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The price of doing what you think is right

 | November 9, 2016

What a pity it is that that the authorities would persecute Adam Adli but leave Jamal Yunos alone.

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Activism, or doing what you think is right for the nation, comes at a heavy cost.

One student has seen his dream of becoming a lecturer dashed because of his activism. He has been in and out of court rooms. He has been threatened with jail. He has been put on remand and he has been fined. When he is not defending himself, he is trying to sort out the nation, which he believes is run by the corrupt and the unjust.

Would you want to swap places with Adam Adli, the student who shot to fame when, on an impulse, he lowered a flag bearing the image of PM Najib Abdul Razak?

This young man had everything going for him, but his conscience was pricked by issues of justice, governance and democracy. Little did he realise that following the dictates of his conscience would lead to his downfall.

While most of us suffer quietly or moan in the company of friends, the proactive Adam sought to open our minds, show us what it means to fight repression and tell us that when votes are stolen, the country is no longer operating as a democracy.

It all started in December 2011, when Adam, who was then studying at the Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, lowered the flag depicting Najib’s image and replaced it with a flag bearing the words “Academic Freedom”.
He was only trying to expose the repressive nature of the Universities and University Colleges Act.

An unforgiving university administration suspended his student status, first for 18 months and then indefinitely. He could have graduated by now and could be living his ambition of teaching in a university.

But the suspension could not cow him. He continued with his activism. In May 2013, at a forum at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Adam questioned the results of the 13th general election and urged Malaysians to get rid of the current government. That speech cost him dearly. He was found guilty of sedition in September 2014.

Adam is appealing against his conviction. He hopes that like his mentor, Hishamuddin Rais, he will escape jail and be fined instead.

But the prosecution is appealing against the High Court’s decision to allow him to pay a fine of RM5,000 instead of going to jail.

On Monday, Adam was told that his appeal would be deferred until December. Perhaps this is another tactic to wear the student leader down.

Adam once said, “Why should university students be afraid of those whom we have elected. They should work for us. Do not be afraid to criticise our leaders, no matter who they are.”

Whatever their reasons for prolonging Adam’s mental agony, little do the authorities realise that he is the new face of the fight against the Sedition Act. He is one of our catalysts for change.

What a pity it is that the authorities would persecute Adam, who is upholding justice, but allow Red Shirt leader Jamal Yunos to run free even though he threatens to harm others, especially those fighting to realise true democracy in Malaysia.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist

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