By Azmi Sharom, President PKAUM
The University of Malaya Academic Staff Union (PKAUM) wishes to record our objection to the recent actions being taken against Professor Aziz Bari of the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).
Professor Aziz is currently being investigated under the Sedition Act for statements he made regarding the Sultan of Selangor in an online news website. It has also been reported that he has been suspended by the authorities of IIUM.
PKAUM is concerned that this investigation and the action taken by IIUM is a gross violation of Professor Aziz’s academic freedom as well as his general right to expression.
From our understanding of the Sedition Act, a criticism of a Ruler is valid if it is intended to constructively show that the Ruler has erred. In the case of Professor Aziz, what he has done is merely to suggest that a Ruler has acted beyond his Constitutional bounds. This is a legitimate comment with no statement, direct or implied, made to incite hatred against the Ruler.
As an academic Professor Aziz will be asked to make comments in his field. It can be argued that it is his duty to use his expertise to enlighten the public in current issues related to his field. He or any other academic must have the freedom to do so.
These actions taken by the government and by IIUM will instil 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.
In the words of Justice Earl Warren:
“To impose any straightjacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of the nation.
Therefore, in the interest of academic freedom specifically and the freedom of expression generally PKAUM sincerely requests:
1. That all investigations against Professor Aziz Bari under the Sedition Act be stopped.
2. That Professor Aziz Bari’s suspension be lifted by IIUM immediately
3. That due to the vast potential of abuse against fundamental freedoms of expression that it carries, the Sedition Act be repealed.