PETALING JAYA: Even as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the appointment of Dr Maszlee Malik (pic) as president of International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) is being reviewed, the minister’s appointment has continued to receive a barrage of criticism from political leaders, including Pakatan Harapan MPs and civil society.
This is evident especially after student activists Asheeq Ali Sehi Alvivi and Siti Nurizzah Dazali were arrested for protesting at the Education Ministry in Putrajaya yesterday.
Among those who criticised the arrests were Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah and National Human Rights Society (Hakam).
Saifuddin said the students should not have been arrested in the first place.
Syed Saddiq said the arrests should never have happened, saying that they had the right to protest.
“This is intolerable. PDRM (Royal Malaysia Police) must immediately release them and ensure this will never happen again. These students have the right to protest and express their dissatisfaction to the new government,” he said.
Maria said the arrests were uncalled for.
“The protest was non-violent and they were only having a sit-in. I would also like to point out that despite their release, the students are still on bail. I sincerely hope that the bail will be rescinded and the charges dropped immediately,” she said.
She also voiced her support for the protest, saying the appointment of the Education Minister as IIUM president was a clear conflict of interest.
Hakam secretary-general Lim Wei Jiet said the arrests were a violation of the students’ constitutional right to peaceful assembly.
“We also called for Dr Maszlee to decline or step down from the office of IIUM president,” he said.
The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) director Cynthia Gabriel tweeted that the students’ arrests were “terrible”.
The two students were part of a group who protested at the Education Ministry over Dr Maszlee’s appointment as president.
According to activist lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri in a Facebook post, the students were arrested for trespassing.
In an earlier post on Friday night, Fadiah Nadwa stated that the group of students had been at the ministry for about 14 hours.
In response, Dr Maszlee said he was informed that the two were arrested but later released by police.
“I am all for students’ freedom of speech as well as their right to voice their opinions. I am holding a meeting with them this Wednesday,” he posted on Facebook yesterday.
Putrajaya OCPD Asst Comm Rosly Hassan said his officer ASP Mohd Shahrizal Azhari tried to convince the protesters to disperse at about 12.20am yesterday after they had gathered at the ministry for more than 15 hours.
“All of them agreed to disperse except the two students.
“We had to arrest them as the protest had gone on for too long until the wee hours. Subsequently, the ministry’s administrative officer lodged a police report at 2.20am.
“We recorded the statements of the two students and they were released on police bail at 6.30am,” he added.
The university has come out to defend the decision, saying that Dr Maszlee was the best candidate for the position as he was its former lecturer.
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