Urgent email to all Cabinet Ministers urging them to do their duty tomorrow to rectify the double wrongs of the unfair and unprofessional merit-based university selection system this year

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Tuesday)I had last night sent an urgent email to all Cabinet Ministers urging them to do their duty at the Cabinet meeting tomorrow to rectify the double wrongs of the unfair and unprofessional merit-based university selection system adopted by the Higher Education Department this year.  

Unless the Cabinet provides bold and visionary leadership to send out a clear message that the government is serious about a meritocracy system which is fair, transparent and capable of withstanding the most rigorous national and international scrutiny, then all talk of Malaysia wanting to take the quantum leap to build a world-class education system and transform the country into a regional education hub and a centre for academic excellence will remain empty and meaningless words. 

My urgent email to the Cabinet Ministers last night reads:


“YAB Prime Minister,

 YAB Deputy Prime Minister,  
YB/YB Ministers.


“I am sending this urgent email to urge Ministers at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, 22nd May 2002 to do their duty to rectify the double wrongs of the unfair and unprofessional merit-based university selection system adopted by the Higher Education Department for the 2002/2003 intake into the public universities.  

 “It is most regrettable that the Cabinet had been rather remiss in its public duty last Wednesday when it failed to seriously address the double wrongs of the meritocracy system introduced this year. 

“What shocked Malaysians was that the Cabinet could, according to the Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad after the Cabinet meeting, be ‘pleased’ with the outcome of the merit system and disregarded the double wrongs of the merit-based system, viz:    

“The Cabinet meeting on Wednesday is the last opportunity for the 31,573 students who have minimum university entry qualifications to be given another opportunity to enter the public universities this year, and the Cabinet should expand the doors of the public universities to accommodate their entry as the first concrete step of the government to recognize the right of every Malaysian to tertiary education and to prepare the country for a K-economy and knowledge-based society.

“As the chances for the 31,573 university  ‘rejects’ to be given places in the public universities would be virtually nil after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Ministers should take the policy decision   to give them   the second chance to enter public universities.

“The Cabinet should also rectify the gross injustice of the arbitrary and summary rejection of the applications from diploma holders.

“Musa is wrong when he said that getting a diploma was not the normal way for a student to continue his or her studies for a degree at the university. As recently as February this year announcing that except for Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, all universities will stop offering post Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia first degree courses and that students must depend on the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia examination or its equivalent for first-degree courses, Musa confirmed that this move would not affect the matriculation and diploma courses.  (New Straits Times 7th February 2002).

“If diploma holders are not to be considered for university intake under the merit-based system, then adequate notice should be given and the new rule should not affect students who have joined diploma courses in the expectation that they could proceed to first-degree courses, as it is most unfair for goal posts to be moved midway in any area of human activity.

‘The Cabinet on Wednesday should also take the policy decision to ensure that the meritocracy system adopted for university selection is transparent and professional - a race-blind system founded on a level academic playing field based purely on examination results to ensure academic excellence and ameliorated by socio-economic considerations to take account of the more disadvantaged groups to ensure social justice.

“On Sunday, the Prime Minister told the MIC General Assembly that the merit system for admission to local public universities was likely to be retained next year even though it had been questioned by some quarters within the government.

“He said the government could not risk losing credibility if it scrapped the system just because it resulted in more bumiputra students being qualified and admitted to the universities.

“I agree with the Prime Minister that the government’s credibility will suffer grievously if it should chop and change, switching from quota to meritocracy and reverting to quota the following year.  However, it must also be acknowledged that the credibility of the government and the nation would be seriously impaired if the government is not prepared to urgently rectify the faults and weaknesses of the meritocracy system adopted this year so that Malaysia would not gain national and international disrepute as having a merit-based university selection system without merit.

“It is hoped that the Cabinet would be as concerned as Malaysians in our international reputation as an educational centre of academic excellence with a meritocracy system of unquestioned credibility and integrity, the nation’s economic competitiveness in the era of globalisation and information technology as well as the challenge of Vision 2020 to create a united, resilient and purposeful Bangsa Malaysia by addressing these two problems of the meritocracy system at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting.

“For Merit Coupled with Needs.


“Yours sincerely,

Lim Kit Siang
Democratic Action Party.

20th May 2002”



*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman