Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Puppet Universities

Oh well, the "rant" on Malaysian universities will continue unabated.

In an event that occurred at the end of last year, before this blog was born - two academics of Universiti Utara Malaysia, Dr Azly Abdul Rahman and Dr Mutiara Mohamad (husband and wife) received termination letters from their university for not signing the "Akujanji" letter - a solemn promise they "will not disobey or behave in any way that can be interpreted as disobedience." Dr Azly Rahman was director of Universiti Utara Malaysia's Technology Learning Unit, while Dr Mutiara Mohamad was deputy dean of UUM's School of Languages and Scientific Thinking. Both husband and wife are at Columbia University, New York, since 1997 for their doctoral studies.

Dr Azly Abdul Rahman is also currently a columnist in Malaysiakini and his story is being recounted by Nurul Nazirin here.
Azly and Mutiara, who are married to each other, were told to leave the cognitive sciences and education faculty with effect from Dec 8 last year for failure to sign the Akujanji (pledge of loyalty), as all employees in the public sector are required to do.
The couple have filed an appeal within the 30 days provided in the letter of termination, but they have yet to hear any response from the university in the past 8 months. 8 months!

As the unjust termination of employment of critical academics have shown in the current year, exemplified by Dr Terence Gomez of Universiti Malaya as well as Prof P Ramasamy of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia - our universities are on the verge of becoming institutions of restricted learning.

The irony of the case of Dr Azly Abdul Rahman was that one of the courses which he teaches is on thinking skills:
"I taught the courses 'Ilmu Pemikiran dan Etika' (Thinking Skills and Ethics) (at UUM) and I was fired for asking questions in a university that offers those foundation courses?" Azly told malaysiakini in an email.

"But I wish to educate more than aggravate. This is essentially what I am at heart and will always be - an educator for critical consciousness. Human beings have their follies, and worse, if they create institutions to hide behind.

"Our role is to illuminate others on how to read these institutions so that human beings hiding behind them can be seen through the walls."
What type of thinking skills are we developing exactly? "Four legs good, two legs better"?


multidimid said...

The couple must have acted spontaneously in rejecting the “surat akujanji”
y being themselves, they automatically fulfill any responsibility. The gods created the Universe out of joy and playfulness and creativity, not because they thought they had to. Our being is blessed and spontaneous because it is. And fulfilling it with nature automatically fulfills your purposes and, in your terms, your responsibility.

In spontaneity there is a discipline that utterly escapes you, and an order beyond any that you know. Spontaneity knows its own order.

But our society with its laws and rules equates spontaneity with irresponsibility; abandon with evil. Our educational system is in sad straits because we have denied spontaneity or fulfillment to individuals, and ALL our institutions are based upon that premise.

We must learn to trust our natural selves. Our social institutions are set up to fence in the individual, rather than to allow the natural development and growth of the individual.

Anonymous said...

Quote from the Malaysiakini article: 'In early December 2004 (before I started writing for malaysiakini), my wife Dr Mutiara Mohamad (who is also a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, New York) and I were fired by Universiti Utara Malaysia after being denied of our request for an extension of our non-paid leave (till September 2006) upon the successful completion of our studies in the United States.'

To be fair to UUM - could it be they were also fired because of the request for an extension of non-paid leave?

Golf Afflicted said...

Dear Anon,

You don't fire people for requesting an extension of non-paid leave. I don't think that's even legal.

As far as I'm concerned, if I value my staff, and they request that they get an extension of unpaid leave - they'll get it. Better he/she comes back, then not coming back at all.

Tony :)

Anonymous said...

hi tony, i am not defending uum. just that we might have not the full story. from what I gather from the article, the good doctors have been away since 1997 doing their phd. Perhaps, UUM thought that 9 years away was a tad too long?

Anonymous said...

Read it all. In Mahathir's Malaysia, over 40% of the population lives under Constitutionally mandated and perpetual state sanctioned racism. It is verging on illegality to even bring up the subject - even in parliament.

Non-bumis live under widespread and considerable electoral, educational, economic and even religious restrictions and also have to live with the risk of racially motivated stirring from malay politicians who could put one nation to shame. And don't ask about illegal aliens, they're safely locked up in detention centres.

Unsurprisingly, some malay policies have played upon resultant fears of racial tensions and the difficulties non-bumis face in creating their own political voice to shore up a captive vote in the ethnic electorate.

Starting up a company or even purchasing land and property is harder and more expensive for non-bumis. The only way to alleviate their permanent designation as a second-class citizen is to convert to Islam and thus enjoy partial legal acceptance as a bumis.

This Malaysia, a land where racism is used to justify racism, is Mahathir's creation and if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black, then I need a new palette.

Perhaps you may have heard of the axiom making its rounds among the Malaysian bloggers:

"If it is a malay issue, it is a national issue. If it is an Indian issue, it is not an issue. If it is a Chinese issue, it is a racial issue."

That is the problem with Malaysia. The Chinese and Indians are made to feel as if Malaysia is for the malays, and not for the citizens of Malaysia. Even the textbooks are often written as if addressing the malays instead of Malaysians, with references to Islam and other malay cultural aspects.

Just look at Singapore. In spite of their being a multiracial society completely lacking in national resources, they are now a developed country. Why?

Because the people there are united. There is no presumption that the average citizen is a Chinese or any serious programme giving a particular race special rights.

The presumption that greed, dishonesty, and betrayal are innate qualities of a Chinese is simply as abhorrent as the presumption by some Chinese that malays smell bad, are lazy, and are extremely religious to the point of martyrdom. Such stereotyping accomplishes nothing.

If Chinese kids won't die for Malaysia, we should not jump to the conclusion that Chinese cannot be trusted. Instead, we should consider it equally among other possibilities, such as the government's policies creating a feeling of unfair treatment despite the premise that we are all equal as citizens of Malaysia.

We know what the original intentions of the malay special privileges provision in the Merdeka Constitution were, but to maintain that it is a carte blanche for all manner of discrimination based on the bumi/non-bumi divide is certainly straining credibility.

Now that the commanding heights of the Malaysian economy have fallen into the hands of malay capitalists 48 years after independence, is it wrong to appeal for a new consensus based on social sector and need instead of race?

From the above, it is clear that the question of the constitutionality of the quota system as it has been practised since 1971 especially in totally bumi institutions has never been tested.

Because the government imposes racial quota in education and government departments, therefore Singapore and other countries take fortune at the tide. For years, there has been brain drain to our neighbour.

I called my newfound friend earlier who works in Singapore. Somehow, the conversation ended up on Malaysians holding top positions in Singapore.

Well, I have a good friend who is currently working with a top-notch investment company in Singapore. When my new friend found out, immediately said, "No wonder that Pak Lah person was mentioning about the brain drain in Malaysia!"

Well, I know a lot of doctors and scientists are working overseas. A number of my school alumni are actually working overseas and not in Malaysia. Some are doing well in Boston, London, to name a few. It's even funnier to hear stories of some of my school alumni to accidentally meet each other when they are overseas. Yes, my school is guilty for contributing to the brain drain……….

Closer to home, I wonder if Pak Lah knows about our own Malaysian companies that are also contributing to the brain drain. No name mentioned, but I know of one company, due to the change in business process has forced a number of the disgruntled staff to leave the company.

The worse thing, these staff left and joined the competitors that are not Malaysian owned. And even worse, some staff actually decided to leave Malaysia and work at greener pastures.

They could have stayed in Malaysia, but no company in Malaysia could afford to pay the expected salary due to the staff being former scholars and studied overseas during the economic crisis.

Sad really. Now wonder why Pak Lah has an uphill task.

Clearly, there has always been movement of highly skilled people in and out of a country. If there is brain drain from a particular country, it can scarcely develop. On the other hand, if it can keep its talents and successfully attract its skilled citizens to return as well as foreign talents to come, it will prosper.

Anonymous said...

Sad but true. After almost 48 years of independence, our nation is still governed by the divide-and-rule principal and race-oriented policies, actively promulgated by the ruling racially based political parties.

Many experienced and patriotic Malaysians, including those who have worked for many years overseas, want to contribute their knowledge and expertise to the progress and welfare of the nation by applying to work with various government or government-related organisations and agencies.

Why is it that many civil servants who are empowered to employ staff feel that it is alright for them to ignore the applications of fellow citizens who are suitably qualified and who want to contribute because they are of a different ethnic group? Such wanton and deliberate waste has been happening over the last 30 years.

Hence, besides palm oil, petroleum, and other products, Malaysia generously exports trained citizens; citizens that the nation had spent a lot for their education, be it primary, secondary, or tertiary. Citizens prized by other nations but intentionally discarded by our own motherland.

In a way, we are a good neighbour to many countries because we diligently practise 'prosper neighbour' policy by directly or indirectly encouraging many of our talented citizens to leave the country to serve other nations.

While we are losing talent, we are also experiencing another national disaster that compounds the competitiveness of our nation. Unfortunately for all of us, there are among us who believe in: 'My fellow Malaysians, ask not what your country can offer you, ask not what you can do for your country; ask what and how much you can squeeze from your country'.

These are Malaysians who have insatiable greed. Many of them, who might hail from impoverished households, have benefited from the generous race-biased policy that has paid for their education and enabled them to have well-paid, cozy jobs and subsidised houses. In principle, this is alright as fellow Malaysians who need help to improve their social standing should be assisted.

They want easy access to wealth (for example, by having Approved Permits to import cars) to become richer and richer, at the expense of the nation. Pray tell me, how long can our motherland sustain this unending hemorrhage of national wealth?

By right, it should now be pay back time.

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