cause.
“We’re two different movements sharing the same space.”
Fahmi said the non-partisan Occupy Dataran does not have a clear goal but promotes democracy and freedom of assembly.
“We’re an assembly-based movement and we have been holding the people’s assembly each week since last year. It’s like our own Parliament,” he said, adding that they regard themselves as part of the global “Occupy” movement.
“We are not demanding anything. We are fighting for real democracy. We organise ourselves based on consensus. We talk, discuss and make decisions.
“We are reclaiming Dataran. Basically, we are about getting people to come together and talk about problems and find solutions,” Fahmi said.
He said when about 400 people turned up yesterday, including Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, the latter was only given a chance to speak for three minutes.
“We believe everyone has an equal say. Anwar was treated like a normal citizen. That’s what we are promoting – democratic space. We want to increase participation in policy decisions and reaching a common solution,” he said.
DBKL friendlier now
Asked how Occupy Dataran will know when to stop since it does not have a clear objective, Fahmi said: “I can ask you, how long should we have public spaces? Is there a full stop? No.”
He also said Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has verbally allowed the movement to set up three tents and has been nice since last night. However, no formal permit has been given.
Mohd Syahid Mohd Zaini, from the student group Malaysia Bangkit, said while the students will leave today, he cannot stop individuals from participating in the “Occupy” activities.
The students, as well as the Occupy movement, have been camping at Dataran Merdeka since Saturday following a rally where 300 undergraduates marched into the city centre demanding free tertiary education and for PTPTN loan scheme to be abolished.
There have been some small scuffles with DBKL officers, who were initially stern in ordering the students to leave. However, the students said DBKL has become friendlier the past two days.
Early yesterday morning, the students were attacked by a large group of unknown thugs clad in black.
Two policemen were also injured in the pre-dawn attack, despite claims by students that the police failed to respond.
Meanwhile, a law student, N Dinagaran, clutching a photo of Mahatma Ghandi, sat alone near the encampment today.
“Yesterday I saw videos of students being attacked. I am here today to [show my opposition] against any violence toward fellow Malaysians,” he said.
“I don’t support clearing debts but I support free education,” he added.

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