Putrajaya’s failure to address criticism of Rome Statute spurred students to leak briefing to rulers

Student activist Asheeq Ali (2nd right) speaks to reporters during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur September 12, 2018. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
Student activist Asheeq Ali (2nd right) speaks to reporters during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur September 12, 2018. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

PETALING JAYA, April 9 — The Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s withdrawal from the Rome Statute led a group of student activists to expose a briefing by a group of academics to the Conference of Rulers.

Gabungan Pembebasan Akademik leader Asheeq Ali Sethi Alivi told Malay Mail that he and eight others decided to leak the briefing’s executive summary after Putrajaya failed to directly address the misinformation which led to public confusion.

“Specifically, the leak took place because there was no accountability by the government to solve the confusion and to encourage public discourse for education purposes.

“Now the leak has triggered various academics to come in and provide their views on the matter to an extent educate the public at the same time,” he said when contacted.

Besides Asheeq Ali, the other eight students involved in the leak are Ainina Sofia Adnan, Nurhuda Ramli, Suhail Wan Azahar, Ahmad Taqiyuddin Shahriman, Wong Yan Ke, Chong Kar Yan, Nik Azura Nik Nasron and Siti Nurizzah Mohd Tazali.

On Sunday, the nine student activists leaked the executive summary which was allegedly presented at the Conference of Rulers on April 2.

In the document, four academics warned the rulers that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) may be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as he is the supreme commander of the country’s armed forces.

The paper was allegedly prepared by Universiti Teknologi Mara’s deputy vice-chancellor and dean of Faculty of Law Prof Datuk Rahmat Mohamad, International Islamic University of Malaysia’s law lecturer Assoc Prof Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, and Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia’s law lecturers Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi.

Acknowledging that the group took a big risk by leaking the paper, Asheeq Ali said to date no party or even the academics themselves have disputed the document’s credibility.

“If it is wrong, they (academics) could have denied it. Since the leak, there has been no denial or a single word from the academics who released the paper.

“So if I was being untruthful, I am ready to be sued in court,” he said.

A day before the leak, the group launched an online petition urging the government to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the Rome Statute for the sake of those who died in the MH17 tragedy.

The petition said the alleged perpetrators of the tragedy could not be brought to the ICC because of Malaysia’s status as a non-signatory country.

It has garnered almost 8,400 votes as of 7.30pm today.

“We have not decided anything in regards to halting the petition. We will decide whether we should stop or continue further when it reaches our target of 10,000 signatures,” Asheeq Ali said.

He said response to the leak was expected but he added he did not expect a former Cabinet minister to disagree with the withdrawal.

Earlier this week, Gua Musang MP and Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah suggested that the Conference of Rulers may have been “ill-advised” about the Rome Statute.

However, Asheeq Ali said he was surprised that not a single representative from the federal government has initiated contact with the group over the leak since Sunday.

“If they are really keen to solve the confusion and educate the public and stop this whole debacle, they should not sweep the Rome Statute under the carpet.

“So we will continuously advocate for the Rome Statute because the government seems uninterested for now,” he said.

Last Friday, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government was forced to bow to political pressure from opponents who spread unnecessary fear and confusion.

He also said critics of the Rome Statute wanted to trigger a row between the country’s monarchy and the new government.

As of March 4, 2019, a total of 124 countries have become signatories of the Rome Statute.