ACT News

ANU student accused of sedition plans return to Malaysia after discussions with local politicians

A Malaysian exchange student who was issued with a show cause action for “seditious" activities by his government has graduated from the ANU and plans to return home after raising his situation with federal Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh and ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher.

Aslam Abd Jali was a final semester commerce student on a government scholarship when issued with the notice after taking part in the "Race, Religion and Royalty in Malaysia" forum at the ANU, alongside Malaysian opposition member Tony Pua and academic John Funston.

The notice, which was sent by the Malaysian Public Service Department Office in Sydney, accused Mr Aslam of breaking clause 5.5 of his scholarship agreement and allegedly being seditious in a way that may harm Malaysia and the interests of his educational institution.

Mr Leigh, who lived in Malaysia as a child and continues to follow Malaysian politics, was alerted to Mr Aslam's case by a letter from the student and drew publicity to his situation in a speech to the Federation Chamber on July 14. 

"For taking part in the panel, the student was issued with a 'show cause' notice by the Malaysian public service department office," he told the Federation Chamber. 

“This was an apparent breach of his scholarship agreement, and there were suggestions he was 'being seditious in a way that may harm Malaysia'.”

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The show cause notice required Mr Aslam supply the full transcript of his speech at the Race, Religion and Royalty in Malaysia forum for review, which he in turn provided to the authorities. 

Mr Aslam also approached Chief Minister Katy Gallagher to discuss his situation after her 2014 National Republican Lecture at the ACT Legislative Assembly on June 13.

The Chief Minister wrote a personal letter to Mr Aslam on July 21 expressing her concern and the ACT government's limited ability to assist in the matter. 

“I understand your concern with the response you have received from the Malaysian authorities regarding your activities as an international student at the ANU,” said the Chief Minister.

Ms Gallagher said Mr Aslam's situation was outside the ACT government’s jurisdiction but urged him to raise the issue with the ANU and to seek the university’s support.  

While Mr Aslam is yet to return to Malaysia, he said he was relieved to have been able to finish his studies and organise his return flight to Malaysia without interference. 

“If they wanted to do something to me they perhaps would make it harder for me, maybe make me pay for my own tickets, but there’s been no sign of that so far,” he said.

Mr Aslam said he was initially unsure whether the Malaysian government would act upon the show cause notice as they had already paid his course fees and he was scheduled to graduate in July. 

Mr Aslam has not decided whether he will continue studying or begin work after returning to Malaysia later this month but said he would likely be involved in public affairs. 

“I want to help in politics when I return to Malaysia but maybe on a grass-roots level first and I’ll see how it goes,” he said.

“I'm interested in the issue of refugees and the treatment of migrant workers, as they are being treated very badly in Malaysia."

"But the concept of politics should not be confined to political party line only because to me politics is all about discussing about (sic) everyday life issues."

Mr Aslam has a meeting scheduled with Mr Leigh on Wednesday next week, which he requested so he could thank the MP for raising his situation in Parliament. 

“I think Australia has a big role in shaping the democracy in our region and Australia should share its history and experience,” he said 

Mr Aslam said he hoped his situation would draw attention to the academic freedom of other Malaysian students on exchange in Australia.

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