A MALAYSIAN student whose same-sex relationship with an Irish man has provoked a storm of controversy in his home country has said he now fears for his safety if he returns home.
Ariff Alfian Rosli (28) has been resident in Ireland since he arrived eight years ago to study medicine at a Dublin university as part of scholarship scheme.
After an apparent disagreement with his son in 2009, Mr Rosli’s father reported him missing to Malaysian authorities.
However, he found himself in the headlines in Malaysia over recent days after pictures emerged on the internet of Mr Rosli at a civil partnership ceremony with his gay partner in Dublin.
The student has been criticised by numerous Muslim groups in Malaysia, where same-sex sexual relationships are illegal and punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
"Returning home under the current situation is untenable . . . as I fear for my safety there," Mr Rosli told The Irish Times. "My thoughts are with my family and friends in Malaysia. I never wanted this to become a major news story."
A state-owned company in Malaysia which has funded Mr Rosli’s education in Ireland has said it is now seeking fees worth up to €200,000 from the student.
Petronas, a government-owned oil and gas company in Malaysia, funded Mr Rosli’s education in Dublin on the basis that he would return to work for the company following his graduation.
In a statement, the company said the loan was withdrawn in January 2009 following Mr Rosli’s unsatisfactory academic results, which breached the contract’s terms. Petronas said the student has not responded to phonecalls and emails over the loan since.
Mr Rosli insists he has been in regular contact with Petronas representatives over the repayment of his college fees. “I want to continue to engage with Petronas in a private capacity, as I have been doing. I have no intention of running away from this responsibility or shrugging it off my shoulder.”
He said part of the contract over the funding for his education required returning to Malaysia and working with the company. However, this was not possible given attitudes towards same-sex relationships there.