Azrul ads: Professionals give Bank Islam & Umno a lesson in PROFFESSIONALISM
Friday, 15 February 2013 19:41
What made a group of mainly Malaysian academics and organisations take out an advertisement asking Bank Islam Malaysia to lift its suspension of chief economist Azrul Azwar Ahmad Tajudin?
Some of them told The Malaysian Insider today that the advertisement in The Sun daily yesterday was in support of his professionalism in his duties and his suspension was not justified. Azrul was suspended last month over his prediction that Pakatan Rakyat (PR) would likely score a narrow win in Election 2013.
“I’m all against this curtailing (of) freedom of expression of academics,” sociologist Professor Norani Othman told The Malaysian Insider today, when asked why she supported Azrul Azwar.
“As far as I can see, (from) what I read from his presentation that was sent to many of us, it was an academic paper,” added Norani, who is also a founding member of women’s rights group Sisters in Islam (SIS).
She was among the 135 professionals, politicians and academics and 59 organisations that paid for the three-quarter page advertisement published in the English daily.
Norani said she supported Azrul Azwar’s academic freedom, pointing out that her book titled ‘Muslim Women and the Challenges of Islamic Extremism’ was banned in 2008.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court subsequently lifted the ban in 2010 after SIS filed a judicial review on the basis that the ban was unconstitutional because it infringed upon freedom of speech and religion and gender equality.
Suaram activist Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said Azrul Azwar should not be persecuted for performing his professional duties.
“That’s why we need political freedom in this country. By suspending him, it shows that they’re punishing people affiliated to a certain group or party while discharging their professional duty,” Fadiah told The Malaysian Insidertoday.
“Clearly in this case, it’s politically motivated...his findings were based on facts and analysis,” added the human rights activist.
DAP central executive committee member Zairil Khir Johari echoed Fadiah’s views, saying that Azrul Azwar had given a professional opinion based on economics.
“It wasn’t a baseless personal opinion. How could action be taken against Azrul for giving a professional analysis?” Zairil told The Malaysian Insider today.
“How can our country move forward if even professional analyses are blocked and not allowed?” added the chief executive of the Penang Institute.
Besides Norani, Fadiah and Zairil, NGOs like polls watchdog Bersih, press freedom group Centre for Independent Journalism, and human rights groups Proham and Tenaganita were listed in the advertisement supporting Azrul Azwar.
When contacted, Azrul Azwar said that he was still suspended, but refused to comment further.
Azrul Azwar was suspended from his duties by the bank on January 14 after he was reported by Singapore’s The Straits Times as having predicted a narrow win in Election 2013 by PR as the most likely out of three possible scenarios.
Bank Islam later filed two police reports against Azrul Azwar, accusing him of possessing and leaking confidential documents to a third party.
The economist has called the police reports an intimidation tactic, pointing out that the allegations were merely a civil matter and not criminal in nature.
In The Straits Times report, Azrul Azwar’s calculations found that one of the most likely scenarios was that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition would probably win only between 97 and 107 of the 222 parliamentary seats, which are insufficient to form the next administration.
But the result would also mean that PR will only gain a shaky hold over Parliament, far from the supermajority once enjoyed by its rival.
The two other probable scenarios reportedly presented by Azrul Azwar was that there would be a narrow win for BN and a bigger win for PR.
Azrul Azwar had taken into account factors such as race and demographics.
He had also forecasted that under the most likely scenario of a narrow win by PR, a fallout would result, with the stock market set to respond in a “knee-jerk” fashion as well as an extended period of perceived instability.
He also did not rule out the possibility of “economic sabotage” by businesses and the civil service that are aligned with BN.