Petition Seeks Criminal Action Against UM Lecturer After Sexual Harassment Case Dropped

It demands that the police case against the associate professor must be re-opened immediately.

Cover image via New Straits Times

A University of Malaya (UM) student, who has been denied justice after the case against her alleged sexual harasser was dropped by police, may get another chance at justice if a petition garners enough support

The petition has been launched on by Tiada.Guru, a social media campaign that seeks to highlight issues about extreme teacher absenteeism in Malaysia and corruption in education.

In the petition, which is addressed to the Attorney General's Chambers (AGC), the University of Malaya (UM), UM Vice-Chancellor Abdul Rahim Hashim, and the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), Tiada.Guru demands that the police investigation against the suspect "must be re-opened immediately".

What happens when a university, the police force, and the Attorney General all agree that "internal disciplinary investigations" replace criminal prosecution of an alleged sexual predator senior lecturer?

The petition comes after the UM student was told that the associate professor whom she accused of sexually harassing her will not face any criminal action as authorities won't be pressing further charges

She received a notice from the police earlier this month, in which, they concluded that "the lack of other witnesses and conclusive testimony" has led them not to carry the case forward.

Explaining the decision to drop the case against the UM associate professor, Kuala Lumpur CID chief Nik Ros Azhan Abdul Hamid said this was because the suspect has already faced disciplinary action.

"We have referred the case to the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) on 13 August and the DPP said there will be no charges against the suspect. This is on grounds that the suspect has already faced disciplinary action from UM that was triggered by the victim's complaints," Malaysiakini quoted Nik Ros as saying.

"The victim previously made a police report at UM and UM had conducted investigations and took action against the (associate) professor. He has been demoted and has retired in June, if I'm not mistaken."

According to CID chief Nik Ros, the investigation into the case was conducted under Section 354 of the Penal Code which covers assault or use of criminal force to a person with the intent to outrage modesty.

A conviction carries 10 years' imprisonment, with fine, whipping or any two of such punishments.

The UM student, who identifies herself as 'Ching', had lodged a police report last month against the associate professor, accusing him of sexually harassing her in his office on 3 June 2019.

She lodged the police report on 15 July, claiming that the university had failed her by not taking effective action against the lecturer and refusing to divulge the findings of its internal investigations.

In the petition, that has been online for over two days at the time of writing this SAYS story, Tiada.Guru has listed down four demands

One of which is for the AGC to overturn the decision by the DPP and push for "full prosecution against the alleged sexual predator lecturer living free in Malaysia". He retired in June this year.

Another one is for the AGC to reprimand the DPP for his "abhorrent and severely misguided" decision.

Tiada.Guru also demanded UM to immediately file a police report detailing what sexual misconduct was found from their reportedly months-long "disciplinary investigation process".

The social media campaign group wants PDRM to re-open its investigation against the UM lecturer "across all applicable laws", including any possible misconduct or impropriety at UM's Integrity Unit.

Tiada.Guru argues that "retirement is not an excuse" and "disciplinary proceedings do not replace nor prevent criminal prosecution"

"This legal stance is untenable, unfounded, and a disgusting illustration of how multiple institutions can protect the culture of fear, power, and silence: 'Justice means privilege for me and silence for you, lah,'" the group wrote.

"When the accused is a lecturer, the power imbalance demands transparent, fair, and swift prosecution. The student was already forced to used a pseudonym to protect her identity."

Additionally, the group said, the decision to drop the case sends a chilling signal about how local universities can "prefer to protect" alleged sexual harassers instead of victims who speak up.

"These kinds of arrogant criminals always seek immunity, even as their histories often suggest years, if not decades, of privileged protection of their abusive behaviour," Tiada.Guru wrote.

The petition, however, has not managed to garner much public support as of today, 30 August. So far, there are only 56 signatures.

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