Joint Statement: Civil Society Call For An End to Intimidation and Harassment Tactics Against UMANY and Associated Individuals

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 Universiti 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 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 an UMANY leader, and will be charged tomorrow 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 UMANY’s statement has since been retracted.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, continues 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 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 wisdoms 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 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.

12 November 2020

Jointly issued by:
Amnesty International Malaysia
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
Suara Rakyat Masyarakat (SUARAM)

Endorsed by the following civil society organisations:

  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 (PRIHATIN)
  35. Persatuan Prihatin Masyarakat Lipis
  36. Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)
  37. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
  38. Pertubuhan SiraguGal
  39. Pusat KOMAS
  40. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
  41. Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA)
  42. Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (SAWO)
  43. Sarawak Association for Peoples’ Aspirations (SAPA)
  44. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  45. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  46. Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All Sabah (SERATA)
  47. Student Unity Front UKM
  48. Taiwan Alliance for Thai Democracy
  49. Tanah Dahai
  50. Tenaganita
  51. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  52. Thai Students in Europe for Liberal Democracy
  53. The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (BERSIH 2.0)
  54. Tindak Malaysia
  55. UM Law Society
  56. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  57. Youth Era Malaysia

Endorsed by the following individuals:

  1. Yang Berhormat Wong Chen
  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 Ying
  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
  145. 吴汉坤