COMMENT | End the intimidation of Umany and associated individuals

Civil society groups

Modified 12 Nov 2020, 11:20 pm

COMMENT | We, the undersigned organisations and endorsers, strongly condemn the continued intimidation tactics and acts of harassment being perpetrated by the state and its agencies against University of Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany) members and student activists linked to the group.

We call on the relevant authorities, including Universiti Malaya (UM) and other entities, to stop investigating and questioning these student leaders, and to uphold academic freedom and our constitutional right to freedom of expression and free speech.

Umany is being investigated by both UM and the police over a statement it issued following the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s advice that all Members of Parliament should support Budget 2021. Since then, seven members of Umany, its president and vice-president, as well as two other student leaders, have been called in for questioning.

A former Umany president was also detained overnight for recording a police officer attempting to search the house of a Umany leader, and will be charged today under Section 188 of the Penal Code. Meanwhile, the Public Service Department (JPA) has asked for show-cause letters from six JPA-sponsored Umany members over their purported involvement on the matter. Umany’s statement has since been retracted.

We are disappointed that the state and its agencies, including the police, continue to arbitrarily stifle freedom of speech and expression in Malaysia, a rising trend that has become apparent since the change of government earlier this year.

We wish to remind the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government that freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed for all Malaysians under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, and should not be disproportionately restricted simply because the said speech or expression challenges norms or presents critical or alternative views.

The right to express views and ideas freely, without fear of interference or persecution, is an essential part of democracy. Respectful debates and expressions help us examine and critically challenge conventional wisdom and promote heterodox views. In doing so, we foster a more informative and critical society, one that is able to articulate their own views and alternative views, safely and openly.

We risk spiralling into an undemocratic state if our government continues to censor and restrict speech and expression without due process and at the expense of fundamental civil liberties of its peoples – as is the case with the Umany investigations. Articulating an academic view based on the Federal Constitution, as was the case in this instance, should not warrant police action.

Recording a police search of a student activist’s house also should not result in criminal sanction. The police, despite issuing a statement to clarify their actions in arresting the student activist in question, have failed to justify why taking videos or photographs of police investigations could affect the confidentiality of the said investigations.

Furthermore, we do not want to foster an environment which undermines accountability and good governance and where people are prohibited from questioning or criticising the government over public affairs.

Academic scholarship, on the other hand, cannot flourish in an atmosphere of censorship and disproportionate restriction of speech and expression. An open and robust environment for sharing ideas freely is crucial for learning as it allows students to think critically, challenge and engage with different perspectives. Students must remain free to inquire, study and evaluate, and gain new maturity and understanding.

The participation of students in intellectual debates concerning the state of affairs of the country, therefore, should be encouraged, not discouraged. Higher education institutions must ensure that they are moulding a thinking society and supporting the promotion of multiple views – not investigating such views.

To that end, we call on the following recommendations to be adopted at once:

  1. The police and UM must, without any delay, drop their respective investigations into Umany, its members, former members and associated student leaders, over Umany’s statement;

  2. JPA should uphold academic freedom and immediately withdraw the demand for show-cause letters from the JPA-sponsored Umany members over their alleged involvement over the matter;

  3. The relevant authorities must pledge to protect Umany members who are being harassed, cyberbullied or threatened online over their statement and ensure that those who are making such threats are dealt with in accordance with established international standards and practices, and;

  4. The PN government must ensure that freedom of expression and speech is upheld and protected at all times for all Malaysians by repealing repressive laws used to arbitrarily restrict these freedoms, in particular, the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

This statement is jointly issued by Amnesty International-Malaysia; Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ); and Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram). It is also endorsed by the following civil society organisations and individuals:

1. Agora Society; 2. Aliran; 3. Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR); 4. Beyond Borders Malaysia; 5. Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC); 6. Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; 7. Community Women and Workers Network (CWWN); 8. Demokrat UM; 9. Empower Malaysia; 10. Engage; 11. G25 Malaysia; 12. Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM); 13. Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo; 14. Greenpeace Malaysia; 15. Growing Emerging Leaders (GEL);16. In Between Cultura; 17. Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM); 18. Johor Yellow Flame (JYF); 19. Justice for Sisters; 20. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH); 21. KLSCAH Youth; 22. LLG Cultural Development Centre Berhad; 23. Malaysia Muda; 24. Malaysian Medics International (MMI); 25. Malaysian Students' Global Alliance (MSGA); 26. Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (Maju); 27. National Union of Bank Employees (Nube); 28. North South Initiative (NSI); 29. Oriental Hearts and Minds Study Institute (OHMSI); 30. Our Journey; 31. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM); 32. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (Gerak); 33. Persatuan Kesedaran dan Keadilan Iklim Malaysia - Klima Action Malaysia (Kamy); 34. Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & KL; 35. Persatuan Penduduk Galing Besar Kuantan; 36. Persatuan Prihatin Masyarakat Lipis; 37. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (Proham); 38. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor; 39. Pertubuhan SiraguGal; 40. Pertubuhan Solidariti Hijau Kuantan; 41. Pusat Komas; 42. Research for Social Advancement (Refsa); 43. Sabah Environmental Protection Association (Sepa); 44. Sabah Women's Action-Resource Group (Sawo); 45. Sarawak Association for Peoples' Aspirations (Sapa); 46. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM); 47. Sisters in Islam (SIS); 48. Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All Sabah (Serata); 49. Student Unity Front UKM; 50. Taiwan Alliance for Thai Democracy; 51. Tanah Dahai 52. Tenaganita; 53. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy; 54. Thai Students in Europe for Liberal Democracy; 55. The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (Bersih 2.0); 56. Tindak Malaysia; 57. UM Law Society; 58. Women's Aid Organisation (WAO); and 59. Youth Era Malaysia

The following individuals who have also endorsed this statement are:

1. Wong Chen (Subang MP); 2. Dr Vikkineshwaran Siva Subramaniam; 3. Ahmad Ghazali bin Abu Hassan; 4. Alan Tan; 5. Ambiga Sreenevasan; 6. Andrew Khoo; 7. Anson Liow; 8. Anwar Fazal; 9. Ari Saw; 10. Aw Swee Keng; 11. Azad Razack; 12. Beverly Joeman; 13. Caesar Loong; 14. Carlson Chew Yee Herng; 15. Chacko Vadaketh; 16. Chan Pei Wen; 17. Chan Suay Hwa; 18. Chang Hung Wai; 19. Cheah Khui Chen; 20. Cheong Chan Kiong; 21. Cherished Ng; 22. Chia Jia Xuan; 23. Chieng Xing Tien; 24. Chiew Chin Hang; 25. Chiew Choon Man; 26. Chin Kah Shen; 27. Chok Pit Yuen; 28. Chong Jia Jing; 29. Chong Zhao Xian; 30. Choo Kim Seng; 31. Chua; 32. Chuah Wen Jie; 33. Chwa See Kiap; 34. Daniel Chew; 35. Daniel Lim; 36. Dean Lau Sheng Ting; 37. Dennis Ignatius; 38. Edward Ignatius Victor; 39. Eng Teit Goy; 40. Eric Low; 41. Esther Kueh; 42. Faye Lee Chin; 43. Feisal Kamil; 44. Gan Jay Shen; 45. Gan Jia Seng; 46. Gan Xhi Yan; 47. Goh Ming Dao; 48. Goh Mun Yee; 49. Hiew Wen Tian; 50. Ho Chi Yang; 51. Ho Yock Lin; 52. Hoo Yi Zhi; 53. Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar; 54. Irene Xavier; 55. Ismail bin Ibrahim; 56 Jaffar Yusof; 57. James Bawi Thang Bik; 58. Jen Shaun Wong; 59. Joey Siu; 60. John Ku; 61. John Phoon; 62. Jonny Wong; 63. Joseph Hamzah Anwar; 64. Jules Rahman Ong; 65. Julien Chen Lip Syn; 66. Kamarul Zaman Abd Kadir; 67. Kaviarasan; 68. Kenn Yeap; 69. Khoo Kai Wen; 70. Koh Kar Weng; 71. Kuan Perk Siong; 72. Lam Yan Ci; 73. Lawrence Teen; 74. Lee Hao Jie; 75. Lee Soo Wei; 76. Lee Wei Jie; 77. Lee Xiang Sheng; 78. Lee Yong Xing; 79. Leong Wei Quan; 80. Liau Pin Chun; 81. Liew Liang Hong; 82. Liew Weng; 83. Lim Chaw Zen; 84. Lim Chin Chye; 85. Lim Chunwei; 86. Lim Jia Yi; 87. Lim Ru-Yi; 88. Lim Seng Keat; 89. Lim Teng Guan; 90. Lim Yu Dian; 91. Loh Xianda; 92. Mah Jun Hoong; 93. Mahes Balan; 94. Marina Mahathir; 95. Maryam Najwa Abd Rahman; 96. Mingshuen; 97. Monica Heng; 98. Muhammad Naqiuddin bin Nazri; 99. Muhammad Rafique Bin Rashid Ali; 100. Nabilah Aryssa binti Mohamad Askandar; 101. Nathaniel Tan; 102. Ng Hao Yi; 103. Ng Leanne 104. Ng Teng Yi; 105. Ng Xiang Yi; 106. Nurul Syahirah; 107. Paul S; 108. Pram; 109. Raymond Chin; 110. Raymond Lee; 111. Serina Lim; 112. Shaun Tan; 113. Sharon Ng She Nee; 114. Siah Kwong Liang; 115. Siti Kasim; 116. SM Muthu; 117. Soon Nyok Lian; 118. Swee Huat Eng; 119. Tan Cheng Siong; 120. Tan Chia Ee; 121. Tan Jia Shen; 122. Tan Li Yin; 123. Tan Teck Hoe; 124. Tan Wen Hui; 125. Teh Sin Joe; 126. Teo Swee Tengo; 127. Terry; 128. Thilaga; 129. Ting Teck Khoon; 130. Ting Zhao Hong; 131. Too Xing Ji; 132. Tyler Lim; 133. Yee Shan; 134. Wong Chang Fu; 135. Wong Chin Huat; 136. Wang Chun Rui; 137. Wong Yan Ke; 138. Wong Yan Zhi; 139. Wong Yew Lee; 140. Yap Mei Shya; 141. Yew Jun Huo; 142. Yong Ke-Qin; 143. Yu Ren Chung; 144. Zu Peng; and 145. 吴汉坤.

The views expressed here are those of the authors/contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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