Hold academic freedom rally in stadium, Hisham tells undergrads

By Yow Hong Chieh, The Malaysian Insider

GOMBAK, Oct 26 — University students’ group Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM) can hold its mass rally for academic freedom next month in a stadium, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said last night.

In an apparent reference to the July 9 Bersih street rally, he said the student rights group was free to air its grouses as long as the rally did not endanger public safety or cost the local economy millions.

“If you want to have it at a stadium, by all means, you can shout all night,” he told The Malaysian Insider at the International Islamic University of Malaysia (UIA) here last night.

“That’s what Himpun did and it didn’t cause any traffic jams, it didn’t cost us millions of dollars and there was no risk of possible repercussions, whether along religious or racial lines.”

But Hishammuddin questioned SMM’s agenda, pointing out that members of the group were still waiting outside after handing him a memorandum during the Prime Minister’s Cup Debate at UIA’s Gombak campus here.

Hishammuddin had filled in for Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who cancelled his appearance at UIA Gombak after SMM announced it would greet the prime minister with a protest.

“There’s no harm in constructive criticism but, after receiving the memo… with an open heart, for some of them to still be waiting at 11.30pm raises questions as to what are their true motives,” Hishammuddin said.

SMM held a protest during the home minister’s visit to UIA last night but only managed to draw some 40 students.

The group was protesting UIA’s probe into comments made by Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari about the Selangor Sultan.

UIA suspended Aziz last week after he questioned remarks made by the Selangor Sultan in connection with the raid on Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) in August.

The constitutional expert’s statement caused a furore among Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs in Parliament, who urged that action be taken against the don.

The outspoken academic chose not to apologise for his remarks even after a police report was lodged against him, insisting he had not meant to challenge the Sultan.