Sunday, October 23, 2011

Subject: Lawyers, academics stand up for Prof Aziz Bari
Date: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 9:27 PM

Lawyers, academics stand up for Aziz Bari

Constitutional law expert Abdul Aziz Bari's colleagues in the legal and academic fraternity are standing shoulder to shoulder with the professor suspended by the Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA).

In a press statement yesterday, the Association of Universiti Malaya Academic Staff (PKAUM) raised objections over the action, calling it a "gross violation of (Abdul Aziz's) academic freedom (and) his general right to expression".

anwar talk crown princess 250306 dr azmi sharomEchoing Abdul Aziz's defence, PKAUM president and associate professor of law Azmi Sharom (left), said that the Sedition Act allows for constructive criticism of a ruler.

"In the case of (Abdul) Aziz, what he has done is merely to suggest that a ruler had acted beyond his constitutional bounds.

"This is a legitimate comment with no statement, direct or implied, made to incite hatred against the ruler," the UM lecturer said, calling also for a halt of the policesedition probe against Abdul Aziz.

He added that as an academic, Abdul Aziz will be approached for comments on matters related to his field, and "his duty is to use his expertise to enlighten the public in current issues related to his field".

Azmi said any academic must be allowed to do so, and action taken against the professor would "instill fear in the academic community".

"It is an indication that there is no academic freedom in Malaysia and when there is no academic freedom it is impossible for any development in our nation's intellectual capacity," he said.

Thousands throw in support

Meanwhile, NGO Lawyers for Liberty said that the Abdul Aziz's persecution is a "clear denial of his basic right to freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 10 of the federal constitution."

The group of human rights lawyers, which also consists of UIA alumni, too expressed dismay over curtailment of academic freedom, which it states is a "pre-requisite for Malaysia's transformation".

"This suspension is a mockery of the Najib administration's so-called 'greater reforms' to make Malaysia a more democratic and liberalised nation," said its member Afiq M Noor in a statement yesterday.

Afiq also called on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to "not step beyond its boundaries" in its investigation of Abdul Aziz and news portal Malaysiakini, which carried his comments.

At time of writing, the Facebook support page 10,000 mahasiswamenyokong penuh Profesor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari set up yesterday had attracted over 9,164 supporters as at the time of writing.

Another support Facebook page Kami Bantah Penggantungan Dr Aziz Bari, also set up yesterday had drawn more than 5,500 supporters.

NONEDeputy Higher Education Minister Saifuddin Abdullah (left) had also expressed dismay over UIA's action.

"I am distrubed and saddened by the case...I may not agree with everything (Abdul Aziz) says and if he is wrong, then he should be punished.

"But the matter is under investigation, so the decision to suspend (Abdul Aziz) raises questions," he said in a text message to Malaysiakini.

Saifuddin added that a report has been sought from the university on the matter.

He also acknowledged that students are planning to demonstrate in support of the law professor, and that "it is their right to do so".

Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Gan Ping Sieu, too, expressed his concern on the microblogging site, Twitter, today: "Though I don't agree with many of Professor Aziz Bari's legal viewpoints, as a UIA (alumnus) I find his suspension by UIA really disturbing."

Abdul Aziz has been suspended pending investigation on his comments, relating to the royal decree on the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department search of the Damansara Utama Methodist Church on Aug 3.

He will have to respond to a show cause letter by Oct 25.

No comments: