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* This column is written in collaboration with Mutiara Mohamad.

Dear friends of intellectual freedom,

The following story may be of interest to you. It concerns the story of my family, victimised by Universiti Utara Malaysia, Sintok, Kedah, confirming the emergence and crystallisation of a new form of totalitarianism under the administration of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in general, and under the regime of the present Higher Education Ministry in particular.

In early December 2004 (before I started writing for malaysiakini ), my wife Dr Mutiara Mohamad (who is also a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, New York) and I were fired by Universiti Utara Malaysia after being denied of our request for an extension of our non-paid leave (till September 2006) upon the successful completion of our studies in the United States.

We were also fired for refusing to sign the Surat Akujanji ( pledge of loyalty ); a letter guaranteeing blind obedience to be signed by all members of the Malaysian civil service.

We were fired while the previous vice-chancellor, Dr Ahmad Fawzi Basri (now deceased) was in office.

It has been more than eight months since the written declaration of our dismissal and our letter of appeal for UUM to reconsider to reinstate us. We sent the letter of appeal within the stipulated time given, but we have not heard anything yet from the institution.

We feel that we have given UUM ample time to respond. We now feel that we must share with you this story of victimisation.

We are probably the first two Malaysian academicians fired for refusing to sign the Akujanji (after UUM's repeated attempts to force us to sign it). Initially, we were not even given any explanation of what this exercise was about, which in itself is a violation of procedure.

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