(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): It is unfortunate that the admission by the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that there had been a leak in several SPM examination papers in November last year had failed as an occasion to restore public confidence in the examination syndicate.
Najibís statement that there would be no resit of the SPM examination as only 10 candidates were involved in the leak was totally unconvincing and a major blow to the credibility of the examination syndicate.
The Police has confirmed that there was a conspiracy in the leak and identified two teachers and another person as being involved. One of the teachers was appointed chief invigilator at an examinations centre in Klang and the other is head of a tuition centre.
Who would believe Najibís statement that only 10 candidates were involved in the leak and that they had not benefitted significantly as they had obtained the leaked papers only a few hours before the examination?
After all, it was Najib himself who immediately denied on December 12 that there was any leak of the SPM papers, making the preposterous claim that the alleged leaked copies claimed by certain students were actually photostats of the actual exam papers that the students concerned had distributed.
The next day, Najib said the SPM questions papers allegedly leaked before the examination were actually spotted questions being passed as genuine ones.
The three students from SM Seafield in Subang Jaya who lodged police reports alleging that a syndicate sold leaked SPM papers for between RM1,500 and RM5,000 per subject were treated like criminals, detained and threatened by both the police and the Education Minister with dire consequences for questioning the "credibility of our exams".
This is most deplorable and the Education Minister and the Police must make full amends for their hostile attitude and treatment of the three students, who should be praised as young national heroes to be examples for all students in performing a great public service to protect the integrity and credibility of the examinations system by exposing the leaked SPM papers.
In fact, as a reward for such expose and to encourage students to come forward to report any future leaks in examination papers, the government should give the three students awards, including free scholarships up to university level.
The authorities concerned must not only take the sternest action against those responsible for the leak of the SPM examination papers, the Malaysian Examination Syndicate must be completely revamped, as it seems to be unable to develop a fool-proof security system, whether from the early stages of drafting the questions to printing, storing and distribution of the question papers.
It is time that a culture of responsibility is developed in the public service for the head of the department to take full responsibility for any major disaster or failure - and there can be no greater failure for an examination syndicate than to be unable to protect the integrity and credibility of the examinations system.
The present director of the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate must take responsibility for this latest failure in the security system with regard to the SPM examination and set an example of a new culture of responsibility. He should either resign or be downgraded and removed to another post as a signal that henceforth every head of department must take final responsibility for what seriously went wrong under their bailiwick.
I believe such a culture of responsibility will go a longer way than any empty assurances by the Education Minister or the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate to assure the public that this time, there would be meaningful "tightening of security measures" to ensure no repetition of leaks of examination papers in the country.