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PSD scholar threatened with sedition charge graduates

Aslam Abd Jalil wants to get involved in the refugee issue when he returns home. He had been
accused of taking part in 'seditious' activities in an academic forum alongside opposition MPs. -
Facebook pic, August 3, 2014.For all its threats against a Malaysian student on a government
scholarship in Australia for taking part in "seditious" activities, the Public Service Department has
not acted on a show-cause letter it issued to Aslam Abd Jalil two months ago.
His studies continued uninterrupted and last month, Aslam graduated from the Australian National
University (ANU) in Canberra.
Aslam said when he received the warning in June from the PSD, he had a sense of foreboding about
the state of democracy in Malaysia, where a student taking part in an academic forum alongside
opposition MPs could be suspected of sedition.
"Students who are critical of government policies do not necessarily support the opposition, we just
want to improve the country," Aslam told The Malaysian Insider via email.
"What is wrong about having a political stand and supporting any political parties that we have faith
Apparently, it was wrong enough to merit a show-cause letter from the PSD office in Australia
demanding that Aslam explain in 24 hours his participation in the April 22 forum titled "Race,
religion and royalty in Malaysia".
He replied to the show-cause letter with a brief explanation over his role as a panellist in the forum.
But the PSD was unhappy and requested a transcript of his speech at the forum.
"I couldn't provide the full transcript as I had deleted it already," said Aslam, adding that instead he
gave the link to the recording of the forum.
"However, until today, there has been no follow-up from the office."
Looking back on the months after receiving the show-cause letter, Aslam said it had spurred him to
do better in his studies and it did not deter him from carrying on with his social activities.
"I still took part in other political activities that the Malaysian authorities might label as seditious.
"I was thinking (I should be more cautious) initially, but if people are afraid, we will never move
forward and progress," said Aslam.
During that time, friends, family and politicians rallied behind Aslam as he struggled to complete his
studies under threat of government action.
Aslam's case grabbed the attention not
only of Malaysian lawmakers, such as
Hannah Yeoh, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad as
well as Tony Pua, who was present at
the April 22 forum, but of Australian
opposition MP Dr Andrew Leigh, who
took the matter to the Australian
Parliament last month.
"I believe that both our nations must be
ever vigilant in safeguarding
fundamental freedoms such as the rule
of law, freedom of speech, human rights
and civic participation," Leigh told the Australian Parliament on July 14.
Aslam said he was able to approach Australian lawmakers over his case as he was a member of the
Australian Capital Territory Young Labor, a youth group for the Australian Labor Party.
"My intention was not to ask the Australian politicians to interfere in our Malaysian domestic
politics. In fact, I do not want that to happen because I believe that Malaysians should determine
their own destiny and future.
"However, I would like Australian politicians or authorities to ensure that while Malaysians are on
Australian soil, our freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed like everyone else.
"I believe that Malaysians want to stay here not because they want to 'check in' at the Sydney Opera
House on their social media or take selfies with kangaroos and koalas or because of the four seasons
- mind you, it is depressing during the winter - but because of the first-class system that is in place in
which everyone regardless of nationality, race and religion has a fair go."
Despite the international attention Aslam's case received, Putrajaya made no move to help the
scholar who felt he was only exercising his democratic rights as guaranteed under Article 10 of the
Malaysian Federal Constitution, the Australian Constitution and Article 19 of the United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But it has not deterred Aslam from wanting to contribute to Malaysia after he returns.
"I really want to get involved in the refugee
issue in Malaysia as there are many asylum
seekers or refugees staying in Malaysia either
temporarily or permanently without any
"Getting involved with the asylum seeker and
refugee issue in Australia really opened my
eyes about the concept of humanity.
"I admire the generosity and kindness of the
Australians who fight for the rights of these people although they are strangers.
"Malaysians have to reflect on our treatment towards our own people, migrant workers as well as
asylum seekers and refugees." - August 4, 2014.