Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Najib’s youthful critic barred from speaking at universities

Asia's best debater Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and critic of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been barred by the Higher Education Ministry from speaking at two universities, on the grounds that he would "bring in external provocation". The youth was supposed to speak at Universiti Tenaga Nasional (Uniten) today but the event was cancelled. Another slot at Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia's (Usim) programme tomorrow has also been postponed, the law student told The Malaysian Insider. Syed Saddiq, 23, said he was disappointed with the ministry and added that its decision was unsubstantiated. "What is saddest, is my 'ceramah' has nothing to do with politics. "I was going to talk about Palestine, the plight of the Palestinians, the Rohingya issue, the refugee crisis and volunteerism among youths." The former Perdana Fellow has emerged as a critic of Najib, recently founding the youth group Challenger, which its first statement was on rejecting the prime minister's leadership.  Last October, he wrote a scathing Facebook post against Najib, describing the prime minister as a "national disgrace". Syed Saddiq was also the emcee at the launch of the Citizens' Declaration and the Save Malaysia movement initiated by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. At 23, the final year International Islamic University Malaysia student was also the youngest signee of the declaration. He said he was informed that his speaking engagements were off by the student bodies of the two universities, and was told that the directive came from the ministry, which was under orders of the Prime Minister's Office. He said the directive did not explain what "external provocation" meant, but added that it was possible that his recent involvement in the Citizens' Declaration and his critical statements could have been a factor. "So, I was just notified by the two student bodies. Uniten told me they have cancelled the event, which was supposed to happen today. Usim's event tomorrow has been postponed. "There is a big possibility that this is because of the statements I had made before." Syed Saddiq said there was nothing he could do about it, and even the universities, which gave the nod for the events, were in confusion because the directive came at the last minute. The youth, who won the 2015 Asian British Parliamentary Debating Championship, Asia's Overall Best Speaker awards at the 2015 United Asian Debating Championship in Bali, Indonesia and the 2012 ABP in Jakarta, Indonesia, also voiced his frustration over the incident on his Facebook page. He said this episode showed how limited academic freedom was in Malaysian universities. "I didn't know I could be a threat to university students by discussing about our brothers and sisters in Palestine. "I implore YB (Datuk Seri) Idris Jusoh, the minister of Higher Education to look into this matter. As a reformer, this is very uncharacteristic of his office. I am sure that this can be resolved amicably. "#SoaringUpwards cannot take place when intellectual discussions are suppressed. If this culture of silencing continues, we'll just end up spiraling downwards," he said. – March 8, 2016.]]>

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