The Higher Education Ministry has issued a show-cause letter to Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) as the ministry investigates the allegations of racism against the university and its management that surfaced over social media, about a month ago.
According to a parliamentary written reply by Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Noraini Ahmad yesterday, although the LUCT has issued an apology, the ministry will continue its investigation as a step to “ensure the good name and image of the country is preserved.”
This was in response to a question raised by the Member of Parliament for Bangi, Dr Ong Kian Ming asking if the ministry would investigate racism allegations made against the university.
Ong also asked Noraini to state the ministry’s plans to protect the reputation of Malaysia’s higher education sector.
“The ministry will not compromise on issues related to racism and will ensure all complaints on this matter are resolved,” said Noraini. “Section 89 (1) of the Private Higher Educational Institutions Act 1996 (Act 555) clearly states that the membership of a private higher educational institution shall be opened to all persons irrespective of sex, race, religion, nationality or class.”
A petition was launched in June demanding the removal of a racist billboard, featuring a digital illustration of the Founder and President of the university, Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing, standing with a cheetah while being surrounded by students in Sierra Leone.
The petition for the billboard removal called out the insensitive use of a cheetah and the reference of “king” which perpetuates racist ideas of Africa as a jungle, and also claimed that it added a wrongful “animalistic” characterisation of the students.
The petition also claimed that the billboard perpetuated the notion that “black people needed saving, taking away their power and psychologically placing them in an inferior role.”
LUCT later released a statement saying that the billboard had been removed and apologised for the matter stating that they “do not condone any discriminatory acts against any particular race as that will be totally against [their] mandate”.
However, the incident opened a can of worms when former university employees and students took to social media to expose multiple incidents of racism involving Lim and other top management.
Former employee Malaz Elnaiem started a conversation on her Twitter account revealing multiple accounts of racism she had allegedly experienced, including being excluded from a photo shoot that was supposed to highlight the university’s diversity.
This was the result of the re-shoot I mentioned earlier on. The one where they wanted no Africans because Bangsar has no Africans 🙄 I would like to add that these beautiful people in these pictures had no idea what was going on. Only people in my office knew the full story pic.twitter.com/QAoq8agN3X— Malaz El (@malazdotcom) June 10, 2020
There just weren’t enough students willing to come to campus and they wanted a specific amount of people so some of us (staff) jumped in. Boss didn’t like it and this is her response to Manager 1 #BlackInIvory pic.twitter.com/E9dAUPI0OL— Malaz El (@malazdotcom) June 9, 2020
As Malaz’s claims started gaining traction on twitter, several other alleged former employees and students of the university started sharing their own experiences of racism during their time at the university.
Here are some ex students that have shared what they have witnessed on campus. Thank you for speaking out 🖤🖤 pic.twitter.com/M9NEl4rp5J— Malaz El (@malazdotcom) June 10, 2020
Malaz’s claims were also accompanied by screenshots of WhatsApp group conversations allegedly between Lim and other employees.
This was another instance where they didn’t want any black people in a performance for the Sultana. I will keep a name here because this lady was a prolific racist pic.twitter.com/3snIIj1Q0m— Malaz El (@malazdotcom) June 10, 2020
“The ministry can take firm action against any quarter, including the management of a private higher education institution, who is found guilty of racism or similar (allegation),” Noraini said.
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