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

Joint statement on investigations against student group UMANY and arrest of its past president Wong Yan Ke. 12 Nov 2020



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 UMANY’s statement has since been retracted.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:
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;
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;
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;
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:
Agora Society
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
Beyond Borders Malaysia
Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Community Women and Workers Network (CWWN)
Demokrat UM
EMPOWER Malaysia
G25 Malaysia
Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM)
Gindol Initiative for Civil Society Borneo
Greenpeace Malaysia
Growing Emerging Leaders (GEL)
In Between Cultura
Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM)
Johor Yellow Flame (JYF)
Justice for Sisters
Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
LLG Cultural Development Centre Berhad
Malaysia Muda
Malaysian Medics International (MMI)
Malaysian Students’ Global Alliance (MSGA)
Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (MAJU)
National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE)
North South Initiative (NSI)
Oriental Hearts and Minds Study Institute (OHMSI)
Our Journey
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)
Persatuan Kesedaran dan Keadilan Iklim Malaysia – Klima Action
Malaysia KAMY
Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor & KL (PRIHATIN)
Persatuan Prihatin Masyarakat Lipis
Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (PROHAM)
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
Pertubuhan SiraguGal
Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
Sabah Environmental Protection Association (SEPA)
Sabah Women’s Action-Resource Group (SAWO)
Sarawak Association for Peoples’ Aspirations (SAPA)
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
Sisters in Islam (SIS)
Society for Equality, Respect And Trust for All Sabah (SERATA)
Student Unity Front UKM
Taiwan Alliance for Thai Democracy
Tanah Dahai
Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
Thai Students in Europe for Liberal Democracy
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Election (BERSIH 2.0)
Tindak Malaysia
UM Law Society
Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
Youth Era Malaysia
Endorsed by the following individuals:
Yang Berhormat Wong Chen
Dr. Vikkineshwaran Siva Subramaniam
Ahmad Ghazali bin Abu Hassan
Alan Tan
Ambiga Sreenevasan
Andrew Khoo
Anson Liow
Anwar Fazal
Ari Saw
Aw Swee Keng
Azad Razack
Beverly Joeman
Caesar Loong
Carlson Chew Yee Herng
Chacko Vadaketh
Chan Pei Wen
Chan Suay Hwa
Chang Hung Wai
Cheah Khui Chen
Cheong Chan Kiong
Cherished Ng
Chia Jia Xuan
Chieng Xing Tien
Chiew Chin Hang
Chiew Choon Man
Chin Kah Shen
Chok Pit Yuen
Chong Jia Jing
Chong Zhao Xian
Choo Kim Seng
Chuah Wen Jie
Chwa See Kiap
Daniel Chew
Daniel Lim
Dean Lau Sheng Ting
Dennis Ignatius
Edward Ignatius Victor
Eng Teit Goy
Eric Low
Esther Kueh
Faye Lee Chin
Feisal Kamil
Gan Jay Shen
Gan Jia Seng
Gan Xhi Yan
Goh Ming Dao
Goh Mun Yee
Hiew Wen Tian
Ho Chi Yang
Ho Yock Lin
Hoo Yi Zhi
Ili Nadiah Dzulfakar
Irene Xavier
Ismail bin Ibrahim
Jaffar Yusof
James Bawi Thang Bik
Jen Shaun Wong
Joey Siu
John Ku
John Phoon
Jonny Wong
Joseph Hamzah Anwar
Jules Rahman Ong
Julien Chen Lip Syn
Kamarul Zaman Abd Kadir
Kenn Yeap
Khoo Kai Wen
Koh Kar Weng
Kuan Perk Siong
Lam Yan Ci
Lawrence Teen
Lee Hao Jie
Lee Soo Wei
Lee Wei Jie
Lee Xiang Sheng
Lee Yong Xing
Leong Wei Quan
Liau Pin Chun
Liew Liang Hong
Liew Weng
Lim Chaw Zen
Lim Chin Chye
Lim Chunwei
Lim Jia Yi
Lim Ru-Yi
Lim Seng Keat
Lim Teng Guan
Lim Yu Dian
Loh Xianda
Mah Jun Hoong
Mahes Balan
Marina Mahathir
Maryam Najwa Abd Rahman
Monica Heng
Muhammad Naqiuddin bin Nazri
Muhammad Rafique Bin Rashid Ali
Nabilah Aryssa binti Mohamad Askandar
Nathaniel Tan
Ng Hao Yi
Ng Leanne
Ng Teng Yi
Ng Xiang Yi
Nurul Syahirah
Paul S
Raymond Chin
Raymond Lee
Serina Lim
Shaun Tan
Sharon Ng She Nee
Siah Kwong Liang
Siti Kasim
SM Muthu
Soon Nyok Lian
Swee Huat Eng
Tan Cheng Siong
Tan Chia Ee
Tan Jia Shen
Tan Li Ying
Tan Teck Hoe
Tan Wen Hui
Teh Sin Joe
Teo Swee Tengo
Ting Teck Khoon
Ting Zhao Hong
Too Xing Ji
Tyler Lim
Yee Shan
Wong Chang Fu
Wong Chin Huat
Wang Chun Rui
Wong Yan Ke
Wong Yan Zhi
Wong Yew Lee
Yap Mei Shya
Yew Jun Huo
Yong Ke-Qin
Yu Ren Chung
Zu Peng
The statement can also be found here.