Najib cries ‘freedom of speech’ in defence of 4 dons who advised King

Former prime minister Najib Razak.

PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak has trained his guns on the government after Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said he would not apologise over his “kangkung professor” remark.

Saifuddin made the remarks last month, believed to be in reference to four academics who reportedly gave advice to the Conference of Rulers regarding Putrajaya’s plan to ratify the controversial Rome Statute.

The advice is said to have derailed Putrajaya’s plans.

“I am not happy that the … professors are being attacked by government ministers like this, including by the education minister,” Najib said on Facebook this afternoon.

“What was wrong with what these professors did? They only gave their opinions to the Conference of Rulers based on their experience and knowledge.

“Why do they need to be humiliated and harassed like this? Where is the freedom of speech?” Najib asked.

Saifuddin yesterday said the four academics had not been honest in their advice on the Rome Statute.

“That (‘kangkung professor’) term was introduced by prominent academician Syed Hussein Alatas to label scholars who distort knowledge,” he added.

Education Minister Maszlee Malik has since said the four academics need to take responsibility for what they did and should be ready to be held accountable for their views on the Rome Statute.

Najib said if this is the case, then it would be better for the government to prepare scripts for any professor wishing to express opinions to the Conference of Rulers or to the media.

The Pekan MP also poked fun at Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki Yahya who was involved in a “fake Cambridge degree” controversy earlier this year.

He asked what Saifuddin should be called since his deputy has a “fake certificate”, referring to a Wikipedia entry of Marzuki’s profile claiming he obtained his degree from Cambridge University.

“Menteri kangkung palsu (Fake kangkung minister)?” he proposed.

Marzuki holds a degree from Cambridge International University in the US and not from the world-famous namesake.

Last month, a group of student activists leaked images of a 10-page memorandum, said to be prepared by the four academicians, that outlined the roles and functions of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and his liability under the Rome Statute.

The four authors claimed that accession to the Rome Statute would make the King liable for prosecution at the International Criminal Court in his role as supreme commander of the armed forces.

They contended that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong holds operational responsibilities as supreme commander, beyond that of a figurehead or ceremonial role.

The memorandum was prepared by Prof Rahmat Mohamad, Associate Professor Shamrahayu Ab Aziz, Fareed Mohd Hassan and Hisham Hanapi. It was submitted to the Conference of Rulers on April 2.

Rahmat is from Universiti Teknologi Mara while Shamrahayu hails from International Islamic University Malaysia. Fareed and Hisham are law lecturers from Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.

On April 5, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that the government was withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute, despite Putrajaya earlier announcing that it had acceded to the international treaty.