I will not touch on meritocracy on the admission of university students tonight, but raise the question as to whether there is meritocracy in the university academic appointments which has such a direct bearing on whether Malaysia can achieve its national aspiration to become an international centre of academic excellence.
Has there been a single Malaysian Indian who had been appointed a Vice Chancellor in any one of the eleven public universities in the country all these decades or is it because in all these years there had never been a single Malaysian Indian qualified to be appointed university Vice Chancellor? This question is equally valid with regard to non-Malay Malaysians generally.
For that matter, why shouldn't the highest appointments, whether the Chief Secretary, Inspector-General of Police, Chief of Armed Forces be open to all Malaysians, regardless of race, without any glass ceiling whether visible or invisible on ethnic grounds?
This should also apply to judicial appointments, whether for the High Court, Court of Appeal or Federal Court, as the most important critera should be meritocracy and integrity.
There has been an unwritten convention that the three tiers of the judiciary should reflect the ethnic composition of the country resulting in an unwritten ethnic quota for judicial appointments. If the government and nation is serious about Vision 2020 and a Bangsa Malaysia, we should move beyond such an unwritten convention so that judicial appointments are strictly on merit.
Malaysia, however, is not moving forward and in many cases, we are in retrogression. For the past four years, even the unwritten convention of an ethnic quota had not been strictly observed. A good example is the Federal Court where for the past four years, there has been no Malaysian Indian Federal Court judge.
The Prime Minister should urgently fill the four-year vacancy of a Malaysian Indian in the Federal Court and initiate moves whereby all judicial appointments in all the three tiers of the judiciary could be fully on the basis of merit without any ethnic considerations, in keeping with Vision 2020 and the concept of a Bangsa Malaysia.
Malaysians should be concerned that instead of moving in this direction, there have been recent signs that there would be more obstacles - as in the declaration that Malaysia is already an Islamic state, undermining the 44-year fundamental constitutional principle and nation-building cornerstone of Malaysia as a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive nation.