Law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom admits he was afraid when he was first charged under the Sedition Act two years ago, which could have landed him in jail.

The pony-tailed, 44-year-old vocal critic was afraid of losing his job at Universiti Malaya, a government institution which would have forced him to relinquish his post as a senior lecturer if he was convicted of a crime.

Yet, Azmi overcame that fear.

Even after being charged, he continued to hold talks and participate in forums to give his views on Malaysian laws and human rights.

"Sedition is a crime. And I work for a government university, therefore a crime, no matter how unjust the law is, would have given them reason to fire me if they wanted to."

But Azmi drew strength from his conviction that what he was doing – offering interpretations of the law and the Constitution and how it affects ordinary Malaysians – was correct and justified.

"I knew I was not breaking the law in the first place or UM’s regulations.

"The fact that they (the attorney-general) withdrew the charge proved that I was not breaking any laws.

"If I knew what I was doing was correct, then why should I be afraid?" Azmi told The Malaysian Insider, a day after his acquittal.

He was charged over comments in an article about how the 2014 Selangor menteri besar crisis could be resolved by using precedents made in the Perak government change-over in 2009.

Azmi was charged in September 2014 under Section 4(1)(b) and Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act.

"The most important thing was that I backed up all my arguments. I always back up my points by using cases. I am always careful with what I say and I try very hard not to defame."

He was discharged and acquitted on February 19, a week after the Attorney-General's Chambers announced that it was dropping the case against him.

Although he was glad to have been acquitted, he said he could not fully celebrate until others charged with sedition like him were also free.

Azmi is perhaps among a handful of law experts and academics who are willing to weigh in on contentious legal issues.

But Azmi, who writes a column called "Brave New World" in The Star, said he was not brave or a hero.

"If we live in a system which is oppressive, then isn’t it our responsibility to speak up? To me it's just common sense. It's not heroism.

"If you don’t do anything, then things will get worse. What about our kids? Are we supposed to just make money so that we can send our kids abroad?

"To me, why should I live my life in fear? If you have an opinion, voice it. Nothing can change if people keep quiet."

So if pony-tailed Azmi did lose his job, did he have a plan B?

"Yes. Shampoo advertising." – February 22, 2016.


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