Azmi Sharom not a criminal – Mohd Nazari Ismail

Source: The Malaysian Insider


As an academician myself, I am greatly worried by the developments of the Azmi Sharom case.

In my area of International Business, many people have asked me whether the TPPA (Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement) was actually good for the country or not.

I will then express my opinion on the matter, hoping to enlighten the public on the issue, regardless of whether my opinion is in line with the stance of the government.

What is important is that I will inform the public truthfully and I am very sure the public will not accept anything less than that from me.

In light of the above, I am therefore feeling very sad and apprehensive over the current legal case involving my colleague at University of Malaya, Assoc. Professor Dr. Azmi Sharom. He has been charged under the Sedition Act for simply expressing his honest opinion on what happened during the 2009 Perak Constitutional Crisis.

His analysis of what happened was that it was not legal according to the constitution. I am not a lawyer and as such not in a position to judge whether his analysis was accurate or not.

However, as an academician and a member of the public, I expect nothing less than Azmi’s honest opinion on the matter. If I want to know more about the issue, I will read the opinions of others who I consider experts in the field on the matter. Later, I will make my own judgment based on those opinions.

However, if we academicians are being charged in court and threatened with a stiff jail sentence and a very hefty fine for carrying out our duties, then a very wrong message is being sent to all of us.

We are being told to only voice out opinions that will not land us in trouble. Some may even feel that the best option is to voice out opinions that are in line with the government’s stance on issues in order to stand a good chance of being promoted or to become deans or vice-chancellors of universities.

Students and the public will only be exposed to opinions that are favourable to the government rather than opinions that are closest to the truth of things. This not the way to develop the young minds of our society.

Our society can only prosper when we collectively are able to develop good policies, whether micro or macro, short term or long term. But in order to develop good policies, we need lots of critical minds.

However, critical minds can never be developed if there is limited space for expressing opinions. Unnecessary curtailment of freedom of expressions will stifle the minds of the members of our society.

Of course there are limits to everything. I am not personally advocating an unlimited freedom to express opinions. Such freedom will potentially create a scenario such as in France where even cartoons that insult the Prophet Muhammad are allowed.

In my opinion, those type of opinions are slanderous in nature, can cause genuine hurt and anger among many sections of the society, and thus deserve to be restricted. In my opinion, Azmi’s opinion is nowhere in that category.

As such he does not deserve to be subjected to the current pains and sufferings normally accorded to criminals who have committed harm to society. Azmi is not a criminal. He is an asset to our society and should be treated as such. – December 16, 2015.

* Dr Mohd Nazari Ismail reads The Malaysian Insider.


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