Amid sedition clampdown, PM touts academics' value to nation

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today emphasised the importance of academia to Malaysia, as a Universiti Malaya law professor was charged for sedition this morning. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today emphasised the importance of academia to Malaysia, as a Universiti Malaya law professor was charged for sedition this morning. — Picture by Saw Siow Feng

PUTRAJAYA, Sept 2 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak eulogised the importance of the academia to Malaysia today, even as a Universiti Malaya law professor was charged for sedition this morning.

The prime minister also said that the development of institutions of higher learning is one of Malaysia's main goals.

"The scholars, the intelligentsia... I view them as one of the country's most important pillars," Najib said during the National Academic Award 2013 ceremony here.

“Knowledges generators, purveyors, repository of knowledge must be established and developed.”

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the event, which awarded academics with thousands of ringgit for their achievements, was a way to give the academics due recognition.

Renowned academic Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Mohd Rashdan Baba, who was the first vice-chancellor of then Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM), was picked as academic of the year.

Referring to his Merdeka Day address, Najib said Malaysians must be concerned with the kind of future that they want to leave for their children.

“When we talk about the future generation, how will they be? We don’t want them to just have academic qualifications. We don’t want to be just academics, but truly educated people,” said Najib.

Earlier today, law lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Sharom was charged for uttering an allegedly seditious claim that the events during the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis was “legally wrong”.

In a packed courtroom, Azmi pleaded not guilty when the charges under Section 4(1)(b) and Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 were read out to him.

If convicted under either the first charge or alternative charge, Azmi will face a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a maximum jail term of three years or both.

He is the first academic to be charged following a string of cases where opposition politicians were hauled to court in recent weeks for alleged sedition.