PETALING JAYA, 13 May 2009: Academics from the Asian Public Intellectual (API) Fellowships Program have described political scientist Wong Chin Huat‘s recent arrest for sedition as an “assault against academic freedom”.
The group of public intellectuals said in a statement today that Wong’s arrest under the Sedition Act on 5 May restricted the academic community’s participation in civil society.
“Dissent is increasingly not tolerated. Any fair and legitimate challenge to injustice and foul play is simply demonised by the government. We…regard this as a grave danger to the future of Malaysia and all Malaysians,” said 13 API fellows.
Among others, the API fellows who signed the statement were film director Amir Muhammad, Centre for Policy Initiatives director Dr Lim Teck Ghee, and former Penang state executive councillor Dr Toh Kin Woon.
The API fellows urged the government to drop all charges against Wong who was released on police bail on 8 May after three days of being locked up.
They also urged the government to keep its word about opening up spaces for all Malaysians to voice their dissent, not quell criticism through coercion.
“We all know that academic freedom is an essential ingredient in any plan to uplift academic standards. Coming at a time when our country’s universities have to redouble their efforts to raise standards, this action of the police is demoralising to the academic community,” said the API fellows.
They added that Wong did nothing wrong beyond exercising his right as a citizen to engage in a social movement that was committed to the conduct of clean, free and fair elections.
“His arrest and detention are an attack by the government against the fundamental and inalienable right of a citizen, as enshrined in the Federal Constitution,” they said.
Wong was arrested under Section 4(1)(a) of the Sedition Act for calling on Malaysians to wear black to protest against the “ongoing Perak coup” by the Barisan Nasional government.