Press Statement: 10 January 2012
Government must Repeal the UUCA Now!
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) condemns the suspension of student activist Adam Adli by the University Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI). He has been suspended for three semesters, amounting to a total of 18 months over charges of damaging the reputation of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI).
Adam’s disciplinary action was taken under the infamous Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 (UUCA) in reaction towards his act of lowering a flag bearing Prime Minister Najib Razak’s portrait to replace it with a flag which bears the words “Academic Freedom”. The UUCA restricts students from participating or getting involved in any political or human rights related activities. SUARAM views that the suspension of Adam Adli is a violation of freedom of expression and is politically motivated with the intention to use his case to serve as a warning for other students who may be involved or intend to get involved in the academic freedom movement. The incident reflects on the lack of freedom and independence by the students in expressing their view without prejudice and fear.
SUARAM views this development as a serious concern to the development of human rights in Malaysia. The recommendation to suspend Adam reflects the practice of selective punishment on university campuses. There is a double standard which insists that one can protest to support the university to take action against Adam but one cannot voice disagreement on university policies or to defend academic freedom in the campus. This gross injustice undermines the fundamental values of academic freedom, critical thinking, and freedom from discrimination, all of which are presumably the hallmark of higher learning and democratic society.
SUARAM calls upon the Chancellor of UPSI to withdraw this unjust decision and to restore the integrity of the academy. The Chancellor of UPSI should be mindful that this decision will establish the university’s reputation as the university that silences dissent and represses student activism. We also call for an end to the continued harassment, threats and intimidation against student activists, which became apparent after a recent student-led protest.
We also urge the government to repeal the UUCA and recognise students’ right to participate in the democratic processes and any right guaranteed to all under the Malaysian Constitution.
On 17 December 2011, Adam Adli a second-year student at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris (UPSI) had lowered a flag bearing Prime Minister Najib Razak’s portrait to replace it with a flag which bears the words “Academic Freedom”. Reports stated that the protest flag was raised for five minutes, taken down and the flag with the PM's face was raised again. Many UMNO supporters denounced the action, targeting their fierce criticism at Adam. Since then, Adam has been attacked and threatened by some group of individuals via SMS, phone calls and videos.
On 19 December 2011, Adam lodged a police report at the Bukit Aman police headquarters with regards to the said harassment including threats to his personal safety. After speaking to police officials about the harassment, he held a press conference at the entrance to the Bukit Aman headquarters. A minor scuffle broke out, during which an unidentified man who later introduced himself to be Ruslan Mokhtar, tried to punch Adam. Adam suspected that the assailant was a plainclothes policeman who was present when Adam met with the police officers earlier. He also noted that none of the uniformed personnel tried to break the scuffle.
He lodged a report with the Tun HS Lee police station in regard to the scuffle as well as the harassment he and his family in Penang are facing.
On 9 January 2012, he was suspended for 18 months by the university administration.