Harapan minister, deputy slam arrest of student protesters
Published:  Sep 8, 2018 11:33 AM
Updated: 9:06 AM

Several Pakatan Harapan leaders have slammed the arrest of student protestors early this morning, as an infringement of the people's rights.

Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah and Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Hanipa Maidin both stood up for the right to protest.

“I do not agree with the arrest of the students who protested,” said Saifuddin on Twitter today.

Two students activists involved in a sit-in protest in front of the Education Ministry in Putrajaya were arrested early this morning but later released on bail.

The students were part of a small group staging a protest there yesterday over Education Minister Maszlee Malik's appointment as president of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).

“I was not involved in the matter (of Maszlee's appointment). I defend the right of the students to protest,” Saifuddin tweeted.

Hanipa, who is in charge of legal affairs, said he was yet to get details on the arrest but stressed that the right to peaceful protest is enshrined in the federal constitution.

“I am still not sure about the full and real story of the arrest and detention. If (it is) true that they were detained for protesting the appointment, I vehemently disagree.

“The latest I heard is that they have been released on bail.

“For me, 'New Malaysia' must tolerate the democratic right of any quarters to voice, assemble and protest peacefully.

“That right is guaranteed by our federal constitution,” said Hanipa, who is Sepang MP.

Maria Chin: Maszlee should relinquish IIUM post

Meanwhile, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah urged the police to drop the charge against the students with immediate effect.

The latter were arrested under Section 447 of the Penal Code on criminal trespassing.

"I am against the arrest of these two students and would like to voice out my support for the protest against the appointment of Mazlee as it is in clear conflict of interests.

"The appointment clearly goes against the spirit of the Pakatan Harapan manifesto which advocates for the separation of powers and respect for academic freedom," she said in a statement.

She said the appointment of the minister affects the freedom of an academic institution to function independently and warned that this could lead to the suppression of conflicting views.

"I would also like to call upon Mazlee to consider seriously to relinquish his post as president of IIUM. His appointment sets a bad precedent and weakening the democratic processes the Harapan government promised to put into place," she added.

The education minister had earlier today posted on Twitter that he will investigate the arrests of the student activists Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi and Siti Nurizzah Tazali.

"I am looking into why they were arrested as I have informed authorities not to arrest participants of this peaceful protest," he said.

Maszlee later released a statement saying that he remained committed to freedom of expression, and it was his officers who had negotiated with police for the release of two students who were arrested.

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