Lawyer quits as judge for UM's Moot competition over protest crackdown, VC's racism

Azril Annuar
Lawyer Farez Jinnah has withdrawn as a judge in Universiti Malaya's 2019 Tun Suffian Moot Competition. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 ― A lawyer said he withdrew as a judge in Universiti Malaya's 2019 Tun Suffian Moot Competition to object to the university’s response to a graduate’s protest as well as vice-chancellor Datuk Abdul Rahim Hashim alleged racist remarks.

In a Facebook post, Farez Jinnah said he had accepted the invitation to judge the moot competition before this “debacle” began but must now rescind this.

“I cannot in good conscience participate as a returning judge in view of the recent adverse news of the University’s management and handling of its students in the wake of comments made by the University’s Vice-Chancellor at the recently concluded Malay Congress, which advertised the University as being a co-organiser of that event.

“Without getting into the veracity of the Vice-Chancellor’s statement or the validity of the grievance by the students affected, I am surprised that the University is unable to view this episode as an exercise of fundamental liberties, in this instance, the freedom of expression.

“There is also that the students are not allowed to challenge or question critically, the original source of the grievance that would be the comments of the Vice-Chancellor. It is said that University is a place where bad ideas go to die,” said Farez.

He condemned the university's officials led by Abdul Rahim as elitist for claiming that students must address their grievances at a “proper forum”, saying such a mindset ran counter to the values of an open environment academia.

The lawyer said he viewed Abdul Rahim's remarks at the Malay Congress as exclusionary with to the benefit of one racial interest and predicated on a fiction.

“There is a Federal Constitution, which all Malaysians derive their rights and liberties from.

“There is no such thing as a ‘social contract’, which is a casual but dangerous euphemism designed to propagate ideas contrary to the values and freedoms afforded by the Federal Constitution,” he said.

Furthermore, Farez said the student body has every right to question Abdul Rahim's statements, before saying the latter should have the courage and intellect to defend these easily against a student’s challenge.

He also lambasted the management for behaving like bullies for depriving student activist Wong Yan Ke's graduation scroll.

“To deprive the affected students of the privilege of receiving their graduation scrolls, is not only petty, it reeks of unmitigated overreaction, at best and at worst, bullying.

“That the University’s administrators cannot understand this, is to my mind horrifyingly reflective of the state of our public universities.

“To add insult to injury, there has been no open or vigorous discussions made over the statements of the Vice-Chancellor, which exacerbates the impression that the University is punishing the affected students without context or determination of the Vice-Chancellor’s statement.

“Thus it raises the view, in my opinion, that there is an element of unreasonableness and irrationality,” said Farez who firmly said that he stands in solidarity with the affected students.

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