Both Lim Kit Siang and Malaysiakini are again at the forefront championing the rights of Prof P Ramasamy of Centre for History, Political Science and Strategic Studies at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), who has been issued a letter terminating his contract this month. I've blogged on the issue here, but you will be able to obtain the most detailed media coverage via a subscription at Malaysiakini. Unsurprisingly, the issue is receiving little coverage in the local newspapers, besides an article published in the Sun last week.
In the latest and one of its most comprehensive (and balanced) commentary published (which title I used above), it discusses the challenges our Prime Minster faces in the attempt to reform our higher education system.
[Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi], who is gradually making changes in the police force and the bloated bureaucracy, is also shaking up government linked-companies that are in deep financial malaise. He created the Higher Education Ministry after assuming power in 2003 to infuse a change in the campuses and the education system.The opinion piece, written by Baradan Kuppusamy argued that due to the lack of transparency, Malaysian universities are under attack for racial discrimination and favouritism that favours native Malays over minority ethnic Chinese and Indians. Such accusations have marred every university recruitment and promotion exercise in recent years.
Although he has urged academics to speak up, there is strong resistance from within the ruling Umno and the politically- protected campus bureaucracy.
Bridget Welsh, of John Hopkins University in the United States was quoted lamenting the decline of university standards in Malaysia due to the emphasis placed on political loyalty instead of academic performance.
"Promotions appear to be based on personal relationships and political affiliations rather than on professionalism. Leadership positions within universities have become venues to fawn over politicians rather than to educate."Malaysia should be proud that we have a prominent participant in international affairs such as Prof Ramasamy.
The pre-eminent position he held could be gauged by the fact that in 2003 he was appointed to the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers' Constitutional Affairs Committee to help draft a proposal for an interim administration in Sri Lanka's northeast. He also acted as an observer in recent peace talks over Indonesia's Aceh province.Such credentials of an academic in our very own local universities should typically be held in high regards and honoured accordingly. However, instead of acknowledgement and appreciation, the Ministry of Higher Education has instead issued warning letters toProf Ramasamy cautioning against future participation, which has culminated in the notice of termination he received on July 27.
The constant crisis over our higher education system have resulted in Lim Kit Siang publicly petitioning for a new Minister of Higher Education.
It is most unfortunate that the creation of a Higher Education Ministry and the appointment of a Higher Education Minister has not ushered in the reform of the higher education system where quality, intellectual creativity and academic excellence are given the highest premium.I strongly suspect his wish will be materialised in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle expected sometime in October.
Malaysia needs a new Minister for Higher Education with the vision and leadership to lead Malaysia’s universities, both public and private, to academic excellence and greatness.