University leaders must uphold academic freedom, right to speech: Syed Saddiq

Nor Ain Mohamed Radhi

PETALING JAYA: Anyone who holds a leadership position at a local university, be it in an executive or non-executive capacity, must ensure that academic freedom and the right to express opinions openly are upheld at all times, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said.

“One thing that (cannot be compromised on), whether it is Dr Maszlee (Malik) or (anyone else), is that they must ensure that both academic freedom and the right to express opinions openly will be protected.

“It does not matter if the vice-chancellor is pro-Umno. We should not let important things such as the speaker’s corner allow only certain individuals to talk and limiting the topics (of discussion).

“Same goes with taking action on university students who are heavily involved in politics, or lecturers who (express) their political views being ousted or transferred. All these must stop,” he said after appearing on TV3’s MHI programme at Sri Pentas in Bandar Utama today.

Syed Saddiq was asked to comment on the appointment of Maszlee, who is the Education Minister, as the seventh International Islamic University (IIUM) president.

However, Syed Saddiq declined to comment further on the matter.

“I prefer not to comment on that because I am still waiting for more details. I was made to understand that his appointment was approved by the Sultan of Pahang, Sultan Ahmad Shah,” he said.

The sultan is the constitutional head of IIUM.

On Tuesday, IIUM’s Academic Staff Association congratulated Maszlee on his appointment as the university’s president on its official Facebook page.

However, the move drew criticism from both sides of the political divide, who claim that there is a “clear conflict of interest” in the appointment.

Meanwhile, Syed Saddiq has given his assurance that none of his ministry’s officers will hold positions as board members.

“So far, none of my officers hold any positions. Same goes with MPs from Bersatu.

“My principle in the ministry is to pick the ‘best of the best’ and not (simply party members), although I have received criticisms on that.

“If I set the right tone, we can have a mature and positive political culture in the future,” he added. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd