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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Students stage demo, warn of ‘bigger’ uprising

Sulaiman Kamal | 4:24 AM | | | | | Best Blogger Tips

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OMBAK: Some 40 students from various universities staged a protest within the International Islamic University (UIA) grounds tonight, condemning “persecution” against vocal academician Professor Abdul Aziz Bari.
Gathering at about 8pm in front of the UIA mosque, the students lighted up candles and held up papers printed “Mahasiswa tuntut kebebasan akademik” (students seek academic freedom) and “Bebaskan university daripada cengkaman politik” (free university from political stranglehold).
However, the university administration confronted the students when they attempted to march to the hall where Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was officiating at the “Piala Perdana Menteri” debate competition.

After negotiating for some 15 minutes, they were finally allowed to march a shorter distance in silence towards the hall, but were stopped from going near it.
The students then exited the campus compound and continued their protest at the university gates, this time shouting: “Hidup mahasiswa. Hidup ilmu. Hancur kezaliman!” (Long live the students, long live knowledge, down with cruelty!)
Speaking to reporters later, the spokesperson for the group, Muhammad Zaki Sukery, who is also the deputy president of Malaysian University Student Solidarity Movement (SMM), said the protest was held not only for Aziz.
“This is not just for the professor. Malaysia needs to be more open to freedom of knowledge,” said Zaki, a former student of the lecturer.
“Lifting his suspension is not enough; there is still the police investigation; his laptop was even seized. He is still under pressure. We have now asked Prime Minister (Najib Tun Razak) to intervene. Whatever Aziz did was within his rights and jurisdiction as an academic; he should not be undergoing this,” he said.
Two objectives
It was understood that UIA student representative council president Mohd Ikbal Abdul Wahab handed over a memorandum to Hishammuddin at 8.30pm.
“We understand that Ikbal has handed the memorandum and the minister has promised to give it to the prime minister,” said SMM chairman Ahmad Syukri Abdul Razab.
Syukri said that the memorandum contained two objectives: urging the nation’s leaders to allow freedom to academicians and students; and urging that investigation on Aziz be dropped without conditions.
“No time limit is given. But we warn our nation’s leaders that they shouldn’t wait until we call the rakyat to rise up to protest with us in bigger numbers.
“We won’t hesitate and we already have the support of electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0,” said Syukri, who urged the authorities to reply soon.
Speaking to FMT, one student, who wished to be known only as Yuyuluna, said the government, and UIA were being unfair.
“Aziz Bari does not belong to UIA; he belongs to those who love knowledge. When he talks about the truth, and happens to side with the opposition’s stance, it is unfair that they bring him down just because they felt that they’ve been slapped,” she said.
“What about the professor who said that Malaysia was never colonised? He is a disgrace and he is the one who should be suspended. Aziz was just giving his comments. He has even criticised the opposition before,” added the 22-year-old Malay literature student.
No peace of mind
Another student, who declined to give her name, said: “Everybody has the right to voice his opinions and not be punished for it, especially an academic like the professor.”
Last week, Aziz was suspended from the university because of his comments in an article that appeared in Malaysiakini on Oct 12, saying that the Sedition Act 1948 does not criminalise anyone for making comments on a ruler’s decree.
The constitutional expert made the statement after ruler of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, absolved the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department (JAIS) of any fault in the latter’s raid on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in August.
For his views, the university suspended him and served him with a show-cause letter. The suspension was lifted last night ahead of a visit by Najib to the university today.
Najib cancelled his visit today to attend the funeral of Saudi crown prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
Last Friday, hundreds of university students held a rally in UIA in support of Aziz. They accused UIA of “violating academic freedom”, “being tyrannical” and attempting to please political forces.
Colleagues and lecturers from other universities have also backed Aziz.
The university has since lifted the suspension pending an investigation. Aziz has said the lifting of the suspension was “meaningless” as the damage has already been done.
He said that the police investigation and the action of his university had affected his peace of mind and ability to teach.

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