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ARKIB : 30/06/2001

Fire destroys Dewan Tunku Canselor, Universiti Malaya


Firemen putting out the embers to what is left of the Dewan Tunku Canselor Universiti Malaya which was gutted in a fire June 29. - Bernamapix.


KUALA LUMPUR June 29 - Fire destroyed almost the entire Dewan Tunku Canselor Universiti Malaya (UM) early this morning.

Federal Territory Fire and Rescue Operations Commander Abdul Shukor Mohamed Rashid, when met at the scene of the fire, said the station received a call from the university's security guard at 3.45 am and four engines were despatched to put out the fire.

He said 30 firemen and three engines from Jalan Hang Tuah and another engine from Pantai Fire Station managed to control the fire from spreading to the other buildings within 15 minutes.

However, no casualties were reported.

Abdul Shukor said almost 80 percent of the hall was destroyed and the cause of the fire was still being investigated.

Universiti Malaya (UM) Vice Chancellor Profesor Datuk Dr Anuar Zaini Md Zain when contacted said he does not rule out the possibility of sabotage in the fire.

He did not rule out the possibility that it could have been an act of sabotage by internal elements (students) or outsiders.

Neither did he rule out the possibility of the fire being caused by a short circuit.

"It's still too early to say so (for sure). We leave it to the authorities such as the police, fire brigade and the Chemistry Department which are investigating the matter," he said.

He said the elements of sabotage could not be ruled out because there had been pamphlets distributed including via the Internet urging students to boycott the visit of certain leaders to the university.

He said losses were estimated at RM12.4 million but the most important was in terms of history as the Dewan Canselor had "become the graduation hall for 80,000 graduands including national leaders."

Also destroyed were 1,800 graduation robes, audio-visual aids and chairs for 3,000 students who would be attending the two-day simposium on the direction of idealism in the new millennium scheduled to be held at the hall beginning tomorrow.

Dr Anuar Zaini said the fire which started at the left entrance had destroyed the entire hall and for the moment, it could not be used at all for any function including the symposium tomorrow and the convocation in August.

"The symposium which is important to campus students will not be called off and will be held at Auditorium Perdana Siswa which can accommodate 1,200 people," he said.

The convocation would be held elsewhere and any new development on it would be announced later.

The joint organisers of the symposium, "Yayasan Penggerak Wawasan" called for a comprehensive probe on the incident and that those responsible be prosecuted.

Its chairman, Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik said the foundation believed that the fire was connected to a conspiracy by external elements bent on preventing the symposium from being held.

Meanwhile, Puteri UMNO protem head Azalina Othman Said handed a memorandum to Dr Anuar Zaini calling on the Vice Chancellor to resign immediately to take full responsibility for several incidents involving the university.

According to the memorandum, besides the fire today, the publication of the magazine "Varsiti 2001" which was said to contain pro-opposition articles and the distribution of pamphlets humiliating Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad had tarnished the university's image.

Dr Anuar Zaini had said that the issue over the publication of "Varsiti 2001" had been left to the Bukit Aman police to investigate.

"At the same time, we have formed a special investigating committee made up of senior staff of the university to investigate the matter," he added.

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