2016-10-22 University of Malaya

October 22, 2016
Loss of Position
New Incident
Region/Sub-region: Country or Territory: 
University of Malaya

On October 22, 2016, University of Malaya (UM) officials initiated disciplinary proceedings against four students for their participation in a peaceful, off-campus protest. The students – Anis Syafiqah, Luqman Nul Haqim, Luqman Hakim, and Suhail Wan Azahar – were later found guilty and face penalties ranging from a warning to expulsion.

Sources indicate that the students were involved in organizing August 27 “Tangkap MO1” protest (or “Arrest Malaysian Official 1”), which called for the investigation and arrest of “Malaysian Officer 1,” an individual accused by the US Department of Justice of receiving a substantial portion of US $1 billion in funds stolen from Malaysian state investment firm, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been accused of being Malaysian Officer 1 by protesters. According to media reports, the protest was peaceful, with students and activists marching through the downtown shopping district of Kuala Lumpur and delivering speeches at Merdeka Square.

On October 22, nearly two months after the protest, UM officials reportedly issued summonses to the four students, requiring their attendance at a December 9 disciplinary hearing. At the hearing, UM’s disciplinary panel found the students guilty of violating Malaysia’s Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, which prohibits “acting in a manner detrimental and prejudicial to the interests and good reputation of the university” and “acting in a manner detrimental to public safety.” As of this report, the students await a written decision on UM’s disciplinary action, which may include one or more of the following penalties: expulsion, suspension, a temporary ban on entering certain parts of the university, a fine of no more than RM 200 (roughly US $45), or a warning.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about  retaliation by university authorities against students for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to free expression, free association, and academic freedom, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human. University officials have a responsibility not to interfere with these rights, so long as they are exercised peacefully and responsibly. Disciplinary actions aimed at limiting student expression and association undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.