Ministry probing sexual harassment cover-up claim at UPNM

  • Aug 10, 2018
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The Education Ministry is investigating an allegation that a former National Defence University (UPNM) vice-chancellor, now a military top brass, had attempted to cover up a sexual harassment complaint there a few years ago.

Education Minister Maszlee Malik said he has instructed the university to furnish a full report on the incident involving a female lecturer which took place in 2014.

“The ministry sees sexual harassment at public and private tertiary institutions as a serious issue and will not tolerate such cases,” he said.

This comes as several ministries step up scrutiny over mounting sexual harassment claims involving their staff as highlighted by several Pakatan Harapan MPs.

DAP lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh has offered victims legal assistance and guaranteed them confidentiality and safety from reprisals.

Persistent sexual harassment’

Based on several police reports, the female lecturer said she had in June 2014 experienced sexual harassment from a man, then a deputy dean at UPNM.

In the first report, she said she feared for her safety after receiving text messages from him containing “threatening and obscene elements” but did not detail the content of the messages.

Ten days later, she lodged a second report claiming that the harassment had persisted and affected her mental health.

She later lodged a third report, claiming she had been threatened by the vice-chancellor to withdraw her earlier reports during a meeting involving the vice-chancellor and the accused harasser.

She also said she was worried about the future of her academic career for refusing to retract her claim.

It is understands that the female lecturer remains on staff at UPNM. She was unwilling to comment further on the above police reports.

Deputy dean refutes allegations

When contacted, the accused harasser admitted he had at the time been romantically attracted to the complainant but refuted her version of events.

He claimed that he had never been threatening or inappropriate with her in their exchanges whether over text messages or in person.

“I did not threaten her, I might have been rude or frustrated with her at times but I did not threaten her. (My messages) had no 'lucah' (obscene) elements.

“[...] And as far as I can remember, during the meeting, the vice-chancellor said we should settle 'elok-elok' (settle this nicely). He did not threaten her, he simply advised her.

“And the vice-chancellor did not tell her to withdraw the police reports,” he claimed.

Multiple attempts to contact the former vice-chancellor for comment were unsuccessful.

Kuala Lumpur Police Criminal Investigations Department chief Rusdi Mohamad Isa said that police had previously carried out investigations and have since closed the case.