Najib to be questioned in Parliament about the summary and arbitrary termination
of Chandra as Director of the Centre for Civilisational Dialogues, University
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Sunday): The several
thousands of University of Malaya students who yesterday demonstrated in
protest against the arbitrary termination of Professor Dr. Chandra Muzaffar’s
tenure as director of the Centre for Civilisational Dialogue must be
commended for restoring hope that undergraduates in Malaysia are not completely
morally dead or intellectually sterile.
In any other university and country, the virtual dismissal of one of
the best academic brains in Malaysia in such an arbitrary and summary manner
would have become a cause celebre, but in Malaysia, it did not even merit
much mass media attention.
For many years, the intellectual atmosphere in the university campus
have not only been sterile but quite castrated, thanks to the Universities
and University Colleges Act, and this is why I feel encouraged that all
intellectual conscience is not dead when several thousands of undergraduates
from all faculties could demonstrate at the University of Malaya yesterday
against Chandra’s unfair termination of his tenure at the Centre for Civilisational
The students of the Center for Civilizational Dialogue, University Malaya,
yesterday issued a statement expressing their shock at the
removal of their lecturer and supervisor.
The students said that the reasons for Chandra’s removal
were not only questionable and vague, the decision to remove him
itself was highly prejudicial and unjust to his students who
will be the unseen victims, for the following reasons:
The students will be sitting for an examination next week, of which two
papers were taught and are to be examined by Chandra Muzaffar. They fear
that now that his services have been allowed to expire, they would
be left with no option but to rely on an examiner who definitely
would not have been part of the curriculum development, delivery or even
be aware of the approach and focus that they were guided in their
classes in preparation for questions set by Prof. Chandra Muzaffar. The
Centre is the only one of its kind in this part of the region, and only
two people have been part of its formation and inception, one being
Chandra and the other Prof Osman Bakar, who is on medical leave.
As clients of a Corporatized University, the students feel cheated
that the University has failed to keep up to the promises that it has made
through its mission statement to provide quality education and service.
Obviously the quality of the program will suffer if the service of a lecturer
of a certain course is terminated mid-way through the program. Indeed as
this is a new program the studdents are quite wary of any new academic
member who does not understand the philosophy and curriculum of the program
when taking over.
Many of the students in the Masters program enrolled because they
believed that they could learn from a noted and well-known international
intellectual whose life work has been the struggle for justice and cooperation
between the various races and civilizations in the world. It is sad
that the University has failed to recognize this positive influence and
The students are sad that, after all that has been taught to them in the
program, the ability to listen, to cooperate, to compromise between
individuals, races and civilization, are now contradicted by the actions
of an institution of knowledge. By example it has shown itself uncaring,
unwilling to listen nor prepared to come to a compromise for the sake of
the education of its students.
Finally, the students fear that their aspirations to play a positive
role as bridge builders in a nation that is divided by communal sentiments
and politics, to begin dialogue among the various communities in an effort
to create a 'Bangsa' Malaysia will now be stunted because of a lack of
vision by the authorities.
The Education Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak should heed the
call of the students to intervene to protect their interests and
to save them from being victims of corporate or political games.
Unless the University of Malaya Management revoke its decision and continue
the tenure of Chandra as Director for the Centre for Civilisational Dialogues,
Najib would be queried in the forthcoming meeting of Parliament on Chandra’s
summary and arbitrary dismissal which is the latest threat to academic
and intellectual freedom in the institutions of higher learning in
Malaysia, an essential prerequisite if Malaysia is to succeed in catapulting
into the information and knowledge society in the new millennium.
*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary
Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member
of Parliament for Tanjong