High court quashes UM’s conviction of 4 students

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Source: The Malaysian Insight

Counsel Lim Wei Jiet (left) speaking to plaintiffs in the case against the Universiti Malaya disciplinary authority, at the Kuala Lumpur High Court today. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Farhan Nazmi, February 27, 2018.

THE high court today quashed the Universiti Malaya disciplinary authority’s decision to convict four students who held placards during a 1Malaysia Development Bhd town hall meeting in 2016.

Judge Azizah Nawawi said the reason for the ruling was because the university did not comply with Rule 54 of the Universiti Malaya (Discipline of Students) Rules 1999.

“The disciplinary authority is required to find that there is a case to answer first, before it questions the students or the students are allowed to give evidence,”   counsel Lim Wei Jiet told reporters at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

“What has happened here is that the university, before finding a case to answer, had questioned, asked and cross-examined the students to clarify what this video is about, what these photographs are about, which the judge believes is a form of non-compliance with procedures.”

Lim said he was happy with the decision as it reaffirms that the act by the students was a freedom of expression.

“We believe that universities should be a place where critical discourse happens, dissent happens, even controversies happen.

“If they don’t allow these to happen and you conform students to ask robotic questions to esteem speakers, then you really have to ask yourself what kind of students are you trying to produce to lead Malaysia one day,” said Lim, adding that universities should provide a platform for students to discuss matters without fear of reprisal.

However, Justice Azizah did not allow the students two other orders.

One was for a declaration the rules violated their right to freedom of expression. They also said the provisions under the rules were unconstitutional because the investigation, prosecution and judgment was done by the disciplinary committee.

“We are saying it is unfair and against natural justice because the same body is the one that brings charges, investigates and decides on the matter,” said Lim.

The four are former Universiti Malaya Association of New Youth president Ho Chi Yang, deputy president Tan Jia You, publicity bureau head Chua Hun Ti and secretary-general Lau Li Yang.

They were found guilty of indiscipline at a disciplinary hearing in January last year for holding up placards with the words “Students want answers” and “1MDB – We want answers” at a 1Malaysia Development Bhd forum in October two years ago.

The four were initially fined between RM200 and RM600 and received an “amaran keras” (severe warning) after an appeal.

In September last year, the four students were granted leave by the high court to challenge Universiti Malaya’s decision that they had breached disciplinary rules for their act. – February 27, 2018.